Well. Didn’t make it to the beach today… Instead: we slept in until about noon, had a leisurely breakfast, and decided to head into Jerusalem for a little sightseeing.
On a previous trip, we saw these tombs from the street — just outside of the Old City.
I thought they looked like something out of an Indiana Jones movie and obviously wanted to explore. Sadly, no time that trip — but plenty of time today!
To get to our destination, we walked through the Old City towards the Mount of Olives. It was crazy busy in the Muslim Quarter.
Presented for no other reason than I just liked it: this doorway (in particular, the lion door-knocker).
We had no idea what the area was called that we were headed for, but we expected to find, I don’t know, posted signs or placards or something explaining these very cool looking tomb-like structures?
So we pulled out the trusty ol’ Lonely Planet guide and tried to figure it out…between our book and another English-speaking tourist’s book (with helpful pictures!), we managed to piece together the landscape and figure out what each structure was called. Tourists, FTW!
The whole area is called, you guessed it, the Valley of Jehoshaphat. You can get to it by descending a stone staircase just outside of the Old City, down from the Western Wall (Wailing Wall) through the Dung Gate.
Jehoshaphat means “God shall judge” and is an apt name for the valley where the events of Judgement Day are supposed play out.
The first structure you come to is Absalom’s Pillar — which stands in front of the Tomb of Jehoshaphat, which is a first century burial cave. You can still see the sculpted frieze over the door.
Sadly, no entry.
Absalom’s Pillar is named for King David’s son. There’s a lot of discussion about who actually built it, and who it’s actually for…whatever it is, I found this to be one of its more interesting trivial tidbits: “For centuries, it was the custom among passersby…to throw stones at the monument. Residents of Jerusalem would bring their unruly children to the site to teach them what became of a rebellious son.”
Then I found this rope leading into a hole in the side of the structure…
…which Tank gamely investigated.
My theory? People have amazing parties in there. And/or it’s a meth lab.
Grotto of St. James. According to someone that our guidebook didn’t cite (?!) – this is where St. James hid the night that Jesus was arrested. (I don’t remember this story? Can someone enlighten me?)
Tomb of Zechariah. According to Jewish tradition, the prophet Zechariah is buried here. (Also: that’s a lizard on the rock in front of the third column from the left.)
I was surprised by the lack of people in the area. We only ran into two other people the whole time we were down there (both English-speakers, one also American). Odd? Or perhaps this area isn’t quite a big enough draw to make the trek down the steps?
The view of the Old City was gorgeous.
There was a path that led toward a Muslim city in Kidron Valley and a paved path back toward the Valley of Jehoshaphat. They didn’t quite connect, so we had to make our own way for a bit…
At one point, a young boy came hurtling toward us down the side of the valley. He said hello and Tank responded by saying hello and how are you in Arabic. The kid seemed quite surprised and asked if we spoke Arabic and Tank replied a little bit. Then he disappeared.
Eventually we turned around and headed back the way we came…and noticed a video camera. In the middle of a valley?