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If you find yourself in Jerusalem this Christmas, you won’t have to look hard to celebrate the birth of Jesus. Despite being the capital of the Jewish state, there is ample evidence of the holiday season.
With Christmas trees, lights, decorations and a plethora of services to be found in Jerusalem, not to mention Christmas dinner, there is much from which to choose to do and see. Here is Travelujah round up of suggestions for unique things to do on Christmas Eve to Christmas Day in Jerusalem.
1. Take a stroll in the Christian Quarter of the Old City. Decorated Christmas trees and inflatable Santa Clauses appear in the windows of Christian shop owners. The Church of the Redeemer is one of the churches decorated for the season. There is also the Church of the Holy Sepulchre and many shops and churches from Jaffa Gate to New Gate for those happy to wander the winding alleys of the Old City.
2. Take a free shuttle to Bethlehem. Less than five miles from the Old City, Bethlehem is the center of Christmas celebrations in the Holy Land. Many of the churches clergy process from Jerusalem into Bethlehem. Christmas From Christmas Eve, buses leave every hour on the hour from the Mar Elias Monastery. Join a procession and experience part of the original journey of Mary and Joseph on their way to Bethlehem.
3. Visit the American Colony for afternoon tea. The prestigious and historic hotel is adorned with traditional decorations and a tree. Tea at the American Colony is a proper three-tiered event replete with scones, cream, jams and sandwiches. And the Christmas decor will put you in the holiday spirit.
4. On Christmas Eve, choose from many services at the various Christian churches. Catholic, Anglican, Lutheran and Evangelical churches will host services. Carols and Christmas Midnight Mass at Our Lady of Peace Chapel at Notre Dame. After the mass, fellowship with other congregants over hot chocolate, coffee and tea, cookies and English cake which will be served after the service. On Christmas Day, attend a service at the Garden Tomb.
5. Enjoy a holiday meal. Notre Dame’s La Rotisserie Restaurant serves Christmas Eve dinner at 8 p.m. ($105 per person) and a Christmas Day buffet lunch from 12:30 to 2:30 ($45 per person).
Compiled by Nicole Jansezian, Travelujah
Nicole Jansezian writes for Travelujah, the only Christian social network focused on travel to the Holy Land. Users can learn, plan and share their travel experiences on Travelujah. Travelujah offers customized group and individual tour experiences to ministries, parishes, Bible study groups, universities, organizations, families and others seeking an unforgettable journey to the Holy Land.
The Jerusalem Light Festival 2011 is illuminating the Old City this week in a resplendent display that is dazzling visitors each evening.
The event takes place until June 22 and is a feat in the field of light art and design. Each night the lights go on at 8 p.m. and stay lit up until midnight. This event joins prestigious light festivals worldwide, taking place in Lyon, Glasgow, Lisbon among other places.
Video courtesy of AllAboutJerusalem.com
All photos courtesy of AllAboutJerusalem.com
All photos courtesy of AllAboutJerusalem.com
Many significant – and tragic – events befell Israel and the Jewish people on the exact same date on the Jewish calendar over the centuries. Because of that, Jews observe Tisha B'Av (the 9th of Av) and if you are in Israel, you can participate in nationwide prayer and fasting.
It is a solemn day that begins this year on the eve of Aug. 8 and commemorates the anniversary of the destruction of the first and second temple, which resulted in many deaths, destruction and exile. The restriction against studying Torah excepting those portions that deal with the destruction of the first and second temple, begin at midday on August 8. At the Western Wall, the Haas Promenade in Jerusalem and synagogues around the country, congregants will pray specific prayers.
Because the temple was situated in
Jerusalem, the city's fate is the focus of the observance. Many Jews
prefer to pray at the Western Wall itself, the site of the Jewish
temple, or at the promenade or the ampitheatre at Mount Scopus because of the sweeping views of the
ancient city from these two venues. The reading is taken from Jeremiah's Book of
Lamentations and is known in hebrew as Eichah.The leader reads the prayers aloud and the congregation reads along in an undertone.
