Saturday, June 2, 2012

It's About Dead People: Part Three Jerusalem

He is not here, he is risen.
Entering the Sepulchre at the Garden Tomb
Dome of the Rock You can see graves a third of the way up on the left
Jewish Graves with stones
A Grave being Dug
Islamic Graves Next to the Temple Mound Wall.
That is the claim of the Christian as we come to Jerusalem. And yet we visit the church of the sepulcher in overwhelming throngs and in more pleasant numbers we visit the Garden Tomb to see, I guess, where Jesus would be if he was here.
Yet Jerusalem and Israel also tell the story of their dead. Throughout the land there are trees and gardens dedicated to the dead and especially to the holocaust victims. Numerous organizations work around the world to list the name of every holocaust victim yet the list is only about 3 million long. I am sure this shortfall feeds the theories of holocaust deniers but is probably due to the fact that entire families, villages and even regions of people were killed.

Back to our story though.

One of the great views of the old city of Jerusalem is from the Mt of Olives which is separated from the old city by the Kidron Valley. Down the side of the Mount of Olives are graves and up the other side of the valley, right up to the wall of the temple mound, are more graves.
The cemeteries closest to the wall are Islamic, people seek to be buried as close to the Dome of the Rock as possible. The Dome of the Rock marks where Mohammed ascended into heaven to receive his vision. Remember also though that here is the site of the first temple and also where Abraham came to sacrifice Isaac. This is a major holy place for all three of the Abrahamic Faiths. It seems to be the custom of all three religions to bury people in holy ground though I could not find any confirmation that Islam “consecrates” the areas set aside for burial as does Christianity and Judaism.

The Jewish graves sit more up on the Mount of Olives side of the Valley. Our guide who is Jewish tells us the Graves face East in expectation of the messiah, yet traditionally around the world Jewish graves face Jerusalem. Both the Jewish and Muslim graves are buried in the ground but they are marked by a small mausoleum looking tombstone. In addition the Jewish graves are all marked by one or more stones on top of the tombstone placed there by visitors to the grave. As with all customs there are numerous explanations. Some say it is simply to say the grave was visited, or to honor the deceased or that it is from ancient times when there were not tombstones and graves were marked by a pile of stones and visitors to the grave would occasionally restack the stones and add to them.
The ongoing themes around the dead, throughout our journeys, are the themes of remembrance and hope.

This is the last in the dead people series.