TUNNELS AND CHRISTIAN JERUSALEM

Tunnels: If It’s Saturday
in Jerusalem It Must Be Time for the History of Early Christianity

By

Leonard Zwelling

         What are you going to do in the most religious Jewish city
in the world on the Sabbath? Go to the Christian sites, of course.

In
the past on a Saturday in Jerusalem, we climbed to the top of the plaza that
overlooks the Western Wall and holds the golden Dome of the Rock and the Al-
Aqsa Mosque. But these sites are usually closed to non-Muslims now and cannot
be entered regardless by most Jews either. I was fortunate to have seen both
buildings from the inside on previous visits before the Second Intifada.

         But that’s the great thing about Jerusalem. If the Jews have
closed their city and the Muslims have excluded you from their points of
interest, there is still the Christian Quarter and all that goes with it.

         The Garden of Gethsemane is about a third of the way up the
Mount of Olives directly east of the Old City. Yes, that Garden of Gethsemane
(meaning olive press). The olive trees are really there and the one under which
the three apostles were to have fallen asleep is, too. It has a fence around it
to prevent believers from picking at its branches or fruit for souvenirs. It was
here, after the Last Supper on a Thursday, that Jesus was arrested. Looking
across the Cedron Valley toward the Dome of the Rock and the Old City, the path
Jesus might have traveled from the Garden can be traced. The real Golden Gate
is there, the place through which Jesus rode a donkey into the city on Palm
Sunday five days before. All of a sudden what seems like a “Bible story”
becomes very real. Out of respect, this place must be treated as sacred ground and
held in awe.

         Back in Jerusalem, above the traditional burial site of King
David, is a large, empty room that had been used as both a church and a mosque
in the past. It is in this room that Christians believe the Last Supper
occurred.

I
am a Jew who never even read the New Testament until I was in college, a New
York, Long Island boy whose only contact with Christianity was Santa Claus and Christmas carols,
and a firm believer in all that is my Jewish heritage, yet for reasons that
escape me, I find walking the Via Dolorosa and the 14 Stages of the Cross, the
path of suffering taken by Jesus the most spiritual of journeys in the Old City
of Jerusalem. Stages 10 through 14 are in the holiest of all sites in
Christianity, the Church of the Holy Sepulchre. 

In
this rather unassuming grey church controlled contentiously by six different
Christian sects where the pecking order is Greek Orthodox, Armenian and Roman Catholic
with three much smaller branches controlling very limited areas of real estate under the vaulted roof, is Calvary Hill or Golgotha, the site of the
crucifixion, the place where Jesus’ lifeless body was laid and cleansed and the
tomb from which He arose on Easter Sunday morning. All of this is entered
through a single huge wooden door whose keys are controlled by two Muslim
families. This is the very site of the origin of a religion to which over 2
billion souls in the world adhere yet access to it is at the pleasure of two
Muslims. Only in Jerusalem.

And
you think Hamas invented tunnel warfare? No! Perhaps you think it was the Viet
Cong? Not them either.

The
southern most part of Jerusalem is the City of David and encompasses the part
of the city captured by King David from the Jebusites. How? By breaching the
city’s defenses through the water system of tunnels and opening the gates for his troops to enter from
the inside. Tunnels? No one knows tunnels like the Israelis who have used this
idea starting  3000 years ago.

It
is said that you need to visit Jerusalem three times at least. One trip for the
Jewish sites, one for the Muslim sites and one for the Christian sites. I still
have much to see and another day to do so, but I have fulfilled my goal of 1998
with this third visit. But in Jerusalem, no matter how far I go back in
history, it never gets old.

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