“How deserted lies the city, once so full of people! How like a widow is she, who once was great among the nations! She who was queen among the provinces has now become a slave. Bitterly she weeps at night, tears are on her cheeks. Among all her lovers there is no one to comfort her. All her friends have betrayed her; they have become her enemies.” Lamentations 1:1-2
The aptly named book is a lament over the destruction of the first temple. Some will read it by candlelight while sitting on the floor. Those who fast observe a total fast – no eating or drinking, do not shower or wear leather and, in the strictest observances, will sleep on the floor. Even though not all Israelis fast or attend synagogue, most restaurants, coffee shops and bars will be closed on Monday night only to reopen Tuesday morning after prayers.
The three weeks preceding Tisha B’Av are a period known as Bein HaMetsarim. This is a mourning period that starts on the 17th of Tammuz, the day the walls of Jerusalem were breached prior to the destruction of the second temple. During this period there are no weddings and religious Jews do not cut their hair or listen to music.
Despite the tragic history of the day, Israel has much to celebrate nevertheless. In its 63rd year as a state, Israel has survived several threats to its existence and has a thriving economy and tourism industry today.
Events that are believed to have occurred on the 9th of Av:
Ten of the twelve spies sent by Moses to spy out the land of Canaan returned with a negative report while only Joshua and Caleb brought a positive report
The First Temple built by King Solomon and the Kingdom of Judah was destroyed by the Babylonians led by Nebuchadnezzar in 586 BC
The Second Temple built by Ezra and Nehemiah was destroyed by the Romans in 70 AD
The Romans crushed Bar Kokhba's revolt and destroyed the city of Betar, killing over 100,000 Jews in 132 AD
Following the siege of Jerusalem, a Roman commander plowed the site of the Temple and the surrounding area in 133 AD
The First Crusade was declared by Pope Urban II on July 20, 1095 which led to the death ofkilling 10,000 Jews in its first month and destroyed Jewish communities in France and the Rhineland.
Jews were expelled from England on July 25,1290
Jews were expelled from Spain on August 11, 1492
World War I began on August 1, 1914
The mass deportation began of Jews from the Warsaw Ghetto on July 23, 1942
The Jewish community center in Buenos Aires was bombed, killing 86 and wounding 300 others on Monday July 18, 1994
A small prayer box from the Byzantine era was discovered in Jerusalem during archaeological excavations, proving that Christians have in fact been making pilgrimage to and living in the holy city for centuries.
The miniature box, measuring 2.2 by 1.6 cm., is made of animal bone and is adorned with a cross. It was uncovered by the Israel Antiquities Authority during excavations near the City of David, located in the Walls around Jerusalem National Park.
The inside of the box has drawings of two figures (icons) on a background lined with gold leaf. The bone used to make it appears to have been taken from a large animal (possibly a steer, camel or horse). To open the box, it slides open and includes two flat parts, each of which bears a colored drawing.
“The use of icons for prayer outside the church is a phenomenon known in the Christian world already in the 5th century CE,” said Yana Tchekhanovets, director of the excavation together with Dr. Doron Ben-Ami of the Israel Antiquities Authority. “However, the painted holy relics that date to the Byzantine period which were discovered here, in the Holy Land, are extremely rare, thus making this an exceptionally important discovery. Folding icons for personal use are known to this day in modern Christendom, especially in the East.”
The box was discovered intact except for a small crack. It was hermetically sealed which ensured its preservation.
The icon on the box is an image of a bearded man against a gold background. The face was only partially preserved and shows its general shape, a dark shade of hair and the left eye. The image bears a garment of a white cloak with a pink spot located on its right shoulder. On the inside of the box’s lid is a shape of a smaller figure, probably female, draped in a blue garment, against a gold background.
“Because of the poor state of preservation of the drawings in the box any attempt at identifying the figureswould almost certainly be within the realm of conjecture,” Tchekhanovets said. “There are several possibilities that can be suggested: if we assume that the drawings depicted are those of a man and women the obvious possibility then is Jesus and Mary. However, in the 6th and 7th centuries AD the number of saints venerated by the Christian church increased to many hundreds, two of which are probably portrayed in the drawings here.”
Excavations in this area in recent years have have uncovered evidence of the Byzantine settlement there including an administrative type building, a large farming terrace and a paved street. A series of plaster floors was discovered in the western part of the paved street. The box was discovered after the upper floor was dismantled.