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Friday, May 15, 2009

Israel Day 3

My guide Amir picked me up at 8:30am right after another incredible Israeli breakfast – these guys know how to eat! The hotel is just outside the walled Old City of Jerusalem but everything was blocked off for the Pope’s visit. We walked and walked and my calves were killing me from the crazy hike down of Masada the day before. It turned out to be an action-packed day, visiting some of the holiest Christian sites in the world. First stop was the site of the Last Supper which is not in its original building (obviously) but rather the place said to be the exact spot. Below is King David's Tomb and nearby is Dormition Abbey - the place where Virgin Mary fell asleep. But the highlight was going back to the Church of the Holy Sepulchre, the site of Christ’s crucifixion and burial. The Pope was giving mass inside there and security wouldn’t let people within a few hundred yard (or more) radius. However, Amir had us slip in with a bunch of monks and photographers and we walked with them in places we weren’t supposed to be. Then Amir took a sudden right turn down a deserted alley and while reluctantly following, I whispered “Amir, they are all going the other way” – he whispered back without moving his lips – “trust me and just pretend you own the place”. We just walked right by a ton of police and military and ended up on top of the Church! He opened one of the doors and there it was – The Rotunda of the Anastasis of which is the Edicule of the Holy Sepulchre itself. Mass just ended and we quickly made our way down there to have the place basically to ourselves (maybe 7 other tourists). The day before it was an hour wait to get into the rooms holding The Angel's Stone, a fragment of the stone believed to have sealed the tomb after Jesus' burial and the tomb itself. I lit some candles for my mom and loved ones and left with a huge smile on my face. It wasn’t only the highlight of the trip but possibly of a lifetime.

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