After visiting the place of the Ascension and Pater Noster, we do an overview of Jerusalem from the top of Mount Olives and begin our descent, stopping at Dominus Flevit and ending at the Garden of Gethsemane and the Church of All Nations. Enter the Old City through the Lion’s Gate and see the Pools of Bethesda and the Church of St. Anne.
Our first stop on Mount Olives is the Church of the Ascension. The remains of the original rotunda built around the rock from which Jesus is believed to have ascended to heaven (Luke 24:50-51) and the later Crusader octagonal church and dome are now in the courtyard of a mosque.
At nearby Pater Noster, a Crusader cloister and grotto commemorating where Jesus preached the Lord’s Prayer, (Mat 6:9-14) we see those same words in one hundred and twenty three languages.
Before beginning our walk down Mount Olives we stop for a breathtaking view of Jerusalem, standing above the ancient Jewish cemetery. As if in the palm of our hand, we see the Old City and the Temple Mount area spread before us and imagine the Second Temple destroyed in 70 CE and Solomon’s Temple before that, destroyed in 586 BCE.
Halfway down the mount we stop at Dominus Flevit where Jesus wept as he foresaw the destruction of Jerusalem. (Luke 19:41-44). Designed by Antonio Berluzzi, the windows behind the altar of this small church draw your eyes to the Temple Mount where the Second Temple stood in the time of Jesus.
At the Church of All Nations in the Garden of Gethsemane we recall Jesus praying with the disciples until his betrayal by Judas (Mark 14:32-46)
Crossing the Kidron Valley (the valley of Jehoshaphat) we enter the Old City through the Lion’s gate and visit the pools of Bethesda (John 5:1-9) at the Church of St. Anne stopping to enjoy the wonderful acoustics in the austere Crusader church. In the cellars of the convent of the Sisters of Zion we will see a Second Temple water cistern and will marvel at the engravings on the paving stones of the ancient street, the Lithostratos. Originally thought to have been the courtyard of the Praetorium where Pontius Pilate presided this is now dated to the second century together with the Ecce Homo arch built by Hadrian.