When this marvelous adventure began, last Thursday, our first stop on the Holy Land was supposed to have been the Roman ruins at Caesarea Maritima. But, due to airport and traffic delays, the historical park was closed when we got there. Mark said we could take a half day during our time in Jerusalem and make a return trip. Today was the day, but due to a marathon that was going to close down the street outside the convent where we are staying at 6 AM, we had to get up at 5 and leave no later than a quarter till six. So Randy Daw volunteered to drive us, and all told, five of us got up crazy early to make the trip.
The traffic was light, the drive decent, and after breakfast at Cafe Aroma (I'm going to miss that place!) We arrived just as the park opened. What a morning! Features included a huge, well-preserved Roman Ampitheater, a marvelous hippodrome, the only surviving inscription of Pontius Pilate's name carved during his lifetime, and the remains of King Herod's fabulous coral palace. On a personal note, I found the remains of a tavern that featured prominently in my novel, THE REDEMPTION OF PONTIUS PILATE, and it was pretty much exactly as I envisioned it. On a very funny note, we found one house ruin had a very nice, marble-lined tub in the center of the room, fancier than any we'd seen anywhere else. In the next room adjacent to the bath was a very well-preserved mosaic floor. There was a large inscription in Greek. Randy is our resident Greek scholar, and he translated it: "Enter Here Ye Men Who Love to Fornicate". That's
right, we found a 2000 year old brothel! So of course we had to pose for a picture in the bathtub - never let preachers go out unattended!
After prowling the ruins for a couple of hours we got in the van and headed back to the convent. Everybody else was out exploring the Old City, so we took off to do some exploring on our own. I did some shopping, and then went to the Church of the Holy Sepulcher again. It was much more crowded than before, so I did not enter the tomb, but i did do one thing I didn't do last time: i knelt at the altar that stands on the pinnacle of Golgotha and reached through a hole in the altar to touch the very stones on which, according to a ttadition thar dares back over 1700 years, Jesus was crucified. It was a powerful moment! I also like the lesson it teaches: that we must all approach the cross on our knees.
I then exited the Old City through the Damascus gate and visited the Garden Tomb. While it is much less likely to be the actual site of Jesus' burial than the Sepulcher tomb, it does give a much better sense of what the real tomb was probably like before it was built over and wrapped in centuries of tradition and ritual.
Finally, I toured the Church of the Redeemer, built by Germans and dedicated by Kaiser Wilhelm II in 1893. One interesting note: excavations under this church have shown that the Sepulcher church was indeed outside the city walls of Jerusalem during Jesus' time. It's also just a magnificent example of Romanesque revival architecture.
Done sightseeing and shopping, i ate supper in the Armenian quarter and then I returned to the Convent around four-thirty. I have five shekels in one pocket, $1.65 in change in the other, my wallet is empty, my heart is full, and my feet are sore! One more marvelous day in the Holy City. Tomorrow, sadly, will be my last. Thanks for following me on this adventure!