I spent two weeks in Israel in late September, 2002, during the height of the intifada. In spite of Sate Department warnings to avoid Jerusalem, I spent 10 days in the Holy City at the Hyatt Regency Jerusalem. I saw no violence, and no tourists. The streets were empty and the popular tourist sites were deserted. It was a GREAT time to be there!
The altar above Calvary
The hole below the picture allows you to touch Calvary and feel the center cross hole.
Entrance to the Tomb
The Tomb - the traditional spot where Jesus was laid
Wow, what a place. The epicenter of Christianity is housed in the Church of the Holy Sepulchre, in the Christian sector of Jerusalem. A huge church, it contains Mount Calvary (Golgatha) and The Tomb. The second floor of the church was built even with the top of Calvary. The first photo shows the altar built above the mountain. You can see some of the mountain through the windows to the left and right of center.
The second photo shows the little alcove between the viewing windows. You get down on your hands and knees (appropriate for where you are), crawl into the alcove, and then insert your arm into the little hole and feel the top of Calvary. After 2,000 years of people rubbing the top of the mountain, it is very, very smooth. You can also feel a square hole chisled into the mountain, which I estimated to be about 9 inches square. The hole is deep; I couldn't reach the bottom. This is the center cross hole of the 3 at the top of the mountain; traditionally Jesus was crucified on the center cross.
The 3rd and 4th photos show The Tomb. The tombs were cut into the rock face of a small mountain. After this tomb was identified by Queen Helena as the tomb of Jesus, the mountain was cut away from the tomb, leaving it isolated and standing alone. Several encompassing structures were then built around The Tomb. Behind The Tomb, you can crawl into the cliff wall and see dozens of other tombs.
"The Skull"
An alternative burial site
In the 18th century, a British explorer discovered another possible site of the crucifixion and burial. Since Golgatha means "skull", he discovered a mountain which indeed looks like a skull, at least the eyes and nose. Very near this site is another burial site, now referred to as the "garden tomb". Almost no one believes this is the actual site; there is no evidence of executions at the top of the mountain and the garden tomb is dated as much less than 2,000 years old. Regardless, it is a pretty place.
The holiest place in Judaism, The Western Wall or The Wailing Wall. It is the retaining wall on the western face of the Temple Mount, the site of the ancient Jewish First and Second Temples. Now, the Islamic Dome of the Rock occupies the Temple Mount. The Holy of Holies in the First Temple contained the Ark of the Covenant.
The mighty southern wall of the Temple Mount. Through these walls lies King Solomon's stables.
The Upper Room, traditional site of The Last Supper
The tomb of King David
Masada, King Herod's mountain retreat near the Dead Sea. In 79 A.D., as Rome invaded and destroyed Jerusalem (again), a group of Jewish zealots retreated to Masada, where Herod had stockpiled food and water. Unable to reach the fortress at the top of the mountain (1500 feet above the Dead Sea), the Roman army built a ramp in the sweltering heat to reach the fortress at the top. Rather than be captured, the Jewish zealots committed suicide as the Roman battering rams crashed through the walls. Graduates of the Israeli Air Force academy are sworn in at Masada.
The easy way up. The "snake path", the tough way up, is visible underneath.
The remains of Herod's palace at the top of Masada. Herod entertained guests up here, with sweeping views of the desert and the Dead Sea.
The three levels of Herod's palace are visible on the right side of the mountain at the top.
The Dead Sea, the lowest place on earth (1200 feet below sea level) and among the hottest. The water is so salty you can't sink. If you swallow any, you die because the potassium stops your heart. The mud is supposed to have magic properties for your health and skin (google "dead sea mud").
The Roman ramp...staggering to imagine them down there for months building it.
Herod's bath tub. Slaves poured hot water in through the hole in the wall.
The cave at Qumran where the Dead Sea Scrolls were discovered.
The desert oasis of Ein Gedi, located between Jerusalem and Masada. Waterfalls and cool natural pools everywhere!
Jerusalem at night...what a sight! Photographed from Hebrew University on Mt. Scopus.
The Judean desert. Vast, unexplored, lifeless and dangerous.
A cool cave about an hour southwest of Jerusalem. If you saw the movie "Jesus Christ Superstar", you'll recognize the cave in the 3rd photo. It's called a bell cave because of the way it opens up below the entrance on the surface.
Israel's version of the Grand Canyon; a thousand feet (3000 feet?, I don't remember) straight down. No fence, no rope, no warning signs. Just a plaque at the top with the names of visitors who have fallen to their deaths. Very effective for most people, but not for me! The rate seems to be about one every few years.
South of the Dead Sea, in the middle of the Negev, is this gorge. It leads to a popular spot known as The Flour Cave.
Ancient ruins in the desert.
The entrance to the tomb of Mary, mother of Jesus. It lies across the street from Gethsemane.
The (empty) tomb of Mary.
Baptisms in the Jordan River at the site where John baptised Jesus.
The Yad Vashem ... a Memorial to the Holocaust
The Children's Memorial. In memory of the 1.5 million children killed, 1.5 million reflections from only 5 candles. Actually, there are an infinite number of reflections... A most impressive display; you are surrounded by 360 degrees of candles. And, voices are softly reading the names of the 1.5 million.
On of the railroad cars used to transport the condemned Jews to Aushwitz for execution.
The tree planted by Oscar Schindler along the Avenue of the Rightous.
The remains of a Roman camp are also visible in the desert below (the square).