In April 2009 I was blessed to be able to visit the Holy Land with my pearl among women. I hope that these photos give you a glimpse of the land where Jesus walked.
This is Manger Square in Bethlehem. Bethlehem is now a Palestinian controlled city in the West Bank (since 1995) with entry and exit through military checkpoints. This was one of teh few places in Israel where we felt a threatening atmosphere.
This is the Church of the Nativity. It was built by Queen Helena the mother of the Emperor Constantine about 330 AD and is the oldest church in Christendom. It is built over a cave where tradition says that Jesus was born. There are actually three churches on the site – Roman Catholic, Greek Orthodox and Armenian.
Notice where two earlier doors have been filled in. The entrance is through The Door of Humility – a door so low that you have to stoop to enter it.
Tony Blair and George Bush are banned from entering the Church of the Nativity forever because of their role in the Iraq war. (They were excommunicated by the Greek Orthodox Church)
Harold B Lee in 1972 said : ‘Presently we were, as it seemed, with the shepherds at the mouth of the cave hewn out of the rock now to be found in the basement of the Church of the Nativity. There seemed to be in this place a kind of spiritual assurance that this was indeed a hallowed spot. Down in the basement is the cave hewn out of the rock, which seemed to us to mark a sacred place (in the recording of his talk he calls it a “hallowed spot marred by unhallowed excesses” but this was edited for publication in the Ensign!).
You go down some steps to the Grotto of the Nativity where a silver star marks the spot where it is said that Jesus was born.
About 60 miles north of Bethlehem is Nazareth. Just a small village in Jesus’ time, Nazareth is now a huge city but in the middle of it is the Nazareth model village which recreates how life would have been in Nazareth in Jesus’ day.
This is the wilderness of Moab where it is believed that John the Baptist preached.
Both the New Testament and the Book of Mormon tell us that Jesus was baptised by John at Bethabara beyond Jordan. The word Bethabara means the place of the crossing. The exact location is not known but on the Jordanian side of the Jordan River (ie beyond the Jordan) is a place known as Bethany beyond the Jordan This is traditionally believed to be the site of Jesus baptism by John the Baptist. It is in the Wilderness of Moab near the Dead sea and near where Joshua and the children of Israel crossed into the Promised Land. In Jesus’ day the Jordan was a river of considerable size – it is much reduced now because of irrigation. This part of the Jordan river has only been open since 2000, previously it was in a militarised zone.
After his baptism Jesus went into the wilderness and fasted for 40 days. The wilderness is generally thought to be in the area of Jericho. This photo is from further south – the Dead Sea wilderness at Masada.
Early in his ministry Jesus went back to Nazareth. This is a reconstruction at the Nazareth model village.
Luke 4:16-30 And he came to Nazareth, where he had been brought up: and, as his custom was, he went into the synagogue on the sabbath day, and stood up for to read. 17 And there was delivered unto him the book of the prophet Esaias. And when he had opened the book, he found the place where it was written, 18 The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, because he hath anointed me to preach the gospel to the poor; he hath sent me to heal the brokenhearted, to preach gdeliverance to the captives, and recovering of sight to the blind, to set at liberty them that are bruised, 19 To preach the acceptable year of the Lord. 20 And he closed the book, and he gave it again to the minister, and sat down. And the eyes of all them that were in the synagogue were fastened on him. 21 And he began to say unto them, This day is this scripture fulfilled in your ears. 22 And all bare him witness, and wondered at the gracious words which proceeded out of his mouth. And they said, Is not this Joseph’s son?
Luke 4 :28-32 And all they in the synagogue, when they heard these things, were filled with wrath, 29 And rose up, and thrust him out of the city, and led him unto the brow of the hill whereon their city was built, that they might cast him down headlong. 30 But he passing through the midst of them went his way, 31 And came down to Capernaum, a city of Galilee, and taught them on the sabbath days. 32 And they were astonished at his doctrine: for his word was with power.
Capernaum (or Kfar Nahum in Hebrew) was the city where Peter lived. This is the synagogue at Capernaum built probably 100 years after Christ but on the site of the synagogue which was the scene of much of Christ’s preaching.
My new favourite place in the world is Galilee, and in particular the area around the Sea of Galilee. One of the best aspects of it is that has probably changed less since Jesus’ day than other parts of Israel. The most noticeable thing about Galilee is the smell – the air smells of flowers – it’s beautiful. The Sea of Galilee is a lake about 12 and a half miles long and 8 miles wide at its widest point and is 700 feet below sea level.
Also on the shores of the sea of Galilee near Capernaum is a small hill that slopes gradually up from the sea shore. This is the Mount of Beatitudes.
Close to the Mount of Beatitudes is Capernaum where Peter lived and where Jesus spent a great deal of time. The Saviour performed more recorded miracles in Capernaum than any other place and gave some of his greatest discourses including the Bread of Life sermon yet the people remained unbelieving and Jesus prophesied Capernaum’s downfall.
We got up very early one morning to visit Mount Tabor – also known as the Mount of Transfiguration. It is a prominent hill with commanding views of the whole area and is accessed by taking a taxi up steeply winding roads.
