Review: Tour to the Garden of Gethsemane (Israel, Jerusalem) – The place is tragic, but beautiful.
Ancient land, beautiful vegetation, peculiar architecture, landscapes, relics, tranquility, rest, amazing history.
Gethsemane is an area in the eastern part of Jerusalem. If you walk out of the gates of the Old City and walk…well, spend, maybe 20 minutes, maybe 30. It’s very beautiful all around.
In general, the area is the usual olive valley in Israel. And the history makes it unusual.
It is located at the foot of the Mount of Olives. Sometimes it is called the Mount of Olives, because in ancient times there were stone presses that were used to press olive oil. In Biblical times it was a huge garden of olive trees. Today only eight of those ancient trees remain – by the way, they are bearing fruit. Believers say that the fruits of these olive trees help women who for a long time can not get pregnant. I guess it all depends on faith. But I have been told of cases where some women, after returning from Jerusalem, have become pregnant, although it was not an issue before, for medical reasons.
The place is very ancient. Jesus Christ came here to pray on the night of His arrest. You will definitely be shown the stone on which He sat while praying. It is near the altar of the temple of all nations.
The temple is not ancient. It was built in the 1920s. It is huge and beautiful. On the outside is painted with biblical subjects. There are also many sculptural compositions on the subject.
Inside the church is very tall. On the ceiling there are coats of arms of twelve countries, whose Catholic communities financed the construction. There are majestic mosaics: “Gethsemane’s Prayer”, “Betrayal of the Savior”, “Taking of Christ into custody”. All these events took place on this site. Here Christ is praying, here Judas led the guards, here Apostle Peter cut off a soldier’s ear with a sword, and here Christ said: “Put your sword in its place, for he who kills with a sword shall also perish by the sword. From here Jesus was led away to be judged by the chief priests.
In Christian tradition, this place is considered tragic. Pilgrims from all over the world come here. And it is also tragic because two kinds of betrayal took place here: the situational and the global. Situationally, the apostles betrayed Christ, who, instead of praying with Him, fell asleep, taking advantage of the fact that He was leaving for the rock.
Globally, Judas betrayed Christ by bringing the guards and pointing them to Jesus.
The execution on Golgotha was already a consequence of the events that took place in Gethsemane. And the betrayal of Gethsemane is, in turn, the point of reference for the last days of Christ’s life on earth.
Today the Garden of Gethsemane has an area of 50 by 47 meters. Before the construction of the Temple of All Nations, it was a private property, enclosed by a stone fence. Today this area is “controlled” by the Franciscans – they have a monastery here.
In Lower Gethsemane is the Church of the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary. Here are preserved the ancient tombs where the parents of the Blessed Virgin – the righteous Joachim and Anna, as well as the guardian of Jesus Christ, Joseph the Bridegroom, were buried.
The temple is underground. At the very bottom is the tomb of the Mother of God. In the VIII century it was discovered – a girdle and burial cloths were found in it.
Today Orthodox, Coptic, Syriac and Armenian people pray in this temple.
In Upper Gethsemane there is a tall and beautiful temple in honor of St. Mary Magdalene. It is a Russian church. It was built in the 19th century by Emperor Alexander III in memory of his mother.
The temple has a porch located at some height. From there there is a stunning view of the Gethsemane Garden and the Kidron Valley. There is gorgeous vegetation all around.
This place, especially where there is an olive grove, is convenient for walking, resting, reflecting and meeting.
The temple of the Assumption is amazing with its antiquity. There are a huge number of relics: lamps, icons, candlesticks, chests… I’m not talking about the painted walls. And what about the steps downstairs – you step on them as if on ancient Jerusalem.
The temple of Mary Magdalene, though modern, attracts with its beauty. Around – a great oasis – a fresh park area.
And finally, the ancient olive trees and the “praying” stone! It is interesting to get in touch with things that are not even 100 years old, but hundreds, and even thousands! All this helps to look at modernity in a different way.
Ancient olive trees of the legendary garden
There are places on our planet that have historical and cultural value for many people, regardless of their place of residence and religion. Among them are the places associated with the life of Jesus of Nazareth – Jesus Christ. One such Christian shrine is the Garden of Gethsemane.
The group of tourists disembarked from the bus, under the precise control of the guide. Before we reached the Garden of Gethsemane we had to walk along a sunlit road past stone fences where, in addition to pilgrims, there was enough room for trinket vendors and parked cars.
and parked cars.
There seemed to be no room for any trees on the stone-clad ground. But ahead of us was the Franciscan flag with the Jerusalem Cross, often referred to as the pilgrim’s cross. Among the various interpretations of the symbolism of the pilgrim’s cross, the oldest is: the large cross is the actual cross on which Christ was crucified, the four small crosses are the nails with which he was nailed to the cross. Under the flag is the long-awaited entrance to the Garden of Gethsemane.
Above the entrance is an image of another Jerusalem cross and an inscription in Latin, “Hortus Gethsemani” (“Garden of Gethsemane”). Just below is a three-language tablet in English, Hebrew and Arabic stating that this is the holy place where the Passion of Christ began.
The inscription in Latin will meet again in the garden.
