I still don’t quite have words to fully describe our experience in Jerusalem.  I recommend Hilary’s reflections, and in lieu of any writing, offer some photographs.

My sister Hilary and I and our families by the Dome of the Rock.  We went to the Temple Mount twice, and both times I was moved by a sense of calm and peace in the expansive plaza that surrounds the beautiful, exquisitely-detailed building.  Looking at this picture I’m struck, also, by the evidence that Hilary and I are, in fact, grown-ups, and that we have created these real live families.  Which, somehow, continues to shock me.

Jesus Christ’s birthplace in the basement of the Church of the Nativity.  Like so many of the high, holy spots in Jerusalem (and in this case, Bethlehem) I was struck by what seemed like simultaneous ornateness and randomness.  We knelt in front of this silver star and touched it, in a small, low-ceilinged basement lit by hundreds of gas lanterns.

Bethlehem rooftops, with a mosque and two churches cohabiting.  And the stunning blue sky that graced our whole visit except for Christmas Day, when it poured all day long (and created an entirely different, but also real, beauty).

Grace and I on the Mount of Olives on Christmas Eve.

Christmas Eve in Bethlehem.  Heavily armed guards and Santa.

Sunset over Shepherd’s Field, where the angels first appeared to tell of Jesus’s birth.  We sat in an ancient church, open to the air, and sang Christmas carols as the sun set.

Christmas morning in a 12th century Crusader church.  The children went forward to light the advent wreath’s four candles.

Mark of Islam against the same glorious sky.  So many of my pictures are of crescent moons and crosses and flags against the blue Jerusalem sky.

Again, the Dome of the Rock.

The crosses of the Church of the Holy Sepulchre.  Visible in the same frame as the gold dome, if I had had a wider lens.

My son looking up to my father – in so many ways, literal and figurative – at the Western wall.

The prayer that Grace put into the Western Wall.  I left one too.  Praying is saying thank you.

Damascus Gate.  One morning we circled the ramparts around the old city, and explored behind this ornate and beautiful facade.

Inside Jesus’s tomb, from which he ascended into heaven.  I love this picture because you can see the children are praying and I am looking up.  That’s what I do, always, when prayer is called for.  I look up: to the sky, to the stained-glass windows above the altar, just up, up, up.  It’s my automatic instinct.

And so, enriched by a week in December, looking up, always, I go forward into 2012.  Thank you, HTHM.

12 thoughts on “Jerusalem”

  1. Awesome pictures. Ornate and random go together here, indeed. Like peaceful and crazy/disorganized/overwhelming constantly intertwined. So we had the Shepherd’s Field church service that never quite happened (no matter, our songs were more beautiful on their own!) and the sound of a muezzin over Jingle Bells in Manger Square. Now do you understand “Jerusalem syndrome”?

  2. I had the privilege of touring Israel in ’99 and was so profoundly moved by the experience. I was a crying mess everyday I was there and often didn’t fully grasp why I was moved to tears –there seemed to be a sacredness that permeates the air everywhere you go. Thanks for sharing these great photos.

  3. Amazing photos. I can only imagine how incredible this trip was. I must say that I was most moved by Grace’s note — what a wonderful testament to the life you and Matt have given her. Very, very touching.

  4. Wow. Such an impressive place to go and the timing of the year must have made all the more special. My sister and I go on trips with our families and I have so many pictures similar to the one with you and your sister. It is amazing and quite shocking to realize that I am an adult, a mother and have this family.

  5. There is so much depth and beauty here. And yet, it’s the shock at being grown up that resonates with me right now. I hate that it’s been six months since I’ve seen my sister and her real live family, but I wonder if I will ever get used to us being the ‘adults’ in the pictures?
    Oh, and Grace’s note is simply lovely.

  6. The image of the guards and Santa is so vivid. I’d love to visit Jerusalem some time and witness those sites in person. I feel like it must be an overwhelming experience.

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