February 24 (Sat) 1945, Jerusalem, Palestine [Part 2]

iwm-q86309-jerusalem-view
View of Jerusalem from the Mount of Olives, 1917. Image copr. IWM Q86309.

Monday morning, we took a bus to Bethlehem, about 15 minutes trip, with the rest of the bunch. I would not say the village was picturesque & there was a noticeable lack of large trees but I found it more colourful than corresponding British settlement in the UK. The Church of the Nativity, covering the presumed site of the birth of Jesus was our target. During the afternoon our party rode donkeys from the city [Jerusalem] up the Mount of Olives, and back down via the Garden of Gethsemane and Church of All Nations. The view from the Mount is well worthwhile, practically all the city being visible, & in the other direction, the Dead Sea & Transjordan. Gethsemene was rather disappointing being about the size of a tennis court but the Church, with its wonderful mosaics was well worth seeing.

Tuesday we paid a visit, per bus, to Ein Karem, the traditional birthplace of St John the Baptist. Apart from the churches of St John & the Visitation (very beautiful indeed, this latter, though still under construction) which were our main reasons for visiting the place, the village provided a most interesting first-hand view of life as the locals live it. The women were very hard workers but I didn’t see any men doing any.

In the afternoon, a very fine Army Padre by the name of Kemble showed us along the Via Dolorosa [in Old City of Jerusalem]. There were churches in plenty but I think the one that impressed everybody the most was the chapel in the convent of Ecce Homo. The Church of St Anne was no doubt a marvellous edifice as far as acoustics were concerned but it seemed a trifle grim to me being built on gothic lines by the Crusaders. Eventually we arrived at the site of Calvary, now covered by a tremendous church. This is all shored up as it showed signs of collapsing after the earthquake in 1937. This, as can be imagined, rather spoilt the look of the place.

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