Back, by popular demand, the last few shots from my recent trip to Israel. This is my version of inflicting my home movies on my friends and family...
Palm Sunday in Jerusalem
This was one of the highlights of the trip for me. If you ever go to Jerusalem, try and be there for Palm Sunday. First of all, the weather is cooler, and that makes the constant traversing up and down on stone steps much less penitential. ( If you are particularly in need of penance, go in July....) Anyway, the traditional walk route is from Bethany up and down the Mount of Olives, through Gethsemane, down into the Kidron Valley and then up to the Temple through the Damascus Gate.
People told me there were about 12,000 people there. It was the most multi-ethnic thing of which I have ever been a part. Truly, Christians from ever part of the world were there, and filled with a supernatural euphoria probably not unlike the euphoria of that first Palm Sunday. We were wedged in between a group of female Korean pilgrims who were positively ethereal in the love for Jesus shining off their faces as they danced and sang, and a group of boisterous Armenian college guys who jubilantly kept singing the same three-line song for about two hours until we finally pushed way ahead of them to fall in line behind some wide-eyed American pilgrims from Georgia.
I am glad I lived to be part of a Palm Sunday procession in Jerusalem.
A shot of the crowd starting to descend into the Kidron Valley from the top of the Mount of Olives. The Temple Mount is in the background, with the procession's destination, the Damascus Gate, on the right of the Temple complex. It was a hearty walk, and I definitely got why the Lord would have done it on a donkey... I was longing for one myself many times.
Polish pilgrims gathering outside of the Carmel on the top of the Mount of Olives.
My sense was that for the Christian community in the Holy Land, the Palm Sunday procession was as much political as spiritual. There were scores of Christian Arab youth groups, their hundreds of members dressed in clothes that looked liked scout uniforms, marching in formation as if to say, "We are here and organized!"
The ever-present Israeli AK-47 toting army, watches the procession from on top of the Damascus Gate.
Church of the Holy Sepulchre
If you do go to Jerusalem on Palm Sunday, be sure to stay as far away as possible from the Church of the Holy Sepulchre that day! We made the bad, very bad, judgment call, of going to the CHS Palm Sunday morning. We were almost trampled to death in the loud and scary procession of what I thought of as Woodstock Greek Orthodox and Armenian style. There seemed to be some kind of religious ceremony going on, but between the yelling in languages I couldn't make out and the banging of sticks on the ground, and the shoving and pushing of the mob of believers - I was actually off the ground a couple times in the press of the crowd and it occurred to me I could die just a few feet from the place where Jesus rose! - my impression of the place was of Christian group-think insanity.
Here was a little prelate of some group or other that a phalanx of male ushers were guarding quite vociferously. I got shoved aggressively for this little man's space several times. His expression said to me that he would much rather be alone in a garden somewhere quietly talking to Jesus.
THE SPOT where Jesus' cross is believed to have been planted on THE SPOT which is thought to be the site of Golgatha.