Today we had breakfast, and set off for Jaffa (or Joppa). Jaffa is actually part of Tel Aviv now, instead of vice versa. Joppa used to be an important town, but isn’t any more. Local fishing is still done from here. We walked down the narrow little streets, flanked on either side by massive stone houses. Originally, only people good at the arts were allowed to live there, and so the old streets are tasteful and elegant. We went to the place where Peter was called by Cornelius. Authorities aren’t quite sure as to where in Joppa the wonderful generosity of God was displayed, but a certain street was indicated, called Peter Street. (All the street names were named after signs of the zodiac). Jonah sailed from Joppa in order to disobey the Lord, and in fact, there is a statue honouring the whale that swallowed Jonah.
The legend of Andromeda’s Rock was also said to have taken place outside Joppa. Of course, the beautiful princess was saved from the jaws of a monster who lived in the sea, by Perseus. Perseus was flying overhead with the head of Medusa under his arm, and the monster looked at the head. Legend has it that whoever looked at the heat of Medusa, died. Consequently, the monster died, and all went well for the princess.
It was also in Joppa that George became a saint. The English took back to England the stories of the heroic things that George did, and he became a Saint.
Emmaus is either seven or seventeen miles from Jerusalem. The Vulgate and the Septuagint differ in that regard. Whichever distance it is, a special Church has been put up at each spot to commemorate the presence of the resurrected Jesus Christ there.
We also went through the Valley of Azekah, where God made the sun stand still, in order that Joshua might defeat the enemies of Israel (Adoni-Zedek was the King of Jerusalem at that stage).
We then came to the long-awaited Jerusalem. We descended along the extremely steep, winding path which was on the Mount of Olives, where Palm Sunday is traditionally celebrated. The people still walk down that road on Palm Sunday.
We entered into the Garden of Gethsemane, on the right of the steep road. The garden was different from how I had imagined it. For one thing, the trees didn’t look as old as I thought they would look. However, the atmosphere in there was so peaceful that I could feel the hand of the Lord there.
We crossed over the steep road and went to the Church of All Nations. In the garden of the Church were more olive trees, and especially an enormously thick, old looking tree which was cordoned off caught our attention. I suppose that was the original tree that had been there since the time of Jesus. The Church itself has an impressive exterior, but inside it was dark. This was deliberate, to create an atmosphere of mourning. Once Jesus had been crucified, the temple veil tore in two, and darkness reigned for about three hours.
We saw the dungeon where Jesus was possibly (almost definitely) taken to, in order to be tried by Caiaphas, the Jewish High Priest. There is a hole in the top of the roof where Jesus could have seen Peter if he had looked up. That is how he could say to Peter that, before the cock crowed three times, he would have disowned him three times. The ruins of the house of the High Priest are still there today. It was really an eye-opener for me to see places where the Lord actually stood, so many years ago.
We then made our way to Bethlehem. On the way we stopped at the Shepherds’ Field, the traditional site of the singing angels, who had let the shepherds know that they must follow the star, and worship Jesus, the baby in the manger.
Finally, we got to Bethlehem. What a place! Apparently, no Jews live there anymore.
Finally, we saw Rachel’s tomb. There is no certainty that Rachel was buried here, and so the church commemorates her life in Jerusalem. The streets here are deserted at the best of times, and because it was Friday, the Sabbath there had already started.