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Chapter 14/19 of book       SEE JERUSALEM      by      INAM R SEHRI


Holy Jesus was born in Bethlehem near Jerusalem in year c.4BC, spent whole of his life in stony cobbled streets of Jerusalem and the mounts around. Just in the age of 33 years [some historians claim it as 33-36], the prophet was crucifixed in the same city as per Christianity’s main belief. The place where Holy Jesus was tried, nailed on the Cross, [died and] taken down, anointed and buried was later covered and commemorated as CHURCH OF THE HOLY SEPULCHRE which is the main attraction for the pilgrims and tourists since sixteen centuries.

Crucifixion of Holy Jesus is the main part of Christianity’s faith but the Muslims do not agree with this happening, his death and resurrection. However, similar to Christians, all Muslims believe that Holy Jesus will return before the end of time. All Muslims believe that Holy Jesus was not crucified, but was raised bodily to heaven by God. A similar belief is found in the Christianity’s Gospel of Basilides [reportedly stands lost since the second century]; however, this view is disregarded by mainstream Christianity which only accepts the four gospels of the New Testament as genuine.

Muslims believe that God gave some one Jesus's appearance or someone else replaced Jesus causing everyone to believe that Jesus was crucified. One Muslim sect believes that He was nailed to a cross, but as his body is immortal he did not die; therefore, they contend that crucifixion just did not occur. See holy Quran’s words:


"….That they said, 'We killed  Christ Jesus the son of Mary, the Messenger  of Allah'- but they killed him not, nor crucified him, but so it was made to appear to them, and those who differ therein are full of doubts, with no knowledge, but only conjecture to follow, for of a surety they killed him not:-
Nay, Allah raised him up unto Himself; and Allah is Exalted in Power, [and] Wise"-  

[— Al-Qur'an 4: 157–158]


​For Christians of the whole world, this Church [pronounced in British English as SEPUKA] is the holiest site in the Old City and thus Jerusalem. After destroying the 2nd temple in year 70AD, the Romans built their own for both Venus & Jupiter on the ruins of the Jewish Temple. When Christianity became the official religion of the Roman Empire, this later Temple was also smashed and the said Church was built in its place; it was built by Constantine-I during 306-337 AD.


The Church of the Sepulchre is on this site since c.1700 years - though over the centuries it has been destroyed and rebuilt several times; some parts are very old indeed. See its brief in ‘Washington Post’ dated 1st November 2016;

“…… it's believed that the rock-cut tomb at the heart of the church was where the body of Jesus Christ was once laid.

Today, the site thrums with piety, but history knows it is soaked in blood. There have been at least four Christian chapels erected over the site….Emperor Constantine had swept aside a pagan temple Hadrian built to the goddess Aphrodite. The Holy Sepulchre was saved by the Muslim conqueror Omar in 638 AD; destroyed by the Egyptian Caliph al-Hakim in 1009; rebuilt by the Crusaders who themselves slaughtered half the city; protected again by the Muslim conqueror Saladin and laid waste again by the fearsome Khwarezmian Turks, whose horsemen rode into the church and chopped off the heads of praying monks.”

At this place of Church the Jesus was crucifixed and buried; located on the Hill of Calvary as given in the New Testament. Just inside the entrance to the church is the Stone of Anointing which Christian traditions believe to be the spot where holy Jesus' body was prepared for burial; it is the 13th Station of the Cross. Thus it is one of the main pilgrimage destinations for millions of Christians from world over.

Like Jewish Temples, the Church of the Holy Sepulchre has also got a history of ‘destruction’. In September-October 1009, the Fatmid Caliph Al-Hakim bi-AmrAllah [known in Western history as the ‘mad Caliph’ & ‘Nero of Islam’] ordered his army to destroy the whole sacred site. A Western historian Rudolfus Glaber wrote numerous events blaming French Jews from Orleans for sending message to the Caliph via a pilgrim; hiding it in a hollow staff urging the Caliph to scrap the Church on threat Christians would take over his empire otherwise.

However, the Byzantine Empire in 1027–28, after an agreement with new Caliph Ali az-Zahir (Al-Hakim's son), was allowed the rebuilding and redecoration of the Church.


It is said that when the news of destruction reached Europe, Christians were horrified and Pope Sergius IV sent a circular letter to all churches calling for a holy fight in the Middle East and expulsion of Muslims from the Holy land. Although the crusades happened almost a century after the desecration and caused by various other complex political intrigues, it was still very much in the public mind as a cause.

The Church of Sepulchre lies inside the Christian Quarter of the Old City; divided among several denominations and managed jointly by representatives of different Christian sects, mainly the Greek Orthodox Patriarchate, Franciscan friars from the Roman Catholic Church and the Armenian Patriarchate, but also by the Ethiopians, Egyptian Coptics and Syrian Orthodox Church. The STATUS QUO strictly determines times of prayer for each group, the lighting of candles, even on which floor-tiles members of which community may step.

It is on record that disputes among these sects have sparked street riots often. Since 1846 at least, clerics from the various orders  have battled over the rituals like sweeping of steps, the placing of carpets at altars,  and even the right of walking in procession to the Edicule. Sometimes, the fighting held with knives and pistols smuggled into the Holy Sepulchre by worshipers of either side.  The Status Quo, a 260-year-old understanding between religious communities, applies to the site.