Mt. Tabor is the site that many believe is the Mount of Transfiguration. In our own standard works, in the Bible dictionary (1979), it lists Mt. Hermon as the probable site: ” It is probable that our Lord’s transfiguration took place either on Hermon or on one of the adjacent heights.”
When President Spencer W. Kimball visited the Holy Land in October 1979, he visited Mount Tabor and said: “I felt very sure that this was the spot where Jesus had taken his three disciples, Peter, James, and John, to this ‘high mountain apart,’ and there had given certain blessings. I felt a very warm Spirit as we gathered together and felt what came to us from this experience.” (Taken from KSL Television special report, “Spencer W. Kimball: Journey to the Middle East,” 24 Oct. 1979.)
This is a Jewish cemetery on the Mount of Olives. The Dominus Flevit church (the one with the grey dome) built on the traditional site where Jesus wept over Jerusalem.
This is the Garden of Gethsemane – An olive orchard that it seems Jesus and his apostles were accustomed to go allowing Judas to find them on the night of the betrayal.
JST Mark 14:36-38 And they came to a place which was named Gethsemane, which was a garden; and the disciples began to be sore amazed, and to be very heavy, and to complain in their hearts, wondering if this be the Messiah. 37 And Jesus knowing their hearts, said to his disciples, Sit ye here, while I shall pray. 38 And he taketh with him, Peter, and James, and John, and rebuked them, and said unto them, My soul is exceeding sorrowful, even unto death; tarry ye here and watch.
Matthew 26:39 And he went a little further, and fell on his face, and prayed, saying, O my Father, if it be possible, let this cup pass from me: nevertheless not as I will, but as thou wilt.
Luke 22: 43-44
And there appeared an aangel unto him from heaven, strengthening him. 44 And being in an agony he prayed more earnestly: and his sweat was as it were great drops of blood falling down to the ground.
On the left of the picture are steps dating from about 200 BC. They are located next to the traditional site of Caiapha’s Palace. This was the way to Mount Zion from Gethsemane. Christ may have walked up these steps from Gethsemane to Caiaphas’ palace.
This hill today bears the name of Gordon’s Calvary named after the British General Gordon who discovered it, and is also called Golgotha, an Aramaic word meaning “skull,” . Jewish tradition associates it with the ancient “place of stoning” where capital offenders were executed by Jewish law. A Christian tradition asserts that Stephen was stoned here.
The place meets scriptural requirements. It is “nigh unto the city” (John 19:20), “without the gate” (Heb. 13:12), possibly near a road or highway since “they that passed by reviled him” (Matt. 27:39), and visible from a distance since the women that followed “stood afar off, beholding these things” (Luke 23:49).
There are two sites in Jerusalem that claim to be the place where Jesus was buried. One, the more traditional site, is the Church of the Holy Sepulchre – this site tends to be favoured by Catholics. The other is the Garden Tomb – this site tends to be favoured by Protestants. General Gordon, convinced that he had found Calvary, was very interested in a tomb within a hundred yards of Gordon’s Calvary that had been accidentally discovered and cleared of debris in 1867. In 1883 when Gordon saw it, he wrote enthusiastically to friends in England who raised funds to purchase the property. It is known today as the Garden Tomb from John’s account: “Now in the place where he was crucified there was a garden and in the garden a new sepulchre, wherein never man yet laid” (John 19:41). It was hewn out of stone (see Luke 23:53); it was large enough for several persons to stand inside (see Luke 24:1–4); it was “nigh at hand” to the place of the crucifixion (see John 19:42); and it would require a “great stone” to seal the entrance (see Matt. 27:60; Mark 15:46; Mark 16:4). A track suitable for rolling a large stone runs in front of this tomb’s door.
President Harold B Lee’s own response to this tomb was: “There was something that seemed to impress us as we stood there that this was the holiest place of all” (I Walked Today Where Jesus Walked, p. 5).
The Church News gave an account of President Lee’s second visit to the Garden Tomb in the fall of 1972, this time as president of the Church. He said: “As we walked those streets where Jesus walked, we went to the place where the greatest event ever took place. “Outside of the wall of the city was a high hill. Here was a tomb. This was the tomb where they laid Jesus. There was a feeling there that’s hard to explain. … “There was a weakness in me as I stood in that place. I had never experienced it before. It seemed as though I had been there before. I was feeling spiritually that I had talked with the Lord” (Church News, 17 Mar. 1973, p. 3).
John 21:11-17 But Mary stood without at the sepulchre weeping: and as she wept, she stooped down, and looked into the sepulchre, 12 And seeth two angels in white sitting, the one at the head, and the other at the feet, where the body of Jesus had lain. 13 And they say unto her, Woman, why weepest thou? She saith unto them, Because they have taken away my Lord, and I know not where they have laid him. 14 And when she had thus said, she turned herself back, and saw Jesus standing, and knew not that it was Jesus. 15 Jesus saith unto her, Woman, why weepest thou? whom seekest thou? She, supposing him to be the gardener, saith unto him, Sir, if thou have borne him hence, tell me where thou hast laid him, and I will take him away. 16 Jesus saith unto her, Mary. She turned herself, and saith unto him, Rabboni; which is to say, Master. 17 Jesus saith unto her, Touch me not; for I am not yet ascended to mycFather: but go to my brethren, and say unto them, I ascend unto my Father, and your Father; and to my God, and your God.