Day 2: The Garden and The Tomb

The LDS church observes the Sabbath on Saturday in Israel, to align with Shabbat, the Jewish day of rest. We began our Sabbath at the holiest site of all, the Garden of Gethsemane. Tradition holds that the witness tree, old and gnarled, with roots that extend under the neighboring Church of Agony, may be descended from olive trees present in the garden during the time of Christ. Just a short way up the hill from Gethsemane we gathered in the Orson Hyde Memorial Garden to reflect on the Atonement away from the crowds and the noise of the city.

The morning sun over Jerusalem

We enjoyed sacrament meeting in the Jerusalem Center before eating lunch at the only Kibbutz in Jerusalem. Next, we enjoyed a brief stop at the Upper Room—the traditional site for the Last Supper, and we gazed over the city as Aladin, our guide, taught us about the widow’s mite and the Pool of Siloam. In the afternoon we toured Golgotha and the Garden Tomb. It is incredibly sad that a noisy bus station has been built at the base of Golgotha, but it is powerful to be able to see the ancient Jerusalem wall close by. It matches the Bible’s description that Christ was crucified very near to the city, but outside of the walls. Although we often picture the crucifixion occurring on the top of a hill, Roman tradition tells us that crucifixions at the time of Christ were done at ground level, often by busy streets, for maximum exposure to passing travellers. The site that has been identified as Golgotha (and there are no plausible alternatives) sat at a busy intersection between two roads: one leading to Jericho and the other leading toward Bethany. The Garden Tomb site was unearthed in 1867 and sits in what was once an ancient vineyard. It is only a very short distance from Golgotha in a quiet and tranquil garden. While it may or may not be the tomb that Christ was laid in (some archeologists suggest that the tomb predates Christ by over a century and thus could not meet Matthew’s description that Christ was laid in a “new” tomb), the place has a special spirit and we know that the resurrection happened not far away. The important thing is that the resurrection did happen.

The Golden Gate - Jesus passed through here on Palm Sunday

Art work in the Garden of Gethsemane

Olives in Gethsemane

Olive tree in Gethsemane

Reflecting on the Atonement in the Orson Hyde Park

Golgotha, skull hill

Sign inside the Garden Tomb