However, regardless of whether or not you are religious, this place will leave you speechless - feelings of mysticism intertwined with the weight of two millennia of history, wars and suffering that took place here and so intense, it is awesome.

Traditionally, the Roman & Greek armies claimed they wanted to keep Jerusalem in God’s name. Although many men fought and died for this spiritual cause; many were not as honest – only lust of power played and prevailed. During the Crusader’s rule, in year 1149 AD, the Church was rebuilt; but smaller than of Constantine’s.

The Franciscan friars renovated it further in 1555 AD; they rebuilt the Aedicule and extended it but control of the church oscillated between the Franciscans and the Orthodox - depending on which community could obtain a favourable FARMAN often through outright bribery and toe-licking. In 1767 AD, weary of the squabbling, a FARMAN was issued that divided the church among the claimants.

A fire severely damaged the church structure in 1808 AD, causing dome of the Rotunda to collapse and smashing the Aedicule's exterior decoration – but only to be rebuilt a year after. The current dome, made of iron, was restored by Catholics, Greeks and Turks in 1868; renovated again during 1994–97 as part of extensive modern overhaul to the church which has been ongoing since 1959 AD. The church's bell tower is located to the left of the façade; currently almost half its original size.

Historically, two large, arched doors allowed access to the church. However, only the left-hand entrance is currently accessible, as the right door has long since been bricked up.

Being within the old walled city, the church is a part of the UNESCO World Heritage Site.



​Entering the main door of the Church, one finds a stairway climbing to  Calvary  [Golgotha], traditionally regarded as the site of Jesus' crucifixion and the most lavishly decorated part of the church.

The raised Golgotha Chapel contains the peak-piece of the Rock of Calvary [12th Station of the Cross]. It is split into two halves, one Greek Orthodox and one Catholic, each one with its own altar - but the main altar belongs to the Greek Orthodox. The rock can be seen under glass on both sides of the altar, and beneath the altar there is a hole in the rock, said to be the place where the cross was raised – and it is the most visited site in the Church after the Tomb of Jesus. The Catholic Chapel of the Nailing of the Cross [11th Station] lies south of it. Between Catholic and the Orthodox altar, there is a statue of Mary, believed by some to be miraculous.

Beneath the Calvary and the two chapels there, on the main floor, there is the Chapel of Adam. According to tradition, Jesus was crucified over the place where Adam's skull was buried. According to some, at the crucifixion, the blood of Christ ran down the cross and through the rocks to fill the skull of Adam. Here the Rock appears cracked too through a window on the altar wall, traditionally claimed to be caused by the earthquake that occurred when Jesus died. The tourists touch the actual rock proudly.


​While entering the church door, the first thing the tourists see is the Stone of Anointing which tradition believes to be the spot where Jesus' body was prepared for burial by one disciple named Joseph; however, the present stone was only added during major repair in 1810 AD.

The wall behind the stone is defined by its striking blue balconies and red banners depicting the insignia of the Brotherhood of the Holy Sepulchre. This wall was a temporary addition to support the arch above it, which had been weakened after the damage in the 1808 fire; it blocks the view of the Aedicule & rotunda.


Immediately to the left of the entrance is a bench that has traditionally been used by the church's Muslim doorkeepers, along with some Christian clergy.


​The Aedicule, the actual burial place of Holy Jesus is located in rotunda [any building with a circular ground plan mostly covered by a dome] of the main church. In the centre of the rotunda is a small chapel called the Aedicula in Latin which encloses the Holy Sepulchre. The Aedicule has two rooms, the first holding the Angel's Stone, which is believed to be a fragment of the large stone that sealed the tomb; the second is the tomb [the cave] itself. Possibly due to the fact that eager pilgrims try to take bits of the original rock as souvenirs, a marble plaque was placed in the 14th century on the tomb to prevent further damage to it.

Besides, other ceremonies on special occasions are also held here, such as the Holy Saturday ceremony of the Holy Fire etc. All the Christian sects at the church have access to the Aedicule but historically, the Georgians also retained the key to the Aedicule. In 2016, restoration works were performed in the Aedicule. For the first time since at least 1555 AD, marble cladding which protected the estimated burial bed of Holy Jesus from souvenir takers was removed – the original limestone burial bed was revealed intact. This suggested that the tomb location has not changed through time and that the original limestone cave walls were there as such.

To the right of the Sepulchre is the Chapel of the Apparition, which is reserved for Roman Catholic use.


​In Christian literature, the 13 [later concept 14 & 15 too] stations of cross occupies very sacred ritual; STATIONS means the happenings on the path to his crucifixion point when the holy Jesus was asked to carry his own cross all the way - called Via Dolorosa. 

Since the old-age, standard stations remained in vogue were; for instance, 2nd Station is place where Jesus accepts his cross; next Station is where Jesus falls for the first time [on his way]; next Station is where Jesus meets his mother, Mary …. Then nailing to the Cross; then death; then taken down from the Cross; And the last Station one is placing His body in the TOMB.

Although, not traditionally part of the Stations, the Resurrection of Jesus is, in very rare instances, included as a fifteenth station. Pope John Paul II introduced a new form of devotion, called the Scriptural Way of the Cross in 1991. In 2007, Pope Benedict XVI approved another station for