The sound of heaven in Jerusalem

The Old City of Jerusalem sounds pretty much like any Middle-Eastern city: the sound of market traders in a crowded suq competing with incessant tour guides – some amplified – over the Adhan, or call to prayer.

Jerusalem is different, of course, and depending upon which part of the Old City you’re in you will also hear the unmistakable sound of the Shofar, or rams horn, as processions make their way to the Kotel, or Western Wall, for Bar or Bat Mitzvah ceremonies; and all accompanied by the occasional ringing of church bells.

But while it may sound pretty much the same, the smell is unmistakably Jerusalem. Like elsewhere in the Middle East, here you will find the wonderful aromas of spiced Arabian coffee; the pungent whiff from the countless herb and spice sellers; and the enticing smells of spit-road shawarmas and falafel. But here you will also find incense – and plenty off it – particularly around the Christian quarter where tradesmen sell heavily-scented candles that some pilgrims like to have “blessed” at the Church of the Holy Sepulchre before taking them home for use at Christmas.

But the most amazing sound in Jerusalem is just outside the Old City. Leaving Damascus Gate, and crossing the Sultan Suleiman highway, walk a short distance up Derech Shchem street and you’ll find an unimposing pathway to your left. This is Conrad Schick Street and it is here that you will find the Garden Tomb.

I’ve blogged about this place plenty of times in the past. It is one of my favourite places. Discoverd by the British explorer General Gordon in the Victorian era, this calm oasis has been owned by a British Christian charitable trust ever since. The trust doesn’t claim that this IS the site of the crucifixion, burial and Resurrection; merely that it fulfils the biblical description of the site recorded in the Gospels. As visual aids go, you can get no better if Steven Spielberg built it himself.

The Garden Tomb remains, in survey after survey, one of, if not the most, popular tourist destination in Jerusalem.

I was there this morning at around 9.00am, and even at this early hour on a Friday there were hundreds of Christians in the Garden from all around the world. Some enjoying a tour and other taking part in worship in one of the several outdoor auditoriums, for want of a better word, dotted around the garden. Here you had Nigerians, Filipinos, Germans, Americans, and people from many other nationalities worshiping in their own languages and in their own styles.

Like in the Old City, here you have different sounds competing with each other – this time it is the sound of Tagalog worship songs, German prayers, English hymns, and worship in many more languages.

The Guarden Tomb is a visible representation of the Crucifixion, burial and Resurrection; but it is an audible representation of Pentecost.

It isn’t so much a place of historical interest as a place of life-changing experiences in the here and now. If you haven’t visited, I recommend that you do.

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