The day began on top of the Temple Mount where the Al-Aqsa Mosque and Dome of the Rock stand. This place and these two buildings are the third most holy place in Islam behind Mecca and Medina located in Saudi Arabia. As we toured the outside of buildings, our guide explained that the Israeli government made the decision to no longer allow tourists to go into these buildings. However, Dean Ruebner secured access for two of our colleagues because they are Muslims and permitted enter these two monumental structures to pray. They rejoined the group a short time later after an unforgettable experience.
Mahsa and Tope told us about the exquisite tile work on the inside of the Dome of the Rock and the impressive marble column from the original mosque that existed beneath the current Al-Aqsa Mosque. The Dome of the Rock is where the faithful believe Muhammad ascended to heaven, and has ever since been a highly visited attraction for Muslims around the world.
After that, we walked deeper into the city and began our walk down (or up) the Via Dolorosa which is the legendary street where, following his conviction by the Roman court, Jesus is believed to have walked with the horizontal beam of the cross on his back. There are 14 stations that represent 14 significant incidents that occurred during Jesus’ final walk to the hill where he was crucified. At the second station, our colleague Tim was given the opportunity to carry a 5 foot cross along the path, ending at the Church of the Holy Sepulcher where Jesus was taken down from the cross and laid to rest. At first, he explained that he thought it was a cool way to reminisce about Jesus, but it turned into a highly emotional endeavor. By the end of the walk, he began to realize the tremendous stress this inflicts, and began to ponder about the cross that each person carries in their own life. He later said that it taught him about the strength of faith and the power of the human mind to endure the most strenuous circumstances .
Once we finished touring the Church, we walked to the Western Wall. This wall is what remains of the Second Temple that the Jews built more than 2000 years ago. It is a Jewish tradition to take a small piece of paper and write a prayer or a wish on it and stick it into the cracks of the massive rocks that make up the 40 foot high wall (and thanks to modern technology, you can now email your prayer to the wall from the computer that you are looking at right now). After sticking my prayer into the rocks, I was greeted by a Hassidic Jewish man who proceeded to tie a red piece of yarn around my wrist and recite a prayer. After he finished speaking Hebrew, he informed me that this was a special piece of yarn that means that I will be getting married in less than 1 year (Needless to say, my girlfriend is ecstatic). This wall, we learned, was a retaining wall that supported the Temple Mount on which stood the Second Temple. The Temple was destroyed in 70 AD after which, the wall became a holy place.
It is truly amazing that three of the most important religious sites are located within walking distance, and in the case of the Western Wall and the Dome of the Rock, one on top of the other.
We were fortunate to go back to the hotel after the wall to give our poor feet a break, but we returned to the same place a couple of hours later to see the excavations that are currently ongoing underneath the Western Wall. We walked down a long corridor that runs underneath the ground that covers the rest of the Western Wall (only a small portion of the Western Wall is currently viewable). It was a great day, but the best was yet to come. It was truly divinely inspired that we happened to be in Jerusalem on the holiest day of the year… St. Patrick’s Day. We gathered what strength we had left, which was minimal, and spent the rest of the night in an Irish Pub drinking until our hearts were content. Unfortunately, those pictures will not be available due to technical problems (that being that they are totally off-topic and inappropriate for law students to be posting on this website).