We spent today in Jerusalem, beginning again at the Jaffa Gate and walking to the Holy Sepulcher for our much-anticipated visit to the Tomb of Christ.  Yair got us there at the perfect time – the Catholic service had just ended and we didn’t have to wait in line more than 20 minutes (it is often many hours).  The monk assigned to guard the tomb was adamant about no photos being taken, and honestly it was better to just *be there* in the grave of the Lord.  The first chamber has a piece of the stone door that rolled in front of the tomb, in a pedestal.  During services, an altar table is placed on top of this pedestal.  The second chamber is the tomb itself – with room for 2-3 people only.  There was a beautiful icon of the Panagia looking mournfully at the tomb. It was truly incredible…and I can’t put it into words.  This is definitely something that needs to be seen more than once in a lifetime! 

After we all went through, we moved upstairs to the Chapel where the Rock of Golgotha still stands.  There is a split in the middle of the chapel – one half is Catholic and one half Orthodox.  The mosaic work on the ceilings were incredible!  Under the altar is a hole where you can touch the actual rock.  

Next we moved around the edges of the church to the many small chapels, each depicting a different “station of the cross” and owned by different jurisdictions.  Then we went downstairs to the chapel of St Helen, which is directly below Golgotha.  They used to dump the crosses from crucifixions down below into a chamber, and this is where St Helen found the cross of Christ. We also saw the tomb of Joseph of Arimathea, who gave his tomb to Christ.  

We then walked down through the Muslim Quarter and all its shops and alleyways, on our way to the home of Joachim and Anna, parents of the Virgin Mary. 
The Prison of Christ. This was one of the most amazing sites in that it felt like the ancient structures were almost the same as they were 2000 years ago. The jail was cut into the rock, and there were holes in the walls and ceilings where the chains attached. The guards would sit the prisoners on slabs with holes for their legs, then chain their ankles together. Often their hands were chained above their heads, and they were sometimes dipped in salt water after whippings. There was no light, no human contact, and I could not help but imagine that despair would set in very quickly if imprisoned. 
Next we walked down to the Gethsemane “complex”. The tomb of the Virgin Mary, which is underground in a shared Catholic and Armenian Church, was striking. Then we walked over to the Garden of Gethsemane, beautifully maintained with massive olive trees and fragrant herbs growing. Next to the Garden is the enormous Church of All Nations, another Catholic Church, where they have the large rock where Jesus prayed, surrounded by a metal “crown of thorns” on the solea area.