Saturday, 5 May 2012

...and a few more

The minefield where Jesus was baptised by John the Baptist - Kasar El-Yahud.

Inside the Church of the Holy Sepulchre. In reality this is a complex of buildings with various parts owned by different traditions, Latin and Eastern. This bit is Greek Orthodox, which is why it is well maintained. The actual sepulchre where Christ was laced is held up with iron beams, courtesy of the Royal Navy.

In Bethlehem the Church of the Nativity is basically unchanged since Byzantine times. It retains the simple basilica design that all cathedrals were once built to, based on the architecture of a Roman law court.

The Basilica once had a grand main door, built by the Byzantines. By the time the Crusaders turned up life was more dangerous, so they built an arched door, low enough to prevent cavalry riding in. Later, when times were even more dangerous the monks built a low stone door that only one person can enter at a time, stooping. And I thought keeping the church going in the 21st century was difficult!

I have no idea who these people are but they evidently do. One of many processions you see daily in Jerusalem, just a bit posher than most.

It's sometimes tempting to write off the whole religious thing here as one great big tourist con: There are so many people, and so many people asking for money. But I guess that's no different from St Paul's or Westminster Abbey (actually, they charge a lot to get in, and the churches here don't). What I have noticed, having time to loiter and observe a little more closely, is the huge amount of pastoral care going on.

Pilgrim marks left over the years at the Holy Sepulchre. Banksy has also left his mark on the so called "Peace Wall", though I didn't get to see that.

The Garden of Gethsemane. There are some beautiful places around here to sit amongst olive trees and reflect. This isn't one of them. However, the grove here does contain trees over two-thousand years old. I wonder what they were witness to...

Finally, you can't escape them! This is Christchurch, the Anglican Church in the Old City, holding their spring fair. There's fish & chips, a raffle, tea and cakes and pictures of the Queen and bunting. I think the last bit was a bit tongue in cheek. The multi-national congregation holds services in Arabic, Hebrew, English and several other languages, and has early a huge amount of respect across the communities for their local involvement and service.

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