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Rest At The Russian Ascension. Today is 12/29/09 in Jerusalem


Today is my last hike to the top of Mt of Olives and it starts with a friendly chat with one of the Palestinian Taxi drivers I met early on – now that everyone knows I walk and don’t take taxis, we can ask how each other is doing aside from commerce or suspicion.

Two guys talking one with a hammer and his back to the wall keeps bringing the hammer up over his head hitting the metal sign behind him. It is odd.

I begin my ascent to the top of the Mount of Olives to the Church and convent of the Pater Noster (the “Church of the ‘Our Father’”) where it is said marks the area Jesus taught His disciples to pray.

There is a mild sand storm today making visibility a bit rotten for photos. But I do like the wind.

At Pater Noster, the Lords Prayer is repeated in décor throughout the church in over 80 languages (languages I have never heard of). It moves me as I find the one in English and read it out loud.

There is a nice little chapel and I photograph it before moving on to the Chapel of the Ascension with a hard to tell footprint in a stone (said to be that of Jesus left when He ascended) and the Mosque of the Ascension.

What I want to see is the Russian Compound. But no one seems to know how to get into it. Or even find the entrance for that matter. I tried before last time I was up here, and walked in circles around the hilltop. I run into a few others also looking for it. It is well hidden.

I stop in a bakery, buy a couple chocolate croissant-like goodies and a sesame seed bread out of the oven. This is becoming my morning MO. Find a bakery, buy bread hot. Yes, delight.

I give up on the Russian church and walk down the street stumbling onto the Greek Orthodox church. I am told to come back after one pm. It is only 10am. I doubt I am going to hang out on the top of the Mount of Olives for three hours… and I ma not going to walk back up the hill.

As I leave, I hear, “Jeff” – it is Haitham the other taxi driver I met who once drove an 18 wheeler in Florida, whose mother is in San Francisco. I tell him I am looking for the Russian Orthodox Convent of the Ascension – and he tells me it is just to the left of the taxi office, down an alley.

I follow his direction and sure enough there is a green gate with a door buzzer.

Once through the gate the expansive sanctuary is reveled.

I feel at home here, it is beautiful, Peacocks, ravens (like everywhere in Jerusalem – black and gray two tone) a dog on a chain, roosters, trees, a magnificent view, beautiful architecture, the amazing bell tower built to symbolize the ascension to heaven draws my eyes upward, and the wind rustles the trees.

I see a baptism in the woods, just a priest, and the man being baptized, his wife a witness.

The church is locked to the public but I do gain access to the chapel of St. John the Baptist. For the few minutes I am in there I take some photos of the most beautiful icons and put my head in the floor of where St John’s head is said to have been found. (it is said to put one’s head in the tiled floor indent, it cures headaches… I didn’t have a headache so I can’t testify to that).

I feel at rest here and decide to just sit for the hours and take in being present in this space. I think if I owned a forest on a hill, I would want to build this.

I sit at a table to write, finish up my bakery goods and feel the wind. There are nuns planting flowers.

This place is a refuge. I could see living in a place like this.

I return to the Greek Church and it too is on a large plot of land, Olive tree groves, a much smaller bell tower. It feels similar here too as a refuge, there are peacocks, horses, turkeys, geese, and the church is also closed.

Head back to the Sisters Bridgettine and start editing images. Dinner is delicious. The Austrian Sister is sick today and is in here room with a fever.

I watch the news with Nils and Barbara.


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