#03, June 7, 2017

The 4 a.m. breakfast for the dig team came and went without our noticing.

After a late breakfast we set out to explore the neighborhood of our hotel, the Ritz Hotel of Jerusalem. (The hotel was totally adequate, great service, but not as ritzy as the name implies.)

We had a tourist map of the old city provided by the hotel which we each had studied a little. It seemed The Garden Tomb was not too far away. I remembered seeing slides of this site at church in the 70s presented by a church member.

As we waited at a busy intersection, I saw a rough limestone outcropping about a block away where multiple buses were coming and going.

We walked toward it with me expecting to see The Garden Tomb because I thought I recognized the skull face in that limestone cliff. All the while, brilliant hubby was saying, “I think this is a bus station.”

I thought many people were coming to see the site. On top of the cliff was a pretty pink flower blooming on tall spiked stems.

As a matter of fact, it was the Arab bus station, and the ticket agent told us, “No, no, 300 meters more.”

We thought we were lost again before we happened on a small sign directing us to The Garden Tomb … “Free Admittance.”

Folks there readily admit they cannot say this truly is the place where Joseph of Arimathea had a tomb “that he loaned to Jesus.”

But they tell a convincing story.

We joined a group with an English tour guide. At the first stop on an elevated perch for viewing,

the first thing I saw was the pink hollyhock blooming on top of a limestone cliff. Next I saw the skull face of the cliff and the tops only of several buses.

The guide gave several points in favor of this being Golgotha, or the place of the skull.

The tomb itself is carved into the same cliff less than 200 yards away in a garden. It was a moving experience to enter an empty tomb in Jerusalem that may have been the place where Jesus arose on the third day.

They make a point that after a year in the tomb, it was the custom for the family to gather the bones and place them in a decorative box called an ossuary. They intimate that Joseph of Arimathea expected to loan his tomb for a year, but got it back after only one weekend.

Our guide from an Anglican church in Britain spends her summers volunteering for the private, non-profit group that owns the garden, and she gave a great presentation. She even gave an “invitation.”

But alas, our archaeologist friend says it’s in the wrong place, and the tomb is the wrong style for the first century.

I’m satisfied to say it’s the setting I would wish for the actual site of the tomb of Jesus to be like: accessible, and spiritually and emotionally moving.