The last six days in Jerusalem have been an invigorating one for me with coincidences that have made the Holy Land pilgrimage go beyond my plans.
On Day 2 of my visit, which coincidentally was Thanksgiving Day, I visited Bethlehem, the birthplace of Jesus Christ, and the Church of the Holy Sepulchre, the site of His Crucifixion and Resurrection.
On Day 3, Shabbat Friday, I went to Bethlehem again, this time on a private tour – me being the only passenger with the driver doubling up as a guide for the Jerusalem part.
The previous day a long queue prevented me from getting to the stable where Jesus was born at the basement of the Church of Nativity. This time I was successful though it was still packed. I was connected with a Palestinian guide who was able to get what he called a VIP pass that gave me quicker access to the stable.
Built in Shape of a Cross
One piece of interesting information I gathered is that the Church of Nativity is built in the shape of a Cross, though it is hard to see. It was octagonal earlier. But then it is a place that has faced one destruction after another and rebuilding over the last several centuries.
I saw people carrying a Cross along the path that includes Via Dolorosa to the Church of the Holy Sepulchre. Jesus had carried the Cross to His Crucifixion through that stretch of 14 stations.
At Via Dolorosa, a tired Jesus is believed to have paused and placed His hand on the rock there. It is said to have become a permanent hand imprint of Jesus, though there is no description around it. In fact, most holy spots even within the Church of the Holy Sepulchre have no name plates. A lot of the descriptions are only in Hebrew.
Jesus’ Hand Imprint at Via Dolorosa
The places I have visited hold enormous significance for Christians. They include:
- The Church of Nativity, Bethlehem, Birthplace of Jesus
- Mother Mary’s Birthplace in Jerusalem
- Church of the Holy Sepulchre, Jerusalem – the site of His Crucifixion and Resurrection
- Sea of Galilee
- Jordan River, where Jesus was baptised
- Nazareth, where Jesus spent most of His life
- Capernaum, called the Town of Jesus
- Garden of Gethsemane
- Church of Multiplication (of fish and loaves)
- Basilica of the Annunciation
- Christ Church in Jerusalem, the first protestant/Anglican church in this part of the world.
- West Bank and Golan Heights (passed through these areas)
Tomorrow I head to Tel Aviv for a day’s stay before I return to Singapore.
It has indeed been a blessed start to the 2018 Christmas season, thanks to the Holy Land visit that has been a long-standing dream for me.
G Joslin Vethakumar