Saturday, February 27, 2016

Ash Wednesday in Jerusalem

Wednesday was Ash Wednesday and I was definitely excited to be in Jerusalem on Ash Wednesday.  Jenn wasn't able to show us around because she had class that day, so Mike and I were on our own, which was completely fine. We're used to being our own tour guides in places we don't know.  Jenn had a great book which outlined the stations of the cross and told you exactly where each station was located, so we figured this was the perfect opportunity to walk the stations.  

While most of the stations are pretty small and are just marked by the Roman Numeral signifying which station it was, it was still an incredible experience to walk the stations of the cross on Ash Wednesday.  Jenn said that some people even rent a cross to carry through each station.

Station One: Where Jesus was condemned to death.  Present day, it's a school! It was kind of hard to find because we were expecting more of a marking, but once we found it, we saw the roman numeral and figured out the location.

Station Two: where Christ was bound, placed on the cross and given his crown of thorns.  Present day: it's a convent

Can you see the roman numerals? This is station three, where Jesus fell for the first time.  Now, it's next to a Polish church.

Station Four: where Christ met Mary.  Nowadays, it's an Armenian Orthodox oratory and a pizza restaurant! 

In the Armenian quarter, there were tons of signs and memorials for people killed in the Armenian genocide

Station Five: Where Simon of Cyrene carried the cross for Jesus

As we were walking the stations, we found this google shirt. I laughed, but I have a feeling a lot of people wouldn't....

Station Six: Where the veil of Veronica was created.  Now, it's just a wall.

Station Seven:  Where Christ fell for the second time. Now, it's the sight of a Franciscan chapel.

Station Eight: Where Jesus offered a bunch of women a sermon.  Now, it's next to a Greek Orthodox monastery

The ninth station: It's located at the top of the Church of the Holy Sepulchre and we actually saw it the day before with Jenn, but we went again.  It's where Jesus fell for the the third time.

Station Ten: at the entrance to the Church of the Holy Sepulchre where Jesus was stripped of his garments. We bought a rosary and I said a prayer, while Mike was a creeper and took a picture. 
It only took about an hour to walk through the stations, but by the time we were finished, it was lunch time.  We got shawarma at this little, hole-in-the-wall restaurant and it was delicious. Mike even got a second one! It had a small salad bar to put all sorts of fillings and stuff in your pita and we were both in heaven.  I think I'm still team falafel, but Mike is team shawarma and I don't think either of us would turn down a falafel or a shawarma....ever.

I guess you can find an Alabama fan store anywhere....

I can't....

Where's your yarmulke, little guy? 

After lunch, we wandered around the Old City for a while before making our way towards the Mount of Olives.  The Mount of Olives is where it is believed that Jesus will come back, as well has where he ascended into heaven.  As we were walking towards the mount, we kept getting offers from taxi drivers for rides, but we turned them down.  I guess most people take a bus/cab/car up to the top and then walk down.  Not us Hogans.  We like to make it a little more difficult.   The hike up to the top is not easy.  I was winded walking up and stopped along the way.  I used the excuse that I wanted to take pictures, but really, I was just tired.  Most of the churches were closed along the way because it was lunch time, but we've seen our fair share of churches, so we weren't really too bummed.   

We're really mature and were able to read this and keep a straight face. Not.  We're actually middle schoolers and giggled at the name "Dung Gate"

love those olive trees

the cemetery at Mount of Olives

Instead, we decided to go to the tomb of the prophets, which is the tomb for Haggai, Zecharia and Malachi.  You have to walk down these stairs into the a cave, which is pitch black.  We were greeted by this old Russian man who didn't speak any English, but handed us candles and gave us a complete tour in Russian. While Mike and I didn't understand a single word he said, it was a cool experience. We thanked him and continued our trek up the mountain. When we made it to the top of the mount, all of the shortness of breath and hiking was worth it. The views from the top of the mountain were beautiful.  There is a great view of the cemetery and the Old City.  It was breathtaking.


We took a minute to take it all in before we were encouraged by drizzling rain to head back down.  The walk down is definitely an easier trek and I can see why people choose to drive up.  Luckily, the rain held off as we walked down.  We walked through the Old City again and made our way back towards Jenn's apartment.  It started really raining and by the time we get back to her apartment, we were pretty wet.   Luckily, we had done a lot of sight seeing, so we didn't feel too bad hanging out at her apartment where it was dry and warm.  

Around five o'clock, we headed out for dinner. There is a grillhouse that Jenn recommended and we were all about it.  I didn't even order any sort of meat (the Catholic guilt about eating shawarma on Ash Wednesday was still eating away at me), but there was enough pita, hummus, and dips to fill me up.  It was amazing.  My only regret was not taking a picture of all of the dips.  
After dinner, Jenn and I went to Ash Wednesday Mass while Mike and Jenn's fiance Zach went to a bar. Going to mass was fascinating.  It was on the first floor of a hotel and Pope Francis stayed at this hotel in 2014.  I've been to Ash Wednesday Mass ever since I can remember and the actual mass wasn't any different.  In fact, it was pretty uneventful. There wasn't any singing, the homily wasn't anything especially moving, and the mass was over in 45 minutes.  The most interesting part of the mass was when the time came to get the ashes. Unlike every other Ash Wednesday where I got ashes on my forehead, this time they put them on the top of my hair.  When I asked Jenn about this later, she said she thought that it had something to do with safety and violence in Israel. The other fascinating thing about going to mass in Jerusalem was the congregation.  In the United States, the congregation in a church is sometimes diverse, with lots of white, Asian and Hispanic people.  In Turkey, we've found that it's mainly European expats with a  few Turks. I kind of expected kind of the same thing in Jerusalem (why I'm not sure), but I was SO wrong.  There were people from all over the world.  There was even a group of people from Sri Lanka.  So interesting!  It was such a cool experience to attend Ash Wednesday Mass in Jerusalem.

We ended the night pretty early since our flight was at 7:10am the next morning.  Due to security, you have to get to the airport three hours early when leaving Israel.  Add in the hour shuttle ride from Jerusalem to Tel Aviv and we figured we'd be waking up around 2:30am. I've stayed up later than that! Crazy!!

Overall, we had a blast in Israel! We had great hosts who were amazing tour guides.  They had differing views on the situation in Israel, which was so interesting to listen to their viewpoints and made me more intrigued at the situation.  It was also an incredible experience to be in places where Jesus and the Holy Family lived.  It was a wonderful week and we're so thankful for the experience.

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