Tuesday, 26 November 2013

A walk up the Mount of Olives

The Mount of Olives gets a very bad press. My American dinner companions last night said they were warned against it by people at reception downstairs when they checked in.
I ask the man there when I try and book a taxi much later for the airport tomorrow (it is in fact too late to book a taxi): he says that it is fine if you go in the day time; obviously don't take all your money with you. They had a guest who wandered over to the Garden of Gethsemane at dusk and came back crying because someone had robbed her money. What did she expect, was the implication - I quite agree - what did she expect.
The Via Dolorosa seems to lead straight to the gate out to the hillside. It's busy. Coaches parked by the side of the road sparkle up the hill.
The olive trees are enclosed by a wall.- you can't go near them - and they are clearly very very old.

There are taxi drivers outside, people selling trinkets as ever - a taxi back to the old City?
Up the hill (it is still before 10) the road rises and has a Mediterranean feel. Bougainvillea. People arrive in groups, so if you wait for groups to pass you have the place more or less to yourself.
The Russian Orthodox Church - Mary Magdalene - opens at 10am on Tuesdays and Thursdyas.
Wait outside and play chess on my phone. Ten minutes.
Glorious gold onion domes.

Inside a nun is tranquilly lighting one taper on each of the stands, to get things going.
I sit for a while then suddenly think I will read the Bible. Why not read what the apostles said about the Mount of Olives. Wandering in the garden at night. Strange that I didn't think of referring back to the source text before. Somehow the words make sense of everything.
The domestic touches that reveal life in the religious community.... here geraniums.

Further up the hill pass the Jewish graveyard. Here thousands wait for the resurrection: they face the Temple Mount, just visible from the gate through the pine trees. Someone is looking for a tomb...

The gold dome of the Temple Mount visible and - below only just - the thousands of Muslim tombs.
Both Jews and Muslims believe that the Last Judgement will be held in Kedron Valley - between Jerusalem and the Mount of Olives.
Then what everyone calls the 'tear drop church ' - Dominus Flevit.
There are tours in the garden outside: groups leaders talking and explaining. The view across to the old City is spectacular. It is built here for a reason. The window behind the altar (which faces the Temple Mount) is clear.

There is a Latin inscription with Luke X1X v.41

"And when he was come near, he beheld the city, and wept over it.
Saying, if though hadst known, even thou, at least in this thy day, the things which belong unto thy peace! but now they are hid from thine eyes.
For the days shall come upon thee, that thine enemies shall cast a trench about thee, and compass thee round, and keep thee in on every side."

The altar is built against a window, which is of clear glass. Behind is the Temple Mount. Everything has come to pass, it seems.
Walk back into the town and a woman in a headscarf near Lion's Gate asks me for directions in Russian to Mary Magdalene church. Have lost all Russian.
Hasten to the Austrian Hospice. It is like stepping into Vienna and there are palm trees in the garden. Americano with hot milk and apple strudel. Send a picture to an Austrian friend.

Reading and watching

  • Foot by Foot to Santiago de Compostela/Judy Foot
  • The Testament of Mary with Fiona Shaw at the Barbican
  • The Testament of Mary/Colm Toibin
  • Schwanengesang/Schubert - Tony Spence
  • Journals/Robert Falcon Scott
  • Fugitive Pieces/Ann Michaels
  • Unless/Carol Shields
  • Faust/Royal Opera House
  • The Art of Travel/Alain de Botton
  • Mad Men Series 6
  • A Week at The Airport/Alain de Botton
  • The Railway Man/Eric Lomax
  • Bright Lights, Big City/Jay McInerney
  • Stones of Venice/John Ruskin
  • The Sea, the Sea/Iris Murdoch
  • Childe Harold/Lord Byron
  • All The Pretty Horses/Cormac McCarthy
  • Extreme Rambling/Mark Thomas
  • Story of my Life/Jay McInerney
  • Venice Observed/Mary McCarthy