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April 27: Mount of Olives Revisited, Mt. Zion, Services
Today we headed again for the Mount of Olives. It was our first ride on an Arab bus. Just before getting on, we took a couple of pictures at the Damascus Gate. We were left off in front of the Chapel of the Ascension. You see someone kneeling to kiss the spot where Jesus was to have risen to heaven. Then on to the Church of the Paternoster where Jesus taught his disciples the Lord's Prayer.
We walked back to the Damascus gate and headed to Mt. Zion to see the Dormition Abbey where the Virgin Mary died. St. Peter in Gallicantu Church where St. Peter denied Christ was our next stop.
Then we moved on to the King David Hotel to scan the plaques on the floor of the corridor of fame--celebrities like Richard Gere and statesmen like Winston Churchill were just some of the names inscribed there.
We ate dinner out and left for another service at the
Great Synagogue with Cantor Chaim Adler.
The last time we hoofed it up to the Mount of Olives, my wife and I were too worn out to see the last two churches at the summit. So today, we decided to take the only inexpensive way to the top: public Arab bus 75, whose headquarters are located next to the Old City’s Damascus Gate. At first, I regretted taking this shortcut.
We waited in the heat for almost 20 minutes for an Israeli bus to get us to the Damascus Gate. We finally gave up and walked instead to the rendezvous point at the Arab bus station. Many bus numbers were listed on the signs around the station, but not 75, the only one that traveled to the Mount of Olives. Nor could we determine where to catch Bus 75—if it really existed despite what the tour guides stated—because all of the bus booths down the road had blanked-out bus numbers. But then we thought we got lucky. My wife spotted Bus 75 as it turned around a rotary and headed towards us. We waved at the driver to stop, but he ignored us. By this time, I was beginning to unravel. My wife, however, whose abiding virtue is persistence, would never give up, even if it meant trying to flag down every Bus 75 as we trudged forward on our so-far ill-omened way to the Mount of Olives.
Fortunately, we got an unexpected break. A bus driver for bus 76, who saw us wandering about, asked us where we were going. When we said that we needed to be on Bus 75, he promised to help us. All of a sudden, a bus 75 drove by going in the opposite direction. Our Good Samaritan persuaded the other driver to stop and wait for my wife and me: we thanked him and rushed around a long median barrier to alight on our most sought after ride. The Bus 75 driver very graciously welcomed us and took us right next to the Church of the Paternoster.
At that site, we saw dozens of plaques in foreign languages that transcribed the Lord’s Prayer. It was a powerful testament of faith. And the church itself was resplendent with sanctity. But what impressed me the most about our day up to that point and beyond were the two Arab bus drivers who showed so much kindness to a couple of beleaguered tourists. To that outpouring of humanity, I say amen.