Reading back through my first Jerusalem post from a couple of weeks ago, I noticed the last line of my text was: 'Jerusalem, you and I have unfinished business...'. Low and behold I have returned to this glorious city of old charm and modern wonder to try and accomplish seeing a few more sights that I previously missed. In fairness, the fact that Israel is a relatively small (but modern) country has made such gallivanting easy and uneventful which isn't a bad thing.
On my radar this time round was:
- The Church of the Holy Sepulchre
- The Tower of David
- The Tower of David night spectacular
- The Western Wall tunnel
The Church of the Holy Sepulchre:
So does anyone remember why this church is of great significance to Christians? The last and only time I went to visit here it was closed so-to-speak. I was really disappointed but not this time folks as today I finally got to enter the church that is said to contain two of the holiest sites in Christendom: Jesus' crucifixion and his empty tomb.
How accurate this location is from nearly 2000 years ago is up for debate and perhaps again we should take this with a pinch of salt as the expression goes. Still, this appointed place of great holiness is enough for some strong emotions from religious folk including plenty of tears, plenty of touching and plenty of bowing - especially around something located close to the entrance of the church itself:
Above is The Stone of Unction, (Stone of Anointing). This is said to be the place where Jesus' body was placed and anointed with oil and spices and wrapped in shrouds in preparation for burial by Joseph of Arimathea.
Over to the right is a flight of stairs that takes you 'up' to Golgotha which is the biblical name for the place where Jesus was crucified. This is an Aramaic word and many Christians will know it best in its Latin translation: Calvary. Admittedly I always envisaged a big hill - didn't you? If you look closely in a couple of the images you can see this high rock covered in glass which now has this shrine surrounding it. I believe the church was built upon and around this big rock.
The second batch of images to follow after the first three were taken back downstairs as a service of sorts was taking place.
The Western Wall tunnels
If you recall from my previous Jerusalem post, the western wall is the holiest place for Jews to pray as this is the last accessible relic in connection to the last Jewish temple that was once here those many years ago before being destroyed. The Western Wall Tunnel tour provides exposure to the full length of the Western Wall which you walk along underneath the Old City of Jerusalem. That in itself sounds pretty cool but to put the size of the wall into perspective, the open-air area where Jews pray is approximately 60 metres long. However, the tunnel tour provides access to an additional 485 meters spanning practically the entire length of the western wall which is these days below ground.
Access to the underground tour of the wall generally needs pre-booking at a reasonable cost of 30 shekels (less than £6 GBP). For this you'll receive a guide too so all things considered, it was a decent and informative one hour tour which was was better than both Tower of David coming next. You are indeed free to take photos down here but there's only so much to depict from down in the dark passage ways. For me in this instance the history imparted was more interesting.
The Tower of David
...is also known as the Jerusalem Citadel. The citadel has a tower, or a minaret if you prefer, which was later added by the Ottomans. There will undoubtedly be plenty of history behind this citadel but for me, it was more about the view from on top as this was said to offer spectacular 360 degree views of the city. First though, I took my time navigating through the citadel trying to digest (and remember) as much historic content as possible inevitably but failing miserably.
As you can see from the above, the views just looking down upon the citadel were nice enough but the icing on the cake was the views of the surrounding city and a far. In the second of the three images you'll see a grey dome or two. These and the bell tower are from the Holy Sepulchre.
As for the boldly titled 'Tower of David night spectacular', well, it certainly was and yet it also certainly wasn't! How is such a paradox possible? No debate from me that the audio and visual effects were fantastic but the story celebrating Jerusalem’s 4,000-year-old history, lacked substance and clarity for me. When I said 'audio' before, I meant the sound-effects provided with the visual, not any narrating as such. To compensate for this, they provide a leaflet covering the different important periods in Jerusalem's history and so you can refer to this during the production. However there's a problem with this for there is no ambient lighting in the seating area so you can't actually see the leaflet. I noticed that nobody close by refer to their leaflet once during the display re-affirming this to be a huge oversight and monumental waste of resources and expense!
So if you're in any doubt whether to see this attraction or not, wonder no longer for the short answer is 'no' - unless you are much older or extremely easy to impress. The most memorable part of the 30 minute experience for me was at the very end when the lights came back on so-to-speak. There was some muted applause by a batch of older Americans, which in turn spurned on an additional batch of pensioners, whilst the majority with myself included remained suitably unimpressed and our hands remained in a folded position. Still, it was nice to see the citadel lit up at night compared to how it looked earlier today in the 30 degree heat:
Top tip: I haven't provided a top tip for a while but now seems a good opportunity. Unless you're a historian, bin off visiting both Tower of David events and instead choose the Ramparts Walk. This will still provide you a very decent view of Jerusalem providing walking opportunities from high above the old town. I understand that from 1948 to 1967, Jordanian snipers used the ramparts as a vantage point from which to shoot at Israelis living outside the walls!
Furthermore choosing the Ramparts Walk will save you money as 70 shekels got me tickets to both Tower of David events where as its just 16 shekels for the Ramparts Walk.
Today I visited another Palestinian city but I'll keep that one for a separate post which I'll try to get out in the next couple of days. For your interest and intrigue I'll leave you with the pre-envisaged title for this next post: 'Today I was ejected from a Palestine bus'...