Monday, August 04, 2008

Sunday 10th March 1940

Trip to Jerusalem! I am not very good at descriptive prose – I like personalities and queer jerky bits of notes. So for an account of the above I’ve decided to take extracts from the journal of one who is more adept at that particular branch of writing. All that he saw, that is mentioned here, was seen by me – anyhow! – Here are extracts from the journal of Gunner RWH Andrews!:-

“…Paraded in battle dress, gaiters and web belts… finally left the camp in buses at 9:30a.m and took the road to Jerusalem, 40 miles away… We approached the belt of mountains and hills which can be seen from our Camp ground and the road goes right through and over these… Commenced climbing and wound round the mountains with the edge of the road dropping sheer into the valleys below… Arab villages are built on the sides of the mountains… familiar, square, flat-topped stone houses, with long slit-like windows, barred and having no glass in…

We passed the valley of David and Goliath, also the village where John the Baptist was born and from whence he left for the desert. About halfway through the mountains, we started to go down again in a series of about 10 hairpin bends… At last we reached the New town of Jerusalem, with it’s modern buildings and wide streets and we stopped at Police HQ to enable our guards to leave their rifles and ammunition there, as we were now protected and came under the jurisdiction of the Palestine Police.

… First of all we went to the Garden of Gethsemane, where Christ prayed with His disciples.“

(And where He waited, many hours, for the soldiers to come – My God! No wonder the sweet Church that stands in the Garden is called “The Church of the Agony.)

"In the Garden are eight venerable olive trees and the enormous bulk of these and their great age, make it at least possible that they sheltered their creator in the days of His flesh. Here is the Church of the Agony and in here we saw, on the floor, the actual rock on which Christ prayed, so many years ago."

(This place was fearfully impressive. Dim lights, mosaic floor, altar, white rock outcropping, a great painting of Christ, preying in the Garden. When I saw the face I thought “Agony!” all over, not just with my brain.)

”The Garden of Gethsemane is at the foot of the Mount of Olives and we climbed the Mount by way of the steep, rocky path… At the top was a small Church called the Place of the Ascension“

(now – isn’t it ironical? – in the hands of the Moslems!)

”which is built over the spot from which Christ ascended into Heaven. We went onto the roof of this place and a marvellous view was obtained… Between us and Jerusalem was a deep valley called the Valley of Judgement, as it is believed that the Day of Judgement will be held in this valley… Beyond this is one of the walls of Jerusalem and in this we could see the Golden Gate, through which Christ rode on the ass on the first Palm Sunday. Regarding this wall, there is a belief in Jerusalem that on Judgement Day, Mohammed will sit at the end of this wall, looking across the Valley of Judgement to where Christ will be sitting in the Garden of Gethsemane, and they will hold a hair between them, stretched over the valley and those who can, on Judgement Day, walk across the valley on this hair will go up into Heaven and those who fall off will drop into Hell…

Turning around, we saw, afar off, another range of mountains and between then the waters of the Dead Sea, which is the lowest part of the world, the sea being 1300 feet below sea level. Further still ahead, we looked into country which was out of Palestine, being actually the country of Trans-Jordan, this being roughly 25 miles away…“

(Dim grey shadows beyond the mountains beyond the Dead Sea!)

”We now returned to our buses but before doing so I purchased two rosaries from an Arab, these being made from the wood of the olive trees growing here.“

(I bought three of these rosaries – one for 20 mils, one for 15 mils, after I’d introduced Bob Andrews to the old rascal, and one, after a hell of a lot of haggling, for eleven “Ingleesh ceegarettes” Anyhow, they were only Woodbines!)

”… After dinner… on foot… we went on a conducted tour of the old part of the Holy City… We went to the Palace of Pilate in the Via Dolorosa, or “Sorrowful Way”, where Jesus was bought before the people and where the Jews shouted “Crucify Him!” We entered a Convent here, where there was a beautiful Chapel with nuns praying and the smell of incense burning…“

(This, too, was thrilling. Jack Chenery and I lingered behind in the dim chapel whilst les autres filed out again. Two nuns prayed, statuesque in a gallery; a row of children filed in, curtsied and knelt; an elderly nun slowly moved around the high altar, tending the tall candles; and the almost mystic, intoxicating perfume of incense!)

”… leaving here and coming into the open, we proceeded along the “Sorrowful Way”… to Mount Calvary. Passing along narrow cobbled streets, dark with overhanging stone arches and through dark Eastern bazaars with all manner of produce being sold from dark cave-like shops on either side, till we came to the Church of the Holy Sepulchre… visited the Tomb of Christ… supposed to be the actual cave in which Christ was buried after His crucifixion… And inside the small chamber the air seemed full of quiet calm and stillness as I stood there the thought came over me that I was standing in the place which is the Holiest of Holies in the Christian World… The Church itself is in a very bad state of repair both inside and outside and is shored up with girders etc and will remain so until the various bodies concerned come to an agreement to build a new Church over the Historic places contained therein…”

This account is concluded in Dawn 1940. SJD
Vale Stillness.

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