Shabot began last night at sundown and is almost over at this point. Shabot means "seven" and is the Sabbath for Jews. Our day began as others in the city with much on our schedule.
We began by going up to the Mount of Olives and spending some time in an olive grove in Gethsemane considering Jesus' last night with his disciples. Our guide, Yoni, said that this was the busiest he has ever seen it. It was a madhouse. Never have I seen so many tour groups and buses.
We then went to the traditional Via Dolorosa and the stations of the cross. Of course, we understand that this is a Crusader era creation (this road, that is) and the stations are more tradition than fact, but still a needed site to visit. This road, too was more crowded than normal. The shops on this way were open, because these are owned by Arabs and they do not close on Shabot as the Jews do.
We were reminded once again there are at least two of every significant site in the Old City. These sites are often based on who owns the property. The stations of the cross - well, for some they are very significant, but stories like Veronica and each station are not necessarily biblical, but traditional. I don't think they take anything away from the story of the cross, but for me, they don't necessarily add anything. Some Christian churches see these as more valuable than others. There is talk about adding four or five more stations to this walk. Interesting.
From here we went to Bethlehem, into Palestinian controlled land, through a check point that will one day be a border more than likely, to the Shepherd's Field. This location is owned by the YMCA and is a cave where animals were kept and families lived in the front. This is much like what the Bible describes as the "stable" Jesus was born in. The locals all understand that Christ was born in a cave and placed in a stone feeding trough. Makes the traditional nativity scene seem not quite so right. Some of the gift shops even sell nativity scenes made to look like caves.
We had lunch and went to a shop. In this shop they had beautiful (and very expensive) olive wood carvings. There were many nativity scenes, animals and Jesus statues. Then I saw one on the shelf that looked familiar but I couldn't place it. I asked Yoni who he thought it was and he didn't know. Then the shop owner told me it was Nephi. It all clicked. This statue and a number of others are of Mormon characters from their history and their Book of Mormon. I found Moroni and Joseph Smith statues everywhere. Interesting. (BTW - I don't agree with the Mormon teachings and the characters in the Book of Mormon are in my estimation fiction). The shop owner isn't Mormon, but it's business and Mormon groups come there as well. The power of the almighty shekel.
We then drove over to the Herodian, a palace built by Herod the Great. This was where he was buried as well.
Our tour ended with a trip to an open field where, according to biblical descriptions of surrounding hills, David slew Goliath.
We're back at the hotel now and getting ready for dinner. Following dinner, we're walking over to the Baptist church where Yoni worships to watch the congregation's talent show (and get some dessert.)