RAMPART WALK ROUND THE OLD CITY OF JERUSALEM
March 4, 2019
The walls encircling the old city of Jerusalem are compelling. Even today they stand as not only a historical significance and reminder of the past, but also an engineering feat. The present walls of Jerusalem were built by Suleiman the Magnificent in the 16th century when he restored the ancient walls of the city that served as military fortifications. Today the walls serve a more peaceful purpose as a destination for tourists to experience the Old city from an elevated position. Some interesting facts about the wall: the average thickness is 8.2 feet, the average height is 40 feet, and the total distance encircling the city is a distance of 2.5 miles! The walls also contain 34 watchtowers and 7 main gates.
A group of us decided to walk the wall which is accessed near the Jaffa Gate next to the Christian and Jewish quarter areas of the old city. The first thing we noticed is that there’s not much room on the top for passing! It’s very narrow with uneven stones along the way. As I scanned the rooftops, steeples, minarets, and Synagogues I began to see more clearly the layout of the old city. It’s divided up into four quarters: Christian, Armenian, Jewish, and Muslim. And as I passed through each one it was interesting to experience such a difference between them.
Whether it was the smells of different foods cooking, sounds of the people and their native languages, or the architecture of the different buildings, the eclectic ambiance deepened my appreciation of the inter-religious culture existing so closely together within these walls. Standing from a height that can almost see the entirety of the city I thought about how much bloodshed throughout history was spilled here on this small spot of land! And how Jesus from a distance outside the city wept over Jerusalem’s unfaithfulness to Yahweh. Yes, it was a small city but prized highly by God as his special place for his people. But Jesus did more than spill his tears, he spilled his blood as well on Calvary – which I could also see from a distance now encased completely by the Church of the Holy Sepulcher.
Later, as we walked through the Christian quarter we encountered kids playing basketball on a court which butted up against the wall. We began to shout for the ball, so we could shoot from the top of the wall. One youngster tossed the ball up and we took a few shots. My diocesan brother, whom I will let you name after watching the video Rampart Walk Basketball, shot a perfect airball and all the kids laughed.
Luckily one of us finally sunk one from a good distance! As we continued our journey on the rampart we came upon a few soccer games and some more basketball games cheering the kids as we passed by.
The weather was very good and we experienced an amazing sunset that reflected off the slope of the Mount of Olives. The view from the Jewish quarter was breathtaking, overlooking the Kidron valley which is covered with thousands and thousands of graves with concrete tomb like monuments above them. It reminded me of a toppled Jenga game set! As we exited the wall back to Jaffa gate I was reminded of the Gospel of John where Jesus says to the women at the well, “Believe me, woman, the hour is coming when you will worship the Father neither on this mountain nor in Jerusalem.” I thank God for this opportunity to experience the Holiness of this beautiful City! And it IS Holy! But I also thank God for his bride the Catholic Church, and the Eucharist that I can find in any part of this beautiful world in one of His churches.
Diocese of Grand Rapids