The fact is that the territory of the Garden of Gethsemane has belonged to the Franciscan order since 1681. In 1848 it was surrounded by a fence, and the modern stone fence appeared in 1959.
Most of the Mount of Olives is divided among various Christian denominations, mainly Greek Orthodox, Roman Catholic and Armenian. There is a large section belonging to the Russian Orthodox Church. For me it was a bit strange.
My first impressions of the Garden of Gethsemane were contradictory. On the one hand, it was encouraging to visit a famous biblical place, on the other hand, before my visit, the garden seemed huge to me, and here there are only eight trees.
Although, to be honest, they are impressive. Covered in gray, wrinkled bark, with branches growing crooked in all directions.
Some of them are fenced with stanchions.
And once upon a time the Mount of Olives was entirely covered with olive trees, for which it got its name. It was a quiet, secluded place where Jesus and his disciples had been more than once and where the Savior had sent his footsteps in his hour of need.
In 1949, Boris Pasternak wrote a poem, “The Garden of Gethsemane,” that resonated with the mood of many who had been in the garden:
“With a twinkle of stars distant and indifferent.
The turn of the road was lighted.
The road went around the Mount of Olives,
Below, below, the Kidron flows.
The meadow was halfway down.
Beyond it began the Milky Way.
The gray, silvery olive trees
Tried to step through the air into the distance.
At the end was someone’s garden, a plot of land.
The disciples left behind the wall,
He said to them: “The soul mourns mortally,
Stay here and keep watch with me.”
The Garden of Gethsemane is widely represented in the visual arts, artists of different times and nationalities have created hundreds of canvases devoted to the stay of Jesus in the Garden of Gethsemane. I most like Paul Gustave Doré’s (1832-1883) 1866 engraving of Christ’s Prayer in the Garden of Gethsemane.
The black-and-white image nevertheless contains an inner tension. After all, just a little longer and the worst will happen.
This is how the Russian poet Alexei Nikolaevich Apukhtin (1840 – 1893) saw it in the poem “Praying for the Cup”:
“In the garden of Gethsemane He stood alone,
He stood alone in the Garden of Gethsemane, in agony of death.
To the Father Almighty in unbearable anguish.
The suffering Son prayed…
But all was silent in the darkness of the night,
But the apostles slept a heavy sleep,
Forgotten that they were in danger;
And in the garden of Gethsemane, with sabre and sword,
And in the garden of Gethsemane, with sword.
The innumerable multitudes of the people!”
The little patch of modern garden could hardly hold a crowd of people. But amidst the olive trees I did see a plaque on which were engraved two texts in English and German: Matthew 26:39, and a prayer to Jesus.
In Russian the quotation from the Gospel reads as follows:
“My Father, if it is possible, let this cup pass from me.
“My Father, if it be possible, let this cup pass over me.
I will, but as You do.”
This prayer of Christ is called the Prayer of the Cup.
Tourists are led quickly through the garden, a sort of conveyor belt to bring people to the Church of All Nations, visible through the trees.
In order not to interfere with each other, groups going to the church walk along the left side of the garden, back along the right side of the garden, which is separated from the passers-by by a fence.
Olive trees are one of the most popular crops of the Mediterranean, known and cultivated for several thousand years before Christ. It is believed that the first tree to grow after the Flood was an olive tree. At first, it didn’t occur to us that these olive trees were over two thousand years old and had been seen by Jesus, as our guide told us. But in our enlightened and advanced age people try to check, double-check and calculate everything. According to scientific data, the age of olives varies, but the oldest is no more than a thousand years old. At the same time, they all came from the same parent tree. This is not surprising, even Herodotus told how “the olive trees were completely burned and destroyed by the Persian barbarians. However, the next day people saw that out of the olive tree stump sprouted, and another day or two later, this sprout reached the length of an elbow.
It is not for nothing that there is a proverb: “The olive tree will always sprout from the ground.
The head of the Franciscans in the Holy Land commented on the scientific findings that all the trees in the Garden of Gethsemane today came from the tree under which Jesus Christ prayed. It is a beautiful version and coincides with the scientific point of view. Only one question remains unclear. The olive tree is a biparental plant: when planting, two plants are planted in each hole: a female and a male for pollination. What trees grow in the Garden of Gethsemane?
The small size of the garden
can be explained not only by the division of the Mount of Olives among the denominations, but also by the barbaric attitude of the various invaders toward the green gardens.
Not only about the Mount of Olives, the poet Uri Tzvi Greenberg (1896 -1981) wrote poems about the trees of Jerusalem, but listen to the lines:
“That’s Your City, Your trees groan.
-The enemies cut them down for slaughter.”
Among those cutting down the gardens were the Roman legions under Titus during the siege of Jerusalem in 70, then the Romans under another Roman emperor built the city of Elia Capitolina on the site of Jerusalem in 135 and again the trees fell into the lurch. And then the Arabs did their best. But the garden survived in spite of everything.
The second time we visited the garden was on the way back after visiting the Church of All Nations.
The tour guide counted the group by their heads and we headed amicably to the bus. And a local resident looked at us all thoughtfully from the door of a structure on the garden grounds. Every day to look at the mass of people with cameras and camcorders whizzing by is to become a philosopher.