A Visit to Jordan and Jerusalem

The Holy Land
  |  Gorp.com

My visit to Jordan was enriched by a visit to Jerusalem and Bethlehem in Israel. The importance of the Holy Land to Jews, Muslims, and Christians transcends mere political borders.

Bethlehem is a white limestone, low-rise city of 80,000. Almost a suburb of Jerusalem, it is now controlled by Palestinians. My first stop was Manger Square and the Greek Orthodox Church of the Nativity. A shallow cavelike grotto (not a wooden shed) on this spot is believed to have been the birthplace of Jesus.

Next, I visited the Church of the Ascension, located on a cluster of low hills known as the Mount of Olives. This is where Jesus is said to have ascended into heaven. The reaction of visitors at both sites ranged from intense curiosity to a profound emotion.

Jerusalem's Old City, enclosed by a 40-foot-high wall two miles around, is a microcosm of the Middle East in that it is divided into seemingly irreconcilable quarters (Jews, Muslims, Christians, and Armenians). Just inside the Jaffa Gate entrance to the Old City is the Citadel, where General Allenby stood to accept the surrender of the Ottoman Empire in 1917. That moment dramatically changed the future of the entire Middle East.

From the Citadel, I followed a narrow lane bordered by ten-foot-wide shops that led to the Church of the Holy Sepulcher. Built by Constantine in the fourth century it is believed to mark the spot on Calvary Hill where Jesus was crucified. A walk of only a few hundred feet took me to the place Jesus was buried in a tomb cut into rock. Many visitors were deeply affected as they knelt and touched the stone floor at one of the most sacred sites in Christendom.

I left the Old City with regret, via the Damascus Gate, after passing through a labyrinthine marketplace in which crowds bargained for everything from raw meat to diamonds.


Published: 30 Apr 2002 | Last Updated: 15 Sep 2010
Details mentioned in this article were accurate at the time of publication

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