With the Holy Fire behind us, we pressed onward to Pascha (Orthodox Christian Easter). The service started at midnight, and because of the mass of humanity at the Church of the Holy Sepulchre, we wisely decided to experience Pascha in relative peace by going to the Mount of Olives to the Russian Orthodox Church of St. Mary Magdalene.
We had some time to kill even after napping at our hotel, so we walked around the maze of Jewish graves on the Mount of Olives, opposite the Old City of Jerusalem.
The view from the slopes of the Mount of Olives (Dome of the Rock at the right and the Al Aqsa Mosque on the left).
The narrow walled streets on the Mount of Olives.
The Russian Orthodox Church of St. Mary Magdalene, built over part of the ancient Garden of Gethsemane (the majority of which is still at the base of the Mount of Olives).
While there was indeed a crowd of pilgrims (unsurprisingly from Russia with the exception of us), it was nothing like what we experienced earlier in the day.
The priests with the Eucharist.
The church was festive but still fairly dark inside (I'm used to more light on Pascha, but it was still neat).
After the service, we walked down the Mount of Olives to find that the Tomb of the Theotokos (Virgin Mary) was surprisingly open (obviously done for the holiday). I had been in before back in 2007, but the guys hadn't seen it yet.
Herman venerates inside. Keep in mind that the Virgin Mary is believed to have died a natural death on Mount Zion, and subsequently her body was entombed here before being lifted to heaven.
Back in the Muslim Quarter, we walked by St. Anne's Church to the Pools of Bethesda, mentioned in the Gospel of John as a place of healing. Like Mary's Tomb, these were curiously open for free (the pools are one of the few religious sites in all of Jerusalem that requires a fee, if my memory serves me).
Another view of the pools' architecture (the water is no longer there, for the most part).
To break the fast, we went and had schwarma instead of our usual falafel.
The view from our hotel.
The Church of the Holy Sepulchre, from our hotel rooftop.
Next stop = the Temple Mount.
Because the Temple Mount contained the Temple of Solomon and the Holy of Holies, Jewish people are currently barred by the Chief Rabbinate of Israel from ascending the mount, for fear of stepping into what used to be the Holy of Holies.
The Western Wall, beneath the Temple Mount (seen from the ramp leading to the Temple Mount - obviously for Muslims and non-Jewish tourists).
Minor buildings on the Temple Mount.
Al-Aqsa Mosque, the third holiest site in Islam (which non-Muslims couldn't enter, although one can see through the windows when they are opened for warm weather).
Markos takes a pic of the Dome of the Rock, at the center of the Temple Mount.
(What follow are photos of the Dome of the Rock)
The Church of St. Mary Magdalene
Precarious pose, Temple Mount
Time for a farewell dinner at Dirk and Ashley's = note the ugly guy sticking his face out from behind the pole. :-)
Thank goodness I was able to tack on an additional vacation day onto my pre-existing work vacation, because it allowed for some rest before a late flight back to Amsterdam, and then on to Minneapolis of all places before finally landing at SFO.
We packed a lot into a week, but what a blessed week it was.
Since today is Pascha, 2012, I'll leave you with the Paschal greeting = Christ is risen!