Luke 19:41-44 "As he approached Jerusalem and saw the city, he wept over it and said, If you, even you, had only known on this day what would bring you peace — but now it is hidden from your eyes. The days will come upon you when your enemies will build an embankment against you and encircle you and hem you in on every side. They will dash you to the ground, you and the children within your walls. They will not leave one stone on another, because you did not recognise the time of God's coming to you."
This very peaceful place is on the right hand side of the road down the Mount of Olives, and marks the place where Jesus looked at Jersualem and wept. We were also able to look over Jerusalem; the trees are kept trimmed to aid the view.
I found it hard to look at Jerusalem, even with my limited awareness of the historical and current conflicts, and not share the grief of our Lord at such disharmony, fear and mistrust.
Nevertheless, this is a place of stillness and peace. The land was bought and is maintained by the Franciscans, in common with a number of other holy sites, and their sense of calm and care is reflected in the cultivated gardens which provide shade, in direct contrast to the surrounding cemetaries. The plants, of which there are many, are all labelled; this is a carob tree.
Flowers add to the beauty.
We held our Eucharist outside the chapel because another group were inside saying Mass. The monks who tend this place provided pale wine and roped off an area for us. Other groups came and went, but the stillness wasn't ruffled by their presence. Birds sang and a breeze rustled the leaves. We sang and prayed, and shared communion and I relished the peace, both atmospheric and in communion.
This is also an archeological site, and the excavations, which are protected, show how this site was used in the past as a burial ground for early Christians. Graves were cut from the rock (downwind of the city), and the bodies were placed in graves after death.
After a suitable period of time the bones were collected to put into an ossiary.
This is private ground, and there is a guard on the door. The boundary is protected, and I noticed this combination of the cross and the razor wire as we left. It reminded me of what Jesus was travelling towards down the hill, as we rejoined the path down to Gethsemane.