Africa tourism

A tourist meets Jesus at the Garden Tomb in Jerusalem

The highlight of a visit to the Old City of Jerusalem is usually the Church of the Holy Sepulchre, where the crucifixion and resurrection of Jesus are remembered.

However, let me tell you about one place that was not mentioned once in all the travel itineraries I traveled before my visit. The Garden Tomb located in Jerusalem, Israel. They say it’s the alternate tomb of Jesus.

A 15-minute walk from Jerusalem’s Jaffa Street, I find the Garden Tomb. Also known as Skull Hill, the location was first suggested as an alternative location to the famous Holy Sepulcher by a German scholar named Otto Thenius in 1842.

Indeed, the Garden Tomb matches many descriptions given in the Bible of the place of Jesus’ death, burial, and resurrection.

Having been to the Church of the Holy Sepulchre, known to many as the location of the ancient tomb, I had to visit this place.

Notable things on the grave

I arrived there at 3:10 p.m. during Shabbat. Knowing that it closes at 4pm, you can imagine my delight when the host said it closes at 5pm. From the moment I entered, I knew it was going to be a different experience.

There are many remarkable things about the Garden Tomb. For starters, the garden itself, which is well designed and maintained. A green painted metal arch supports a growing vine tree at the entrance.

I counted over 30 different species of flowering and non-flowering plants, shrubs and trees planted in raised gardens created using stones on either side of the path.

The trees excited me the most because it was the first time I had seen many of them. I touched them and felt them. Thanks to technology, I was able to identify them.

Spectacular tree species

There was the Terebinth whose flowering in March-April fills the gardens with tiny red flowers, the poplars, the almond trees, the olive trees, the carob trees which have sweet and nutritious fruits, and the aromatic incense tree.

There was also the fig tree, the cedar tree and the pomegranate tree, which gave me a little homesickness. Fun fact: all of these trees are mentioned in the Bible.

Raised and ground gardens and pots carried pockets of yellow daisies, red geraniums, pansies and bougainvillea shrubs, among others.

The second point of interest was the cliff that you see when standing on one edge of the garden.

The cliff looks like a skull and that is the reason why the place is known as “Skull Hill” (Golgotha ​​in Aramaic). This is where the crucifixion is said to have taken place.

Although nature had gnawed the rock, I distinguished two orbits from where I was.

The authenticity of the Garden is also supported by its proximity to the northern walls of the Old City and the tomb.

What was also noteworthy was a posted photo of Skull Hill taken in 1900 to show us the presence of the main road leading to Damascus.

Continuing on I came to a rainwater cistern which holds about 250,000 gallons of water and further down an old wine press.

The tomb is divided in two

It is from this press, going down a staircase that I arrived at the third point of interest: the tomb itself.

Unearthed in 1867, it is carved into a rock that forms the garden wall. To my left were pots bearing herbaceous shrubs like lavender, and to my right was a seating area.

Due to Covid-19 regulations, I had to wait my turn to enter the tomb. I admit that the wait scared me a little.

The tomb is divided into two: an open space where the body was prepared and a burial chamber where the body was finally deposited.

I touched the walls. They were cold. Outside was a channel where the large stone would have rolled and closed the tomb.

Talk about the finality that came with such an action. I thought, “How cold and lonely it must be inside. As the atmosphere is dark outside.

I want to believe that those who visit these holy places in Israel seek an encounter with Jesus Christ, the cornerstone of the Christian faith, as they walked where he walked. After all, being a Christian myself, that was the reason for my visit.

On this tour I visited several of these holy places, but none compared to the Garden Tomb. Other places were marked by loud worship and elaborate golden relics, artifacts and altars, almost as if they were the main objects of worship.

The Garden Tomb had none of that. It was just beautiful and serene; the environment resulted in moments of quiet reflection.

As I gazed at Skull Hill and spent time in the tomb, the quietness of the surroundings must have matched that of 2,000 years ago.

Most likely, there was neither pomp nor glamour. If anything, only cries of anguish and the despair that accompanies the loss of a loved one. Those present then had to meditate in their hearts: “And then? because death is so final.

I cried. It’s the only place I cried. But the sadness only lasted for a moment because the grave I was standing in was empty.

The garden is owned and maintained by a non-denominational Christian trust based in the UK and Israel.

There are no entrance fees. It is maintained through voluntary donations and proceeds from the bookstore, which offers unique souvenir gifts.

Whether or not this is the place where death, burial and resurrection took place, it was in this garden that I met Jesus. So the next time you are in Jerusalem, make sure the Garden Tomb is on your itinerary.