Saturday, January 16, 2010

The Upper Room and St. David's Jerusalem

After the Temple Mount, we headed toward Zion Gate in the south-southeast of the Old City. In the photo above, you can see the outside of the gate, which are pockmarked with bullets (some of which you can still see in the wall) from the 1948 war.

We had been told that the Upper Room, in which Christ dined with his apostles in the "Last Supper," and possibly the same room in which the Holy Spirit descended upon the apostles at Pentecost, was located just outside this gate.

As with most of the things that we set out to find, this was an almost impossible task. We walked around and around it and finally stumbled upon it almost by accident. It is, as far as I saw, completely unmarked (at least in English). This is probably due to the fact that it's actually now inside the so-called "Tomb of David," which hosts a Jewish yeshiva. Even once we were inside the building, we still had no idea where the room was. I asked one Jewish student and he, seeing my attire, laughed and said, "Why should I help you?" When I suggested it would get rid of me, he pointed me to the room, which was about 10 feet away.

This is the room, or rather the room that was built in the 12th century on the original site of the room. You can a mihrab on the left in this photo, testimony to the fact that it was turned into a mosque in the 16th century. The room is now, as you can see in the photo, quite plain.

Afterwards, we headed to the nearby City of David, which is the archaeological site built on St. David's Jerusalem, which is actually almost wholly outside the walls of the what is today known as the Old City. See their website here for an interesting view of how the city has changed over time. Above, I am looking at what they believe was some kind of royal room, possibly containing a mint.

If you are reading this in preparation for your own trip to Jerusalem, I would have to admit here that I would not make this visit a priority. As Pres. Pelagia notes, I love seeing "some old rocks piled on top of each other," but even this was too much for me. The site is so old that almost nothing is discernible today. The one interesting bit (especially if you have kids) is the tunnels, which were originally designed to give the city's inhabitants secret access to water supplies during times of siege. It is believed that these tunnels, which you can walk in (see photo above), are the ones which David and his army used to take the city in the first place. There's even one tunnel with 2 feet of water that you can wade through. We passed, but I imagine kids would like it, especially during the summer.

After the City of David, we headed to the Jaffa Gate on the west side of the Old City in order to see the Tower of David (aka the Citadel). Click here for a 360 degree virtual tour. The site has been strategically important possibly since the time of David, with some saying that David's city originally had a tower planted here. Its more "recent" history begins with the Hasmoneans in the 2nd century BC. It was significantly enhanced by Herod, but then went on to serve some purpose for every occupier of the city. Under the Byzantines, it was a monastery (a common theme, I noticed).

The map I'm looking at above tries to explain which pieces lying below belong to which eras.

After the Tower of David, which also houses some interesting museum pieces organized by era (and occupier), we set out wandering on the streets of the Old City. In the photo above you can see me looking in one of the typically overstuffed shops on a typically crowded street. The shop owners are relentless in their pursuit of tourists. Prices, we learned, usually start about 4 times higher than what they expect to finally receive after a prolonged period of haggling. This whole elaborate process (which extends to everything, including taxi rides) was amusing at first, but quickly, I would have to say, became tiresome.

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