I greeted my first full day at St. George’s College by watching the sunrise from the 4th story roof. Following Eucharist and breakfast, the Holy Land and the Arts study course began with a briefing on logistics, security, and the arts.
After orienting to the group dynamics, we boarded a bus for our first excursion. We traveled a brief distance and arrived at Mt. Scopus, the current location of the Hebrew University and the historical location of invading military commanders. From here, we were able to see west into the city of Jerusalem and east into the desert.
You will notice the stark contrast in vegetation. In the distance is the country Jordan. The closer town is a Palestinian city. The further town is an Israeli settlement in militarily controlled territory. Our security and logistics liaison, Bishara, is an Arabic-speaking, Palestinian, Israeli, Christian. He is offering a local perspective on the political situation and it is eye opening.
There are so many holy and artistic structures in the view from Mt. Scopus looking southwest and west. Here are some that we will explore in greater detail as the course continues:
We are going there tomorrow! This is a huge privilege. Very few non-Muslims are allowed into the Mosque. Today, we had a lecture by Professor Dr. Mustafa Abu Sway, a Muslim scholar at the al-Aqsa Mosque. He will accompany our group tomorrow as we experience the beautiful religious art found there. We have been told that pictures are allowed, so stay tuned for some amazing images!
The Mount of Olives was a frequent retreat for Jesus. The Church of the Ascension is there to commemorate Jesus going up into heaven after he had risen from the dead.
Gethsemane is where Jesus prayed the night before his crucifixion. The Church of the Nations was built to commemorate this location.
This double grey domed site commemorates the location of Christ’s crucifixion, burial, and resurrection.
Of final note is a beautifully excavated tomb. It offers an image of what the tomb Jesus was buried in might look like. A large center shelf would be used for preparing the body. The small hewn spaces would have held the body as it decomposed. The roof of this particular cave has been worn away, but it reveals an authentic view of a tomb.
More to come! Stay tuned!