It seems strange to me to hear the reports of the fighting and killing that has happened recently in Jerusalem in the area around the Temple Mount. Having been in Israel and Jerusalem just this past August, I have an increased sense of awareness of the goings-on in that ancient city.
There are historical places and fascinating sights to see everywhere one goes in the Jerusalem area (or in Israel, for that matter.) Today’s photo is one that I took in August. We had the day off from work and one of our hosts was driving three of us around to see some sites. This picture was taken at the Church of the Pater Noster (“Our Father”) on the slopes of the Mount of Olives. It was originally built at the direction of Emperor Constantine to celebrate the ascension of Jesus. (NOTE: I mistakenly identified it as the Church of the Ascension when I originally posted this on 11/5/14. My apologies!)
We were there during the recent conflict between Israel and Hamas in Gaza, so tensions were high, and some rockets fired from Gaza would even reach into Jerusalem on occasion. But we never saw them in Jerusalem, though we were affected by them when we were in Tel Aviv.
But that doesn’t mean that there weren’t tensions in Jerusalem. The Church of the Pater Noster is in a Palestinian controlled area. When we drove up to the church, we were told by our host/driver that we should hop out and go quickly through the site and come back to the car as soon as we could and he would wait for us with the motor running. We nearly ran through the place and got back to the car.
I asked him why he wanted us to hurry so much and he said, “Look around. What do you see?” I then noticed that there was no one to be seen – not a soul in sight. All the small businesses were shuttered and locked. He said that it wasn’t normal, and it was a sign that the residents were angry and upset. Later that night, he told us that it was by far the most dangerous place we’d gone.
It was good to have that kind of local knowledge and sensitivity with us!
The Church of the Pater Noster though built to commemorate the ascension of Jesus, isn’t the traditional site of the ascension – that is nearby to the location of Pater Noster. Still, I’d like to go back and see it again some time when we could take our leisure.
ON THIS DAY IN HISTORY: in 1605, early in the morning, King James I of England learned that a plot to explode the Parliament building had been foiled, hours before he was scheduled to sit with the rest of the British government in a general parliamentary session.
At about midnight on the night of November 4-5, Sir Thomas Knyvet, a justice of the peace, found Guy Fawkes lurking in a cellar under the Parliament building and ordered the premises searched. Some 20 barrels of gunpowder were found, and Fawkes was taken into custody. During a torture session on the rack, Fawkes revealed that he was a participant in an English Catholic conspiracy to annihilate England’s Protestant government and replace it with Catholic leadership.
What became known as the Gunpowder Plot was organized by Robert Catesby, an English Catholic whose father had been persecuted by Queen Elizabeth I for refusing to conform to the Church of England. Guy Fawkes had converted to Catholicism, and his religious zeal led him to fight in the Spanish army in the Netherlands. Catesby and the handful of other plotters rented a cellar that extended under Parliament, and Fawkes planted the gunpowder there, hiding the barrels under coal and wood.
As the November 5 meeting of Parliament approached, Catesby enlisted more English Catholics into the conspiracy, and one of these, Francis Tresham, warned his Catholic brother-in-law Lord Monteagle not to attend Parliament that day. Monteagle alerted the government, and hours before the attack was to have taken place Fawkes and the explosives were found. By torturing Fawkes, King James’ government learned of the identities of his co-conspirators. During the next few weeks, English authorities killed or captured all the plotters and put the survivors on trial, along with a few innocent English Catholics.
Guy Fawkes himself was sentenced, along with the other surviving chief conspirators, to be hanged, drawn, and quartered in London. Moments before the start of his gruesome execution, on January 31, 1606, he jumped from a ladder while climbing to the hanging platform, breaking his neck and dying instantly.
In 1606, Parliament established November 5 as a day of public thanksgiving. Today, Guy Fawkes Day is celebrated across Great Britain every year on November 5 in remembrance of the Gunpowder Plot. As dusk falls, villagers and city dwellers across Britain light bonfires, set off fireworks, and burn effigies of Guy Fawkes, celebrating his failure to blow Parliament and James I to kingdom come.
TRIVIA FOR TODAY: Dressing up as ghouls and other spooks on Halloween originated from the ancient Celtic tradition of townspeople disguising themselves as demons and spirits. The Celts believed that disguising themselves this way would allow them to escape the notice of the real spirits wandering the streets during Samhain (a precursor to Halloween).