Day 4: A Basketball Jones?!?

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Mike and Bone arose for their first full day in Jerusalem well, a little fuzzy! Nothing that a good cup of coffee wouldn't fix!

Unfortunately, that wasn't gonna happen. The Hotel that Road Scholar had Mike and Bone staying provided a buffet that was at best 2 out of 10 stars. The powdered eggs and instant coffee (well it tasted like instant coffee) let the Boys know early on that this ain't Rome, and the eatin' wasn't gonna be a focus for this trip! The kickoff meeting with the Road Scholar Team wasn't scheduled until 6:00 in the evening with an introductory dinner, so that the Boys had the whole day to wander around Old Town!


Strolling through Old Town!

After the last night, finding their way to old town was easy, since last night they kind of "burrowed" into the town, they thought that this morning, they should walk the periphery of the city along to the Wall to also check out the surrounding areas.


Strolling through the Old Main Street of Old Town!

Turns out that this path, Cardo Street was the main street of the Old City dating back to the ancient Roman period, with aligned, old Roman columns. It begins on Damascus Gate and ends up on Zion Gate of the old city.  As Mike and Bone walked down the narrow streets they decided to "ring" the city vs., tramp the same ground. 


Strolling by St James Monastery in the Armenian Quarter

Mike and Bone cruised on past the Tower of David into the Armenian Quarter towards the Cathedral of Saint James, a 12th-century Armenian church near the quarter's entry, the Zion Gate. The cathedral is dedicated to two of the Twelve Apostles of Jesus: James, son of Zebedee and James the brother of Jesus. It location along the wall makes it a prominent site in the Quarter. The Armenian Sector dates back to early 4th century Armenia, where under King Tiridates III, the Armenians became the first country to adopt Christianity as a state religion.

After the uncovering of Christian holy places in the city by St Helena (Constantine’s Mom), a large number of Armenian monks settled in Jerusalem to be near the “holy sites.” This makes Jerusalem the considered the oldest living Armenian diaspora community outside of the Armenian homeland.

The Armenian Church is neither Catholic or Greek Orthodox, but its own version of Christianity. In year 506, during the First Council of Dvin, the Armenian Church broke off from Greek Orthodox Christianity by rejecting the dual nature of Christ, which was agreed upon in the Council of Chalcedon of 451. Thus, the Armenians found themselves in direct confrontation with the Byzantine Empire. Emperor Justinian I persecuted whom he considered to be Monophysite Armenians, and tried to force them to leave Jerusalem (Didn’t work!).

Even the Moslems have largely left the Armenians alone. The Byzantines (Eastern Romans) ceded Jerusalem to the Islamic Rashidun Caliphate after a siege in 637. Until this point, Jerusalem had a single Orthodox Christian bishop. In 638 AD, Armenians established their own archbishop, Abraham I. He was officially recognized by Rashidun Caliph Umar. The foundation of the Armenian section of Jerusalem was solidified by a Moslem Caliphate. 

Today, the Armenian Quarter life and culture still revolves around St. James Monastery, as it has for centuries. While the battles between the Israelis and Palestinians has caused many Armenian's to leave, they are still about the same size in population as the Jewish Quarter. Checking it out the Boys then headed down a hill into the Jewish Quarter only too see some familiar column work!


Remnants of Roman Jerusalem!

Walking through the Jewish Quarter, Mike and Bone journeyed by the ancient Roman columns on the old main street, where trade goods such as fruits, vegetables, and cheap tourist that were going back and forth on handcarts, much like they had for the past 2000 years! Next they walked onto an interesting place, Where Jesus is supposed to have died and was buried. Now since the identification of this site was not by an expert archeologist 300 years after his death, but the Emperor's Mother! Mike and Bone, being rational, pragmatic dudes were skeptical, hence the Church of the Holy Skeplikar!


Church of the Holy Skeplikar!!

Mike and Bone discussed what was the story of this very important Christian site. So the story goes is after allegedly seeing a vision of a cross in the sky in 312 before Constantine the Great famous Battle of Milvian Bridge which he wone, he began to favor Christianity, signed the Edict of Milan legalizing the religion, and sent his mother, Helena, to Jerusalem to look for Christ's tomb.

Let’s be honest, Momma-san, Helena was already a big time Christian and nagged her hen-pecked Son to legalize the religion, and sent her to Jerusalem based on her desire to figure out all these holy sites. Once there, Helena with the help of Bishop of Caesarea Eusebius and Bishop of Jerusalem Macarius, started their search with very little science other than local word of mouth. They did find three crosses near a tomb in Jerusalem; one which allegedly cured people of death so was presumed to be the true cross that Jesus was crucified on leading the Roman delegation to believe that they had found Calvary. Again, a mother and two religious bureaucrats with no archeological training figured all this out in a few weeks! (really!?)


Kissing Up!?!

As Mike and Bone walked through the church they came upon a strange sight,  a dozen plus people on the floor, kissing a stone! The Stone of Unction or the Stone of Anointing, is the place where Jesus body was supposedly laid down after being removed from the crucifix and prepared for burial. This is where he was anointed and wrapped in shrouds as was the Jewish custom of preparing their dead for burial at that time. Today, it is customary for pilgrims to kiss the stone or rub it with oil and then wipe it with a cloth. (Not very sanitary!) As Mike and Bone walked around fairly perplexed it should be noted that this was originally a pagan temple. Constantine ordered in 326 that the temple to Jupiter and Venus be replaced by the Church based on Momma's requests.

