Sevcik's Blog

A year in Cairo Egypt

Wednesday, January 11, 2006


We spent three full days in Jerusalem. Below I describe some of the things we saw and did during that time. The four mornings all began the same, starting with the Call to Prayer around 5:30 am. About ½ hour later the bells of the Church of the Redeemer would start chiming. I LOVED waking up to these two beautiful sounds, for many reasons. First, it called people to prayer and helped me think about God and begin my day praising Him. Secondly, it was beautiful symbolism of two religions living side by side in the Holiest place on earth. Thirdly, it was just beautiful; music for the soul. The bells especially reminded me of York, Nebraska and memories of good family times.

Being that our hostel was inside the Old City Walls, it was to find most things—everything is within walking distance. For instance, I walked past the Wailing Wall at least 8 times and watched Jews pray along the wall at all hours of the day. The Wall is separated into two sections- a larger section for males to pray and a smaller section for the women. Both sexes approach the wall, praying and swaying back and forth (and often many cry) in front of it, and leave the wall bowing down towards it without turning their back. A very spiritual place.

Ramparts Walk—This is where you get to walk around on Ottoman-empire Walls that are now the walls of the Old City and look both inside Old Jerusalem and out towards the rest of the city and residential areas. A lot of great views from here, and a LOT of walking up and down stairs. We pretended to be like characters from the LOTR with bows and arrows.
Temple Mount (including Dome of the Rock). This is the site of Abraham’s near-sacrifice of his son, where Jesus must have thrown the money-changers’ tables over, and Mt. Moriah. What lies on the mount now is al-Aqsa Mosque and the Dome of the Rock, but we weren’t able to inside, being that we are not Muslim. In fact, in order to get to the Temple Mount we had to go through security and they confiscated Jay’s Bible. Funny you can’t bring a Bible to a most holy place.

Mount of Olives-- The mount of olives overlooks Jerusalem and includes the Tombs of the prophets Haggai and Maleachi, Dominus Flevit (the place where the Lord wept—see Luke 19, Matthew 23 and now a church in the shape of a tear drop stands), the graves of thousands of Jews (who want to be buried as close to the Old city as possible), Mother Mary’s Tomb, and Gethsemane (where Jesus prayed the night he was condemned). Gethsemane was especially beautiful, as it contained a garden with olive trees over 2000 years old.

Stations of the Cross—There are 14 stations of the cross in Old Jerusalem. We started at the Lion’s Gate and walked down the Via Dolorosa, which are now a couple street bazaars full of touristy knick-knacks. The first two stations are the spots were Jesus was condemned to death and receives the cross—now the Chapel of the Condemnation and the Chapel of the Flagellation. Following the Via Dolorosa, you come to the place were Jesus fell under the cross for the first time, where Jesus meets His mother Mary, where the cross is taken by Simon of Cyrene, where Veronica wipes the sweat from Jesus’ face, where Jesus falls again, where He consoles the women of Jerusalem, and where He falls for the third time. A few of the stations are marked with just a big Roman numeral sign on the wall of a building. The final 5 stations are all in the Church of the Holy Sepulchre, including the place were Jesus is stripped of His clothes, nailed to the cross, died on the cross, and laid into the Sepulchre.

The Garden Tomb—According to Protestants, this is the place were Jesus was actually buried in the tomb, and it’s certainly much more historically convincing in comparison to the Holy Sepulchre spot. As me about this if you are interested.
Lutheran Church of the Redeemer—Yeah for a Lutheran Church! A well-known church with the highest bell tower in the city. Pay three shekels and you can see a birds-eye view of the Holy Land.

Dormition Abbey—This was by far my favorite church in the holy city, and the place were some people believed that the Virgin Mary fell into a deep sleep instead of dying. The church was gorgeous. In the basement you find a tomb for Mary and on the ceiling above it you find mosaics of six of the most important women of the bible surrounded a mosaic of Jesus. Around the sides of the circular room you find altars sponsored by different countries around the world, each with a distinct style of artwork. (See the pictures.) Another fun thing—we went to the “Upper Room”—but it was a complete joke of course. Funny, though, to see.

Walking around quarters of Old Jerusalem—There are four quarters to Old Jerusalem: Christian, Moslem, Armenian, and Jewish. I’ve never seen anything like it. In only one square kilometer of land you have four distinct neighborhoods living together. The distinction is obvious too. For instance, the Muslim quarter feels like you are in Cairo—crowded, loud, lots of color, lots of fresh produce markets, and women wearing veils. Going south you reach the Jewish quarter where you find men and women much more reserved and quiet. The men are all wearing black suits and hats, with their ringlets of long hair on either side of their face.

Holocaust Museum: Very touching, very emotional, and quite different than the one in Washington, D.C. The museum tour ends with an outdoor incredible view of the city. (Political, perhaps?)

Orthodox Jew neighborhood—When we got a bit lost looking for the Garden Tomb (which ended up being just outside Damascus Gate), we ended up in a Orthodox Jew neighborhood where we quickly realized we needed to turn around and leave. There was a big sign that read “Women and girls: We the neighborhood residents beg you with all our hearts—PLEASE DO NOT PASS THROUGH OUR NEIGHBORHOOD IN INMODEST CLOTHES. Modest clothes include closed blouse with long sleeves, long skirt, no trousers, no tight-fitting clothes. Please do not disturb our children’s education and our way of life as Jews committed to God and the Torah.” Looking around, we suddenly noticed that not one woman was wearing jeans or pants like we were—all of them, including the children, were wearing long skirts. Oops!

Sunset at Mt of Olives—Other than the two mornings I woke up extra early to run around the city, this was the most spiritual time for me. I had my walkman with me and listened to some Bebo Norman as I saw the sun set past Jerusalem and tried to picture Jesus sitting near this very place, blessing Jerusalem from afar. A most incredible sight!

Praise music guitar on rooftop—During our last night in town I went to the roof of our hostel where you can overlook the whole city, and another man with a guitar played Christian Praise music. One of the best moments of the vacation by far.


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