After getting back to our apartment–wilted, sweaty, and exhausted–we all collapsed for a siesta. I awoke earlier than most of the kids, but Hebs and Dad were up. Hebs and I decided to walk over to the Garden Tomb, which closes at 5pm.
It was still hot as we walked, but the Garden Tomb is a gorgeous, shady, comfortable place–and since we got there with only about 45 minutes left, it was relatively deserted. (Meaning, no huge crowds, places we could sit, we could walk slowly without feeling bad.) It’s a definite plus when that happens.
Jeffrey Chadwick, BYU Jerusalem professor of archeology and near eastern studies, wrote a great article in the BYU Religious Educator vol. 4, no. 1, 2003 named “Revisiting Golgotha and the Garden Tomb“. In this, he lays out the archeological reasons that it isn’t likely that either the tomb at the Church of the Holy Sepulcher OR the tomb at the Garden Tomb are 1st C. AD tombs, and not likely to be the place where Jesus was laid. BUT, it is likely, in Dr. Chadwick’s estimation and archeological opinion, that Golgotha is the place where Jesus was crucified. It’s a great article. There is one important thing to remember (for everything in Israel, really): “The most significant thing about the Garden Tomb is that it is empty! He is risen! and because of this, we too shall all rise again!” The “spirit of the place”, the veneration and hopes and prayers and adoration of thousands upon millions throughout two millennia, are just as important as the exactness of the spot.
We walked and talked and read a few scriptures and contemplated. It was peaceful and lovely. A few of the tour groups were singing–we heard “The Old Rugged Cross” and a few other hymns I didn’t recognize. (Great tenor leading out on that one, though!) My favorite was near the end, when a different group started singing a very familiar song: “I Know that My Redeemer Lives”.
Now, I know this song isn’t exclusively LDS, but this group was singing in unison for the first part of each verse, and in four-part harmony for the second part, and they phrased everything very familiarly. The group looked vaguely LDS, in that there were no sleeveless outfits. But that was somewhat the norm for the Garden Tomb–modest attire is common in the religious sites. Something about them, though, made me think they were members of the Church of Jesus Christ.
So I joined in singing, much to my son’s embarrassment. I very much enjoyed it, too, and I don’t think I was too annoying. 🙂 Then they had a closing prayer, and that pretty much confirmed my suspicion. Definitely an LDS-style prayer. So when we were all walking up to the exit, we chatted–and they were, of course, LDS. 🙂 We laughed and talked and said, “See you at church tomorrow!”
Once home again, I started making French Toast for dinner while we decided who wanted to go to the Western Wall again to participate in welcoming in the Sabbath “like a bride”. The Sabbath is a celebration to the Jews, and they dance and sing and shout with joy as the sun goes down on Friday night. I have a bit of holy envy for that celebration!
In the end, Em and Gee stayed home (and the Grandmas at their apartment stayed home, as well), and Zee, Yum, Hebs, Bradley, and I went. Walking through the Old City from the Jaffa Gate to the Western Wall was beautiful, and very easy–we just followed the crowds of Orthodox Jews in their nice long black coats and wide brimmed hats.
When we got to the Western Wall, it was still about 40 minutes to sundown, and it wasn’t very crowded. We took a picture for a nice couple (he is from Texas, she is from near Dusseldorf Germany). The man kept telling the kids how lucky they are–I know, right!!! 🙂
The boys went in on the men’s side (and got little fabric kippahs to wear) (which wouldn’t stay on Ezra’s big hair, hahahaha). Yum and I explored the women’s side (men and women pray separately) before it got too crazy, though we felt out of place with our non-dressy clothes. We discovered that many women will not turn their backs to the Wall, and so they walk backwards till they are almost to the exit. There were lots of cute little kids in their Shabbat best, and holy books for people to borrow. And lots of nice plastic lawn chairs, so you didn’t have to stand the whole time.
As the evening deepened, the crowds increased, and the dancing and singing began. It was really awesome to watch the excitement level rise, as they cheered and clapped and sang. The men were far more boisterous than the women (probably partly tradition, probably partly because there were fewer little kids on the men’s side). We didn’t want to take up space from people there to worship, so we mostly stayed behind the fences. By the time we left, there was very little room on the women’s side, and absolutely NO room on the men’s side (in fact, the men were spilling out into the rest of the courtyard). I loved the picture this created–the dancing, singing, clapping, the huge HUGE pale yellow stone Wall lit by projected lights, the darkened sky, the cooling breezes, the swallows diving and circling and screeching…it was amazing!
I don’t have an actual picture, because they ask that we don’t take pictures or videos at the Wall on Shabbat–and they even had some people enforcing that, albeit mostly politely, and mostly just on the men’s side. (Lots of picture taking on the women’s side, all by tourist-type women.)
But it was an amazing experience, and one I hope to have several more times before we leave!