The Mount of Olives, so named because it had olive trees covering the hill east of the old City of Jerusalem, was one of the most important places in the life of Jesus. It was from here he prophesied the destruction of the Temple, he prayed in the Gethsemane gardens after the Last Supper, which are at the foot of the mountain; he was arrested here and he ascended to heaven from the summit.
The Mount overlooks the city of Jerusalem, the Kidron Valley between and is a buffer between the desert and the city. It was also featured in the Old Testament and is the site of the oldest and largest Jewish cemetery. It affords a spectacular view of all Jerusalem.
One of the churches we visited (this was another Church crawl!) was the Church of the Pater Noster, run by Carmelite nuns. It was here in a Grotto that Jesus taught the Disciples. There has been a church here since the 4 th Century. In the church and courtyard are beautiful ceramics in many languages displaying the Lord’s Prayer.
Anya and Sveta were thrilled to see it in Croatian. I saw it in many African languages, even Red Indian ( Cree and Sioux) as well as Gaelic and various French dialects. This was a lovely place and we were able to have a special prayer inside the Grotto.
Our next church was the Dominus Flevit ( The Lord Wept), another beautiful small chapel designed by Barluzzi. It is in the shape of a tear because it was here that Jesus wept over Jerusalem. The altar faces Jerusalem and has a beautiful half circle window that frames the view. This is another place where ancient churches were found and built over. A constant theme throughout the tour is the history of churches being built, demolished and rebuilt over and over.
It was a very hot day and we were glad to take shelter in any shade and also to have a Mass in this church. All around were other pilgrims, some of whom were having out door services and singing beautiful hymns. This really added to the whole atmosphere of the area.
Further down the hill we came to the gardens of Gethsename where there were ancient Olive trees with trunks several feet around. It was here that Jesus spent his last hours in solitude. Besides the gardens ( The Sanctuary of the Agony of Jesus Christ) was the Basilca of Gethsename or the Basilica of Agony. Inside the windows were purple to represent the sombre atmosphere of the agony that Jesus felt when he prayed here. On the facade is a beautiful mosaic. Within the church at the centre of the apse is the Rock of Agony where Jesus knelt. The rock is surrounded by wrought iron work that was provided by Australia. Many countries contributed to the building which is why it as the alternative name, Church of All Nations. It is another Church designed by Barluzzi and is the third Basilica on the site. The first was built in AD 380
From here we met the bus and went to the Israeli Museum to see the Book of the Shrine – a display of the Dead Sea scrolls. It was in a very interesting building that had been modelled like the jars in which they were found. The white tiled roof was like a fountain with water sprayed over it. We would all have liked to dangle our feet in. Opposite was a black rectangular wall. The colours of the structures represented good and evil. The entrance to the actual museum was like entering a space capsule or cave and it was deliciously cool. We all found this extremely interesting and well displayed.
This was a packed day because we then went off to the Church of the Visitation. On the way we had a glimpse of modern Israel. It is quite a contrast and like stepping in and out of the ages on this trip.
when we arrived at the Church of the visitation we faced a steep climb up the hill. In the garden there was the Prayer of the Magnificat in different languages along the wall. This church honours the visit of Mary to Elizabeth when they were both pregnant. While we were there a group of nuns came out and started to sing.
After this marathon day we returned to the hotel very hot and tired. There is so much to take in and digest. So much tradition and history. Our guide is very informative and very knowledgeable about the Holy Land but it is hard to remember everything!