Our trip culminated with a celebration of Jesus’ ascension (40 days after Easter) at the Garden Tomb. This park overlooks a stony hillside with rocks that look like a skull, which may be an alternative location for Golgotha where Jesus was crucified and buried (instead of the Church of the Holy Sepulchre). The tour guide said he didn’t want to disappoint us—but there wouldn’t be a body in the tomb!
On Wednesday, we walked on the ramparts—the wall around the Old City. We also visited the Dome of the Rock, one of the most distinctive landmarks in Jerusalem. It is the third most holy place for Muslims, where they believe Mohammed ascended to heaven. It stands on the site of the Jewish temple that was destroyed in 70 AD.
The rest of the day was open, so some of the group visited Tel Aviv, Jaffa, and the Mediterranean Sea. Others went to the Israel Museum to see the Dead Sea Scrolls (the ones that didn’t make it to the Minnesota Science Museum!).
After celebrating the 100th anniversary of Augusta Victoria Hospital on Sunday, we returned Tuesday for a tour of the facility. The hospital located on the Mount of Olives is a project of Lutheran World Federation (LWF) and primarily serves Palestinians. It is one of the few cancer hospitals and the only place for children from the West Bank to receive kidney dialysis. Because of the challenges of getting from the West Bank and Gaza to Jerusalem, hospital staff spend much time getting permits so patients can receive needed treatment.
We awoke to find the sun burning hot on the urban streets. Leaving our guesthouse, we ascended the Mount of Olives and began walking back to Jerusalem as Christ did on Palm Sunday. The Mount of Olives hardly reflects its former state of shepherds and nomads living and working in caves and herding animals. Now a commercial onslaught of cars, busses, tourists, and shops, we stretched our imaginations and envisioned an ancient world.