JERUSALEM-the 50 sites you may overlook

In a historic and religious city like Jerusalem there is so much to see no matter how much you tour. When time is a limiting factor, even the most efficient tour guides have to compromise while deciding what to incorporate in the itinerary. Although it depends on the interest of the individual visitor as well, there is still a huge must-see-list in Jerusalem that cannot be avoided. At every stop so much information is thrown on a visitor that sometimes s/he tends to forget the details after leaving the place.

I remember when I first visited the Church of Holy Sepulcher, it appeared to me more like a small museum than a church. I was virtually clueless inside a dark and dull overcrowded massive complex of more than 25 chapels with several curious artifacts and antiques scattered under some dusky arches and dingy columns. It took me at least three visits with a proper map in hand to understand the Church complex. A normal visitor for instance would be satisfied with Golgotha, the ‘Stone of Unction’ and the ‘Holy Sepulcher’, but the oldest part of the complex, viz. the first century tombs inside the Syrian Orthodox Chapel could be easily missed.

In the upcoming posts I plan to upload 50 such sites from Jerusalem that I believe can be easily overlooked or go unnoticed by an average visitor. I am incorporating the following sites from my previous visits, again with no specific order of importance. I am sure that a serious traveler who loves history, traditions and the Bible has noticed or been to most of them.

Tuesday, September 1, 2009

THE GREEK ORTHODOX MONASTERY OF MAR ELIAS (6th Century AD)-As per tradition Prophet Elijah slept here while fleeing from Queen Jezebel (I Kings 19:3).

Located on a hill like a fortress, 817 metre above Sea Level, Mar Elias Monastery is almost in the middle of Jerusalem and Bethlehem. Although, the Monastery has foundation from Byzantine Period (6th Century AD), it was destroyed by Persians (614 AD) and later severely by earthquakes in 1033 and 116o. In 1160 itself, the monastery was rebuilt by Byzantine Emperor Manuel I Komnenos (Comnenus).

Why is the Monastery in the name of Elias? At least three possibilities are put forward based on various traditions. 1) The monastery stands on the site where Prophet Elijah rested on his flight from Queen Jezebel (1 Kings 19:15). 2) Greek Bishop Elias of Bethlehem was buried here in 1345. 3) The sepulcher of Egyptian monk St. Elias who later became Patriarch of Jerusalem in 494 is here.

We walked around half a kilometer from Ramat Rachel to the Monastery only to find that it is not open to public, unless you have arranged a visit by prior appointment. Instead, we climbed the "Hill of Elijah" at the backyard of the monastery. The view from the hill can get you Bethlehem and adjoining areas. The following few photographs will give you a rough idea about the area.

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