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Kids' Zone Jasmine Dispatch

St. Helena Hits the Spot
December 22, 1999

Hi, this is Nancy Hummel, Abeja's mom, again. I am in Jerusalem. I am here as a tourist but sometimes I wish I were here as a pilgrim. I am in the sacred land of three major religions: Judaism, Christianity, and Islam. Thousands of people come to this city daily because of its spiritual meaning to them. On Friday, December 10, it was the second day of the new moon and therefore of the Islamic season of Ramadan. Abeja, John, and I were walking along the streets. Suddenly, crowds of people came through the Jaffa Gate and down the steps on David Street. Muslim families entering from the Damascus gate poured in and met with the others. They headed for the square surrounding the Dome of the Rock, the third holiest place for Muslims. The Dome of the Rock is the place where Muslims believe Mohammed ascended to heaven one night to talk with Allah, and also the spot where Abraham was going to sacrifice Isaac. Over 200,000 Muslims were expected for the noon prayers.

pilgrim - someone on a trip of religious or spiritual purpose
ascend - to climb or move higher
ramadan - the ninth month of the Islamic calendar in which people fast from dawn until sunset
sacrifice - offering something to a God to show respect and love
That afternoon we went to the weekly Stations of the Cross, where the Franciscan friars walk along the Via Dolorosa (the Way of Sorrows). People say this is where Jesus was long ago, carrying his cross, between the time of his trial and his death. The Way of Sorrows begins at what is now the courtyard of an Islamic school. The friars took us to all different spots where Jesus had been and done certain things. There were fourteen spots in all; the last five were inside the Church of the Holy Sepulcher. This big domed church covers the places traditionally believed to be where Jesus was crucified, where his body was prepared for burial, and the garden where he was laid in the tomb. It was an amazing experience.

Have you ever wondered how people know which spots these events happened in? Well, no one had kept track of where Jesus was born or where he performed miracles or preached. By 325 CE, the land was being ruled by the Byzantine Emperor Constantine. Constantine's mother, St. Helena, was a serious Christian and had a lot of money and influence. So she came to Jerusalem to identify the major places of events in Jesus' life. The places of these sites came to her in a dream. Three hundred years after the events, she "rediscovered" Jesus' tomb, Golgotha, the hill on which Jesus was crucified, the true cross, the cave where he was born, and the site of his Ascension to heaven. The next place I visited was Jericho. I could hardly believe I was in Jericho! It was founded 11,000 years ago. Below sea level, it is the lowest and oldest city in the world!


Abeja - Nazareth: Trouble in Jesus' Hometown

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Abeja and her mom, Nancy!