Monday, May 4, 2015


Because it is "a city set on a hill that cannot be hid,"  Jerusalem has a thousand viewpoints, both looking at it and looking from it. I know I sound like a broken record, but being there, seeing those vistas, was a never-to-be-forgotten experience.  At one point in the tour, the song "The Holy City" by Stephen Adams got lodged in my mind, and I think I hummed it for about a week.  

So here you go. As you look at these various views of Jerusalem, have the song playing in the background. It is sung by the internationally famous tenor Stanford Olsen and the Mormon Tabernacle Choir. I'm warning you, however, that it has a way of getting stuck in your head.

One of the more unique views of Jerusalem is found at The Shrine of the Book, a museum that houses the Dead Sea Scrolls, which were found in caves near the Dead Sea between 1947 and 1956.
First a word on the Shrine itself. We weren't allowed to take pictures inside this museum, but it was dimly lit anyway, presumably to protect the ancient texts. I have seen a traveling exhibit of the Dead Sea Scrolls, so while the scroll exhibits were interesting, the unique building with its terra cotta striated walls was just as intriguing:
Picture from here

The building's unusual exterior, a white-tiled dome, is supposed to resemble the lid of the first clay jar in which the scrolls were found in Qumran. (Actually, it reminded me of a nuclear power plant.) The dome, together with a nearby black basalt wall, are meant to evoke the imagery contained in one of the fragments--the Scroll of War of the Sons of Light Against the Sons of Darkness:

The view of Jerusalem at the Shrine of the Book is actually of a mini Jerusalem, a 1:50 scale model of the city as it was in about 66 AD. (A human figure at  this scale would be less than 1.4" tall.) The model was built in 1960 by Hans Kroch, the owner of the Holyland Hotel in Jerusalem, in honor of his son Jacob, who was killed in the 1948 Arab-Israeli War.
The Temple Mount dominates the model, just as it does the modern city, but instead of the Dome of the Rock and al-Aqsa Mosque, Herod's Temple is the crowning glory:
The details are exquisite. I thought about the models of California Missions that I helped my kids build in 4th grade. Those were hard. They were more along the lines of this model of Solomon's Temple, which we saw at the Biblical Museum in Amsterdam:
Okay, so they were actually about 1/10 as good as the model above.

Creating this masterpiece is far beyond my comprehension:
That's Bob taking a picture
A raven surveys the scene. (Perhaps he is thinking about the city's past and thinking "Nevermore." Or not.)

A good view of the city walls:
The designers acknowledge that there are some errors and that in some places where little is known of the ancient city they took some creative license, but most experts still laud the degree of accuracy of this model:

Our guide called this stop the "Bethany Overlook." Bethany is located about 1 1/2 miles east of Jerusalem on the southeastern slope of the Mount of Olives. Today it is in the West Bank Arab city of al-Eizariya, which translates to "Place of Lazarus."
Bethany was the home of Mary and Martha and their brother Lazarus, and it was here that Jesus raised Lazarus from the dead. Jesus began his triumphal entry into Jerusalem on Palm Sunday in Bethany, and he returned there each night of that final week to sleep. The house of Simon the Leper, where Mary symbolically anointed Jesus's head with a bit of expensive alabaster, was also in Bethany.
Our group listens to a lecture through our "Whisper Perfect" headsets.
Our guide focused on these stories, and I particularly liked his insights into the story of Lazarus. Even though Jesus could have said, "It's okay; it will be all over in just a few minutes," he groaned within and wept because he felt the pain of those who were grieving. We should all be like that--compassionate and empathetic, even when our perspective of a situation is different than that of the one who suffers.

It was fun to see a shepherd in Bedouin dress with a herd of about thirty sheep and goats grazing just below us. It was a Made to Order moment, as good as anything on a movie set.

I just had to throw in this cute picture of Bob.

Not far away, we had a panoramic view of Jerusalem:
The slight haze gave the city a shimmering, ethereal look, almost as if it might disappear if we blinked.  As tourists, I think we also had the similar feeling that we might wake up at any moment and find it was all a dream.
The Plaza is just opposite the Hecht Synagogue, a fortress-like building on Mount Scopus that is part of Hebrew University. It was funded by the family of Mayer Jacob "Chic" Hecht, a United States Republican Senator from Nevada, and completed in 1981:
I was intrigued by this Wall of Benefactors engraved with names of famous Jewish philanthropists from around the world:
Each person listed has given at least $1 million to the Hebrew University:
Some of the names I recognized were Jack Skirball of California (read more about him on one of my previous posts found here):
Steven Spielberg of California:
Vidal Sassoon (the hairstylist) of California and the Seagram Company of the United States (alcoholic beverages):
The Ahmanson Foundation of California (sponsors of the Ahmanson Theater in LA) and the Annenberg Foundation of Pennsylvania (a huge sponsor of PBS):
It's nice to see everyone working together.

We were lucky enough to attend church on Saturday morning (in respect for the Jewish Sabbath) at the Jerusalem Center for Near Eastern Studies. It is owned and operated by Brigham Young University, my alma mater.
In the picture below, the Jerusalem Center is the building in the middle with all the arches. calls it "one of the most sensational buildings in the city."  The arch theme is repeated on the inside of the building as well.
The grounds were peaceful and well groomed, as are LDS sites in general.
Security was amazingly tight. There was a Secret Service-type guy walking around the grounds keeping visitors corralled, and another was manning a computer surveillance system just inside the entry.
We were asked not to take pictures in the chapel, but I did find this one on, which I suppose makes it legal. The chapel is also used as a performance hall for occasional community events and has stadium seating. This is the view of the stage area from where we were sitting:
It is one of those rooms that elicits a *gasp* upon entering.  This incredible sweeping view of Old Jerusalem does make concentrating on the spoken word a bit difficult. The organ is positioned in the back rather than on the stage, more like a cathedral than an LDS chapel.

The Jerusalem Branch of the LDS church meets here weekly, and other buildings that are part of the complex are used for BYU Study Abroad students. (My niece was here fall semester of 2007 and had a wonderful experience.)  The Church has a non-proselyting agreement with the government of Israel and has held to that agreement. There are four branches of the Church in Israel with a total of about 230 members (plus the BYU students), many of which are ex-pats studying at various universities (one of the speakers at our meeting was a student at Hebrew University) or businessmen working here. The current branch in Jerusalem has members from twenty countries, and they speak eight different languages.

I took one picture from a hallway inside the building:

"Jerusalem! Jerusalem!" Are you humming it yet?


  1. The Dome of the Rock is hard to beat as a photo op. I think it stands out about as much as any other iconic feature I can think of: similar to the pyramids, the Eiffel Tower, etc. It was exciting to find Bethany on the barren backside of an otherwise famous hill. It was so fun to get some perspective on distances and how far Jesus had to walk. I would love to have been able to tour the BYU facility. It is a first class building. Really tough to beat the view.

  2. I played the song while reading through the post. Yep. It's stuck.
    I love these series of vistas--what a unforgettable, beautiful place!

  3. Interesting perspectives on this city, and boy, would it be interesting to attend church at the Jerusalem Center. I'll have to live vicariously through you.