Jerusalem, whose name means “City of Peace”, is unique among all the cities of the world. In its more than 5,000 years of existence, Jerusalem has been destroyed twice, besieged 23 times, attacked 52 times, and captured and recaptured 44 times, yet it remains the most beautiful of all cities in the world. Its first mention in the Bible is in Genesis, in the story of Abraham and Melchizedek, who was “King of Salem.”
For the Jews, Jerusalem is their eternal capital, its name on their lips with their prayers. In fact, while to the Jewish people God is everywhere, God’s Home is within the Temple Mount which is now Dome of Rock (a Muslim mosque built in AD 691) which stands on the site of Solomon’s and Herod’s temple built on Mount Moriah where Abraham was prepared to sacrice his son, Isaac. Hence the Jews stand before the Western or Wailing Wall (being the remains of the huge stones which once formed part of the platform of Herod’s temple destroyed by the Romans in AD 70) to pray and feel they are in God’s presence.
For Christians, Jerusalem is where their Lord, Jesus Christ, was crucified and resurrected. Thus the city means both pain and joy to them. They share the agony as Jesus fell on the Way of the Cross and can walk in high footsteps as He made His way to His crucifixion at the Golgotha. They can see His tomb and feel the Glory of His Resurrection at the Holy Church of Sepulchre.
For the Muslims, Jerusalem is the third-holiest city (after Mecca and Medina) where Prophet Mohammed rode his winged horse on his Night Journey to visit Allah in Heaven, and that it is in Jerusalem that “the great gathering” will take place on the Judgement Day. Besides, the third most holiest mosque in Islam is the Al-Aqsa mosque in Jerusalem, after the Kaaba in Mecca and the Al-Mashid an-Nabawi Mosque in Medina.
But what makes today’s Jerusalem great and unique is that it is the centre of pilgrimage for the Jews, the Christians and the Muslims alike.
Therefore, on Saturday, 31st December, 2022 it was an electrifying moment for the Taraba State pilgrims to embark on tour of the holy sites in Jerusalem City. The first port of call was the Mount of Olives which was the scene of the ascension of Jesus Christ to Heaven after His Resurrection from the death.
The pilgrims then went down the road where Jesus entered the city as a King on Palm Sunday. They also visited the Chapel of Pater Noster, Chapel of Dominus Flexit, and the Church of Agony (where Jesus wept for Jerusalem and predicted its destruction), before descending to the Garden of Gethsemane where Jesus was arrested.
The pilgrims were then driven across the Kindron Valley to the other site where they trekked and entered the Old Jerusalem City through the Lion Gate. The holy sites the pilgrims visited in the city include the Pool of Bethesda known from the New Testament account of Jesus miraculous healing of a paralysed man; the Church of St. Anne (traditional site of the home of Jesus’s maternal grandparents, Anne and Joachim, as well as the birthplace of the Virgin Mary).
The pilgrims then observed the 14 stations of the Cross which ended inside the Holy Church of Sepulchre standing on a hill which Queen Hellena, the mother of the Emperor Constantine, claimed in 326 was the Golgotha (Skull Hill), the very site of Jesus’s crucifixion and burial.
The pilgrims proceeded to Mount Zion, a hill in Jerusalem, located just outside the walls of the Old City. It was the site of the Jebusite city captured by King David in the 10th century BC (before the birth of Christ). The Mount Zion comprises the Room of the Last Super, the Tomb of David and St. Peter in Gallicantu where Peter denied ever knowing Jesus Christ three times before cock crew as predicted by Jesus Christ, and the dungeon where Jesus was kept overnight after His arrest before His trial and condemnation to death.
The pilgrims had earlier visited the Wailing Wall where they prayed and posted their prayer petitions within the huge stones. According to the Jews, “touching the stones links us with our nation and heritage, with the Jewish people and our long, turbulent history.
“Standing at the Wall, perspectives, thoughts and feelings crystallise and the insignificant fades away.
“The Wall has withstood time. It has witnessed war and peace, destruction and revival. For generations, it has absorbed the prayers and yearnings of those near and far.
“Today, it is the most visited site in Isreal. To feel, to understand, to experience true awe, come to Jerusalem, to the Western Wall”.