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Archive for January, 2012

We hadn’t thought of visiting Bethesda. Fortunately – for us – one of my mates found that my street bought falafel was more hygienic than his restaurant-eaten food, and the bathrooms were too tempting for him. So we entered.

Apart from the church, which has been a cistern, a wall, a Roman temple dedicated to Serapis (Romans didn’t care much about whose gods belonged to whom: Serapis is an Egyptian god); the temple was destroyed by the Persians, and rebuilt as a Byzantine church, destroyed again by  Caliph Hakim and rebuilt by the Crusaders, who dedicated it to Saint Anne.  Salal al Din destroyed it and  the site was converted into a Koranic School.

From them on it has been a Church, and there are excavations all over the place.

A column from the crusaders’ time (easily recognizable):

Some of the excavations reach down to the original ground – again, hopefully: it’s not that easy to excavate a city under a city.

Or is it?

Originally there were some cisterns here, and around one of them the sick people waited to be cleaned, as they couldn’t go near the Temple if sick. So it must have been there, or very near there, where Jesus cured a paralytic, according to John 5,1-9. This information was painfully dug up by me in a Christian Bible; I just remembered the ex-leper dancing around Brian and claiming to have been cured by Jesus.

Anyway, this seems to be the pool – or what is left of it.

The water is stagnant.

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Now we have finally reached the sepulchre that is not a sepulchre because no one is buried here. I’m not sure anyone ever was. Long queue for entering, of course. There is a long line of  Italians all wearing a blue scarf following a guide. We wait. (Queue of Italians was skipped in the photo).

Inside there is a marble rock where I think I understand Jesus was anointed and prepared for burial.

Then there is the long queue of Italians with blue scarves patiently waiting to enter a subterranean grotto that is so small that only one person is allowed at a time. Apparently there is always a warden at the entrance, and there is also a strict roster of  monks, friars, priests, fathers of all Christian faiths to guard the entrance. The Italians having gone, the entrance is empty for a second. I suppose this might as well count as a miracle.

Inside the small cave, where Jesus was supposed to be buried everything is covered with candles. The light is quite bad and it’s impossible to use the flash. And the tomb is empty. I try to decipher what’s written on the walls. I come up with “He whom you search for is not here”. That’s news.

There are lots of chapels around but I don’t want to enter each and every one of them. The pilgrimage is over; it was senseless, it’s impossible that Jesus Christ or anyone else walked all this way carrying a cross. I’ve had enough of Christianity to last me a long time. And well, most of the Christian sites overlap Jewish sites, so I’m bound for another bit of Christianity every way I look.

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We’ve reached (almost) our final destination. I’m surprised to find there are two crosses leaning against the wall. I mean, I know Christian wear crosses sometimes, but they could have chosen another symbol of their religion, couldn’t they? After all, a cross is an instrument of torture. What if Jesus Christ was guillotined or hanged? It mystifies me. However, it doesn’t mystify my mates at all: they run to the crosses as I would run to Captain Kidd’s  hidden treasure.

I assume they’ve proved they can carry – or at least hold – a cross for thirteen mississippies. The rest of the stations lie underground – where they should be from the beginning.

If there ever was such a thing: crosses are heavy, and Romans were a very organized people. If they had – and I do not doubt they did – a place for crucifying dissidents the most economic and easiest way would have been to have a handful of crosses all ready at the crucifixion place. Making prisoners take their own crosses to the crucifixion place would be a waste of time, resources and effort. And probably this means blasphemy to someone, so I’d better stop right here, on top of the Holy Sepulchre. Why does the Path end at the top of the Holy Sepulchre?

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