The next morning we returned the rental cars and spent the day back in Jerusalem, which meant it started off like every other day we had in the city….walking from our place over to the old city.
We walked through the old city, out the Damascus gate, and over to what is known as The Garden Tomb. This was a late archaeological discovery made by the British, and is the alternative potential location of Jesus execution and burial to the Church of the Holy Sepulchre
The two really couldn’t feel more different. The Church is a massive, dark, incense-filled, busy structure, full of pilgrims venerating icons, lighting candles etc. The garden tomb is almost like a small oasis in the middle of the hustle and noise of the city.
So , is this the place Jesus from Nazareth was buried?
I don’t know. No one does. There are some significant archaeological issues with this proposed site, and specifically with the tomb.
But to be honest – I dont’ really care.
The great part about this site is that it gives you a feel for what the place of execution, burial and resurrection would have felt like in the first century. Where as the Church of the Holy Sepulchre has been built up since Emperor Constantine assented to its authenticity and built the first structure in the 3rd century, this is still just an open garden that you can walk through.
The other interesting thing to me is that no one knows. Typically when someone dies, their final resting place is memorialized and marked. When that person was a public leader, and a spokesman for a group even more so. When they are a spiritual leader or the founder of a religion, it becomes critical. The final resting place of every individual who has been the central point of a religious movement (as opposed to those based on ideologies etc) have their graves clearly identified.
You can travel to India to find the final resting place of the Buddha or to Saudi Arabia to see the prophet Mohammed’s grave, or to see the tombs of the Jewish Patriarchs in Hebron, West Bank. The founder of Bahai’s remains are inside the Shrine of Bahá’u’lláh in Israel, Joseph Smith who started Mormonism is buried in Illinois, and Confucius has been interred in his hometown in China. The reason why no one knows where Jesus of Nazareth was buried, is that the grave is empty.
After that, we headed back into the city for what we were told were the best falafels in the old city.
We grabbed our lunch – and waited for Rob to buy an entire 1.5l bottle of fresh squeezed pomegranate juice – and ate it before we got on a bus and headed up to the mount of olives.
This is Dr. Peter. The mule, not the guy.
As there are belifs within Islam, Judaism and Christianity that the final judgement will take place here, people from these three faiths have been vying for cemetary space for centuries.
They want to be first in line I guess, have a shorter commute, maybe beat the traffic of souls coming in from out of town.
One of the crazy things is that the olive trees which are currently there, were studied last year by the Italian National Research council and dated to about 1000AD. So these specific trees, have been here for half the time that has passed between Jesus day and now. That also makes them pretty much the oldest living trees known to science.
We went back to the Western Wall, since it was so crowded and busy when we were there the first time – plus we were walking right past it, so it seemed weird to just walk on by.
Oh Look. We ended up back here for supper again.
It was tough to go wrong in this place.
Yet another good day, (noticing a pattern?)