Interesting to note that it was after the temple was torn down and its ruins removed, and the dirt was removed from the cave, revealing a rock-cut tomb that Helena and Macarius assumed it to be the burial site of Jesus. Then a shrine was built, enclosing the rock tomb walls within its own special area.

The broader Church of the Holy Sepulchre, planned by the famed architect Zenobius, was built as separate constructs over the two holy sites: a rotunda called the Anastasis ("Resurrection"), where Helena and Macarius believed Jesus to have been buried, and across a courtyard to the east, the great basilica (also known as "Martyrium"), an enclosed colonnaded atrium (the Triportico) with the traditional site of Calvary in one corner. The church was consecrated on 13 September 335. While the Church Of The Holy Sepulchre site has been recognized since early in the 4th century as the place where Jesus was crucified, buried, and rose from the dead, Mike and Bone left very sceptlikar! They headed back to the perimeter of Old Town to check out a bit more of the City!


The Mount of Olives

Mike and Bone continued walking down the Perimeter Wall street, were they came upon an amazing view of the Dome of the Rock and the Mount of Olives. As they got down to the oldest part of the city they came upon a archeological park with a very familiar name! 


The Jerusalem Archaeological Park – Davidson Center ?

His "Basketball Jones!"

So who was the original Bad Boy?! When the Deeetroit Pistons were in their heyday, they were called the "Bad Boys." The original bad boy was not Isaiah Thomas, but the Piston's owner Bill Davidson!  Davidson, a colorful billionaire philanthropist, sports enthusiast, and owner of the Detroit Pistons gave to many causes in the United States and Israel before he died at 86. Davidson clearly had a “basketball Jones” for both the Pistons as well as Jewish history, where he gave generously to the Israel Antiquities Authority to help fund the work being done in the excavations in and around Jerusalem's Old City, especially in the area surrounding the Temple Mount.

To support this work, Davidson founded the Davidson Center and the Jerusalem Archaeological Park for which he was named an Honorary Citizen of Jerusalem. The excavations along the southern wall of the Temple Mount are now referred to as "the Davidson excavations" in tribute to his donations to the project.   What Bill help fund is now home to some of the most intriguing and important archaeological finds from the Second Temple / Roman period.

Walking in to the Park, Mike and Bone checked out the Davidson Center Museum that now houses all of the site’s most significant finds that were discovered during excavation work that Bill paid for. Some of these exciting discoveries include remains from the Byzantine period, proving the existence of Jews in Jerusalem during a period of time when they were not allowed to live inside the city.


The Remnants of the Destruction of the Temple from the Romans

After the Museum, the Boys headed out into the Archeological site onto what the researchers discovered is a wide and impressive street alongside the Southern Temple Wall. Apparently, this street used to be the area’s main thoroughfare and was visited frequently by ancient pilgrims, tourists, and religious types during the Roman occupation. In fact since it was right outside of where the Second Temple's steps, where Jewish Pilgrims like Jesus would climb to the Temple, it was likely the site of where the money changers and tourist trinkets that so pissed off Jesus during his visit to the Temple.  Money Changers were not allowed in the temple, but sure would be outside the steps! Today the steps are gone with much of the original wall.

These were the result of the Roman destruction of the Second Temple due to the Jewish Uprising to Roman Rule. Mike and Bone could see the huge stones (pictured above) that were knocked from the walls of Temple Mount and have been lying in the old main street for 2,000 years. While there is a lot of history the whole area is really small  in fact is interesting that just over the ruble in the distance is the Western Wall, where the Boys visited the last evening.


Ancient Roman Water Channels

Another impressive discovery in the Site is a drainage channel which was found under the street, containing rare finds from the days of the destruction of Jerusalem. This channel used to be the place where ancient Jewish warriors escaped to, hoping to find shelter from the Romans.

A view of the Al-Aqsa Mosque on the Temple Mount

Talking about a lot is a small area, it was hard for the Boys as they were walking around not to notice that at the top of the old Temple is now the very un-Jewish, Islamic-held A-Aqsa Mosque. It really shows the overlap of history and religion on a little patch of rock.

The Boys wandered down around the southern wall and into one of the oldest areas of Jerusalem!


Ancient Jewish Burial sites in the South Wall  

When the area started to be populated as the small village of Jerusalem, it was built on the lower part of the mountain. As it grew, it repurposed some of the previously used areas for Jewish secondary burials in rock-cut tombs for ossuaries pictured above. An ossuary is a chest, box, building, well, cave or site made to serve as the final resting place of human skeletal remains. Historically ossuaries have been used in areas where burial space was scarce or in situations where large numbers of people died in a short time such as a plague or battle. In 2015, there was some silliness that someone found Jesus's brother James ossuary in one of caves but it proved to be a fake. amidst all this amazing history, Mike and Bone continued to walk the hillside of the Archeological Park till about 4:30, when they needed to head back to the hotel for the Road Scholar Orientation Dinner.


Ending a good day in Old Town!

Mike and Bone continued to walk the hillside of the Archeological Park till about 4:30 when they started to head back for Dinner at the Hotel and the start of the Road Scholar Tour!


Coming off the Road to be a Scholar!

The Boys got back to the Hotel with just enough time to grab a couple of beers and survey who they would be spending the next thirteen days with on planes, buses, and airports! The Guide introduced himself as "Udi, the Foodie," and then sat down for a buffet dinner with the newly formed Road Scholar Team that questioned his foodie sensibilities. After Dinner, Mike and Bone retired to get ready for their first day on the Road Scholar!