Church of the Holy Sepulchre, Temple Mount, Brothers Karamazov

Worshippers kneel at the site where Christian tradition says Jesus' body was prepared for burial in the Church of the Holy Sepulchre.

In our penultimate day in Israel, we returned to Jerusalem and navigated our way through the intricate maze of the Old City-Aidan was by far the most adept of us-to get to the Church of the Holy Sepulchre and the Temple Mount.

It’s an oft-noted fact that Jerusalem is unique among cities on the planet in that it has some of the holiest sites of three of the world’s major religions.  Amos Elon, among others, writes at length about this in Jerusalem: City of Mirrors, which I read shortly before coming here.

As always, though, knowing from hearing and reading is different from directly experiencing.  So, after a brief snack, we braved the rain, the elderly Italian woman who kept pushing Dunreith in the back and the security guards to enter the third holiest site in Islam after Mecca and Medina.  We were not allowed to enter the Temple, but got a feel for its dazzling gold dome and intricate mosaic tile exterior.

We then did a combination of map reading, direction asking, and plain hoping before arriving at the Church of the Holy Sepulchre.  Upon entering, we saw worshippers kneeling and kissing The Stone of Unction, the spot where tradition claims Jesus’ body was prepared for burial.

The sights, and the fervent belief of the people we witnessed, was another reminder of what makes Jerusalem so unusual and why the struggle for control of the city has been so protracted and intense.

In that vein, I’ve also started The Brothers Karamazov, widely acclaimed as Dostoyevsky’s greatest novel. I’m just about 70 pages into Ivan, Dmitri and Alyosha’s gathering and discussions with Father Zossima about faith, human nature, Church and State, and other light matters, and I’m optimistic that I’ll keep making headway on this classic tomorrow and during our long, long flight home.

This may well be my last post of 2009.  Many thanks to all who have read and commented. I look forward to continuing the conversations in 2010!

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