It is amazing what a beautiful day that we had today. The sky was a crystal blue with only a few puffy blue clouds. We started the day at the top of the Mount of Olives. This is easily one of the most memorable views on the entire trip. You can easily visualize thousands of years of Biblical history from this one spot. We stood up there for nearly half an hour pointing out different sites and discussing the last full day of the life of Jesus.
We hiked down the Mount of Olives all the way to the Garden of Gethsemane. The Church of All Nations currently sits on this site. We toured the inside and outside of the church building and considered the great group of people that came down from the city to arrest Jesus on that fateful night.
Our next stop was at the Garden Tomb. This site is run by a group from the United Kingdom. For many years, they laid claim that this was the actual site of Calvary. But, in recent years, have backed off that claim just a bit. Regardless, it is a nice visual of an ancient rolling stone tomb.
After lunch, we drove down to the Herodium. This small mountain was constructed by King Herod to be his final resting place after he died. The view to the south from the Herodium was breathtaking. You can see the beautiful Wilderness of Judea as it stretches toward the Dead Sea.
After a brief stop by the Shepherd's Fields, we arrived at the Church of the Nativity in Bethlehem. This church sits on top of the traditional location of the birth of Jesus. There is some considerable reconstruction work going on inside the building. In fact, there was so much reconstruction, you could barely identify the actual building amidst all of the scaffolding. Luckily, the crowds were very small and we were able to make our way down to the grotto fairly easily.
We ended our day by visiting Kando's Store in Bethlehem. The owner of the store is Shibly Kando, the grandson of an antiquities dealer who was contacted by a cobbler who first came into contact with the shepherd who found the Dead Sea scrolls. He is a very kind-hearted man and I enjoy going to his store very much. Currently, there are four original Dead Sea Scroll containers on display. One is in Rome, two are in the Israel Museum and the last one (and largest) is at Kando's Store. It is a beautiful piece.
Tomorrow, we head down to the Dead Sea. It will be warm, but enjoyable.
(For additional information about the tour from another perspective, I invite you to read Journeys With Jane, my mother's blog.)