A few weeks ago on a Tuesday I got finish work at 4pm, as we are encouraged to take a hour of work to go and pray. Tuesday afternoon was not picked by anyone else so I used this time to go and visit the Tomb of the Rock.
After printing out a map I left work and headed towards the old city and follow around the edges of the city walls, I got to a busy Arab part which had a market in full swing outside, two Arab men suddenly run up to each other and kiss on both cheeks, no, they are not gay, this is just a symbol of friendship very different from the west, at the market there were people with children’s clothes on cars, a blanket with a big tangled heap of mobile chargers for sale, pirate DVDs of Dora the Explorer which had the covers done on a cheap inkjet printer were on a stand next to a Arabic CD of MP3s of Islamic teaching, the atmosphere is still one of being at the same frenetic pace that I have used to been seeing in Jerusalem.
Here I got a bit lost as I couldn’t see the street I needed, the market tents and stacked up boxes of fruit and pickup trucks had hidden the street signs, after going past an unassuming bus station and twice missing the road, I decided this was the right one, a short journey later and I see a sign post that takes me in to a alleyway to an attractive green painted door with a sign for the tomb, at the gate I am asked if I have been here before, I told the lady yes twice. I am given a leaflet which shows how to walk around in a methodical fashion to see the small park in its full detail, but instead I make a beeline directly for the tomb.
For some reason this journey today reminds me a DVD I have of U2’s Rattle and Hum music video, in this film Bono & co take a journey around America searching for their musical heros visiting the America’s fertile grounds that sprouted musical history, stopping off at Harlem in New York, Chicago and later the film kind of climaxes at Tennessee, at of course, Gracelands, the iconic home of Elvis Presley where the king of rock and roll was buried in his garden.
Here, I am looking for another legend who had a simple upbringing but almost everyone has heard of, this location was quite a costly prepaid burial site that was given by Joseph of Aramathea, as everyone knows the resurrection was only 3 days later, as a shrine to Christ himself there is a mixture of emotions that come from this place, I like the fact the garden is quite simple but well maintained and free of rubbish and there is plenty of seating for church groups to sit and have teaching, although there are wheel chair ramps, handles, and outdoor lighting, plus of course the ubiquitous gift shop although this is a modest affair with mostly tasteful souvenirs of biblical history.
This place is thought to be the most likely burial place of Jesus, as it does seem to match the details outlined in the scriptures, but who knows tombs of this kind could have been contemporary with this era. There is even a groove in the front which means a rolling stone could lock the front. A replica stone which is a lot smaller was on display elsewhere in the garden. There are some slightly ugly bricks in part of the door edge as it was repaired at some point. Inside there are some iron railings inside that split the tomb up and my understanding is part of the bed of the tomb was sawn and taken out and put in the church of the holy sepulchre.
After praying and contemplating for a while to look in the shop on the way back, this man asked me why I was still here, apparently the place had closed 10 minutes ago, and he was locking up and didn’t see me. I headed off back home.