Israel Impressions Part IV: Jerusalem, the Center of the World

We spent four days in Jerusalem, and it didn’t seem enough.  The city had so much to offer, there were so many sites to see in this mere 220 acres’ space.  To simplify things, I am focusing on three major sites: the Temple Mount, Church of the Holy Sepulchre, and the Mount of Olives.

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While preparing the trip to Israel, I came across an article about Jerusalem being the center of the world, geographically.   I am not sure about that, but feel free to form your own opinion.  Judging from how long it took me to fly to Tel Aviv, America was definitely very far from the center. 🙂

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At least spiritually Jerusalem is the center of the three biggest religions of the world.

Temple Mount is the third most holy site for the Muslims, after Mecca and Medina (the Mosque of the Prophet), with Dome of the Rock and Al Aqsa Mosque.  According to Muslim believe, Mohammad was taken up to heaven and received revelation of truth at this location.

For the Jewish worshipers, Mt. Moriah where the Temple Mount is now is also their holiest site too. It was there Abraham attempted to sacrifice Issac, Solomon built the first temple, Zerubbabel the second one after returning from the captivity.  The second temple was grandly enlarged by Herod the Great 500 years later, it was the temple Jesus stayed behind when he was 12 years old.  Today the only remain of the Herod’s temple is the Western Wall, aka the Wailing wall, here Jewish worshipers lament for the loss and pray for the renew and rebuild of the holy temple one day.

For the Christians, the most holy section in Jerusalem is the Church of the Holy Sepulchre.  The church was built on Golgotha where Jesus was crucified and buried, and three days later resurrected.  It has the last five stops of the Via Dolorosa, the Way of Suffering,  pilgrims from all over the world come to touch the ground, to meditate how much Christ suffered and paid for the penalty for the sins of the world, aka yours and mine.

Mount of Olives is the hill east of Jerusalem across the Kidron Valley. It used to be the burial ground of Jerusalem.  It became a very meaningful place for the Christians because Jesus was taken up to heaven from Mount of Olives, and he will be back the same way he left according to the writing of the Bible.  So you can imagine the numbers of the grandiose churches built on top of Mount of Olives.

A great view of the city of Jerusalem from Mount of Olives.

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Thank you so much for going through this series of impressions.  I hope my journey to Holy Land help you with your future travel planning and your growth in faith.

Israel Impressions Part II: All About Jesus

One of the main purposes of our Holy Land trip was to follow the footsteps of Lord Jesus.  We visited Bethlehem, Jesus’s birth place, Nazareth, where he grew up, Capernaum, his hometown for 3 1/2 year ministry on Earth, and of course Jerusalem, Via Dolorosa and Golgotha where he was crucified and resurrected.  It was beyond amazing to visit those historical sites, where holy scriptures were brought to life.

The “little town” Bethlehem is six miles south of Jerusalem in Palestine. Thanks for the pilgrims and tourism, today it is a bustling city with 28,000 people.  From where we had lunch in Bethlehem we could see Jerusalem.  Although the Israel and Palestine relationship was complicated, visitors could get in and out of Bethlehem fairly easily.  Our tour company took care of the visa for us, it took us in no time to pass the security checkpoint.

The Chapel of Shepherd’s field and the Shepherd’s Caves

and the Church of Milk Grotto.

Of course, people from all over the world came to Bethlehem for the Church of Nativity, the very location where baby Jesus was born.  The entrance to the church was very small, I had to bend over to enter.  This design was to remind the pilgrims to be humble just like their king borne in a lowly manger.

Nazareth, the childhood home of Jesus, is the largest city in the Northern District of Israel, today known as “the Arab capital of Israel” with population over 75,000.

This grand Church of Annunciation was built on the grotto (lower level) where archangel Gabriel announced to virgin Mary that she had found favor with God, she would conceive and give birth to a son and He would save the people from their sins.  In the upper level of church there were collective displays of “Mary and Child” donated from all over the world.  The one from America was quite contemporary😉.

Photo Oct 27, 10 29 38 PMContrary to the Church of Annunciation,  the Church of St. Joseph was in the same complex, but much simpler.  It was built on top of Joseph’s grotto.  Mary and Joseph must had lived really close, almost like neighbors. 😀

The Nazareth Village was the re-creation of  first century Nazareth, away from the city on an untouched farm land with shepherds and sheep, olive trees and oil press, and a replica of first century synagogue.

South of the city stood the Mount of Precipice, it silently witnessed that the prophet was not welcomed by his own community.  Luke 4  told us how the people of Nazareth rejected Jesus, they wanted to push him off the cliff.  Since then he moved his ministry to Capernaum.

One of the highlights of this trip was the boat tour at the Sea of Galilee.  It was a beautiful sunny day.  Can you picture Jesus walking on this water (Matthew 14:22-33) and calm the wind and waves (Mark 4:35-41)?

During the three years’ ministry on Earth, more than 80% of Jesus’ miracles were performed around the area of Capernaum/Galilee.  Wow!

The Church of St. Peter’s Primacy in Capernaum.  Jesus restored Peter after he denied Him three times before a rooster crowed.  “Do you love me? Feed my sheep.” also three times!

An other absolute highlight of the trip was being baptized in the Jordan River (Yardenit).  Not exactly on the same spot where Jesus was baptized by John the Baptist, he was in today’s Jordan across from Tel Jericho, but the proximity was still exciting.  We re-dedicated ourselves in the Jordan River, although symbolic, it was an equally emotional event.

Thank you so much for reading this far! I really appreciate you following my journey!  Hopefully I will finish this impression series this weekend.map4

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