Today is our last touring day, and started very well. The Leonardo Hotel is a ten minute walk from the Garden Tomb, so we left about 8:40 for our appointment. Our guide was Dutch, speaking fluent English and German to the group assembled for the tour of the Garden. His explanation was clearly Evangelical. Whatever we think of the burial site, it is certain that Jesus is not in the Tomb. We had a short time of sharing some things we have learned, or been challenged spiritually by during the trip. Ryan Vegh led us in two songs, and I served Communion for the group. We had time for people to take a few minutes in the Garden by themselves for prayer.
We met Feras at 10:30 at the hotel, and he told me there had been incident in Silwan, near the City of David. A 17 year old boy was killed during demonstrations in the village of Silwan, although the news the next afternoon was unclear on how this happened. (I will update this when I have more information). We were likely in the City of David when the incident occurred, although I have not confirmed that. We had noticed an unusual police presence, mostly wearing riot gear, but things had been peaceful the whole day. Feras was concerned for us, but there was no indication that the Mount of Olives would be a problem. He talked to several drivers but there was nothing out of the ordinary. But the fact that they were going to bury the boy at 11 am was a cause for concern.
We drove up to the Mount of Olives, and there were a few tourist buses and everything looked normal. It was, however, very cold and rainy with a significant breeze. Most of our group gone back to their rooms for a coat, I did not since I did not bring even a light jacket. We did the usual talk at the top of the Mount and took a few pictures, and then started down to Dominus Flevit, the Church of the Teardrop. When we got to the overlook, it was starting to rain, but that was not the big problem. It was about eleven, and we began to see people marching out of Silwan toward the Old City, shouting and singing as they went. This was a demonstration in honor of the boy who was killed, and their path was pretty much the way I had intended to walk to Gethsemane. We watched from a safe distance and the group got larger, people kept joining until there were maybe two or three hundred gathered in the Arab graves along the Kidron Valley. They settled into a spot and began to toss rocks into the road. We talked about it, and no one wanted to walk down the hill at all. I called Feras and he was able to meet us back at the top of the Mount of Olives in a half an hour. Unfortunately this was the worst of the cold rain, so most of the group took refuge inside the church where they sang and prayed.
When the bus arrived, Feras got a round of applause. We were quite glad to be out of East Jerusalem, but we had a half day left. I suggested we go back to the Jaffa gate, find something to eat, then go down to the Holy Sepulcher. This was agreeable to everyone, so Feras dropped us there and we split up for food. I bought a coffee (10 shekels) and then some Jerusalem bread. This was 7 shekels at Damascus Gate two days ago, today the guy wanted 25! I gave him a couple of dollars and told him he was charging too much, and he took the money, said it was a “special deal” for me. I found a spot to eat my bread and drink my coffee, watching people pass by the Jaffa Gate. The sun finally came out, so it made for a nice time for me.
We walked through the Christian Quarter, which is the same sort of market as the Arab Quarter, but with much more Christian tourist shops. We found our way to the Sepulcher, and it was (as usual) very busy and crowded. Still, there are many things to see inside, quite a bit of art. The place has such a historical significance it is hard to skip, but the Garden Tomb is a much more pleasant place. I am glad I visited, but the crowds were really overwhelming. I also need to read more on the site since I was unaware what the various chambers were. The line to enter the actual tomb was extremely long and tightly packed, I had no desire to wade through that to see the cave.
Tomorrow we pack up and return to the Allenby Bridge for our last day in Jordan and a long flight home.