Saturday, 31 January 2015

Visual delights to start the day

With no particular focus for today, l made my way through the Zion Gate this morning. It is so easy to pass by the importance of that statement. I made my way through the Zion Gate. The place where I am staying is on Mount Zion. We read of this place countless times in the Scriptures – both Hebrew and Christian. It is a place of great importance for it was here that David captured Jerusalem from the Jebusites and realised that God had given the land into the hands of the Israelites (2 Sam 5:7). In the grounds of the place where I am staying are the steps upon which Jesus is believed to have walked leading up the hill away from the Kidron Valley. On Mount Zion stands the Dormition Abbey where Mary is held to have ‘fallen asleep’ and ascended to heaven (although it is also possible to visit the Tomb of the Virgin Mary where she is buried, here in Jerusalem, in addition to seeing The House of Mary in Turkey, where she is believed to have lived out her days with St John! To cover all bases, I've been to all three...) For thousands of years this Mountain has been of importance to God’s people, and it remains so today.

With no particular focus for today, l made my way through the Zion Gate this morning.

The places explored across the five or so hours of walking took in all the four areas of the City: Armenian, Jewish, Christian and Muslim. I discovered myself in the Jewish area by accident and so, out of respect for the Sabbath, made my way away from it. It was my sense of circumspection rather than anything else... how weird am I?!

The walk through the Gate took me initially past the Cathedral of St James. I was actually looking for the Mardigian Museum which I was told by the entrance keeper to the church had been closed for three years (for those who like a smile, check this out!) My Library copy of Dorling Kindersley’s book is not all that up to date then (2012 Edition - should have checked the website!) He told me I could go into the church – which I thought was only open between 6-730 in the morning (no chance of me getting there at the moment, I’m still on UK time!) In the courtyard that leads into the church itself, there was one of the most joyful depictions of Mary and the Infant Christ that I have ever seen. It was such a lovely image with which to start the day.


There are beautiful mosaics beyond the gates (which were firmly locked, alas). Beautiful mosaics and images is a hallmark of this City, all of which sit alongside the challenge of religion and politics. It's a confusing place.

Drifting on from there I came across the iron steps that lead you up to ‘A Walk on the Roofs’ where you do, quite literally, walk on the rooftops – mainly above the souk, but also above homes, churches, synagogues and mosques. There were bicycles up there, children playing, families making their way over the rooftops – as it was a much easier route than the busy, winding streets below. From the rooftops you can see across to the surrounding hills, but up close it is a fantastic mess of satellite dishes (no planning permission required, obviously!), make-shift covers to stop the rain getting into the souk below, a playground, some smartly covered areas of flooring with other area that are quite dangerous if you don’t mind where you step. There are many nooks and crannies – one of which I followed – finding myself, quite unexpectedly, on a veranda overlooking the Western Wall (previously known as the Wailing Wall). I was soon joined by some young Jewish boys, and an older Jewish gentleman. They didn’t seem to mind me being there and, whilst I have valued immensely the privilege of praying alongside Jews and Christians at the Wall on previous visits (usually for peace in this City of Jerusalem) it felt right on this occasion to be at a distance – praying, watching, waiting, remaining, hoping.

And so I moved on… down a staircase, briefly into the souk, and then out into the Muristan area where I spent a while listening to a guitarist playing beautifully soul-full music. It was lovely here, away from the crowds for a while…

With no particular focus for today, l made my way through the Zion Gate this morning. It was a good morning – with more to follow… which will follow in a later entry as this one is far too long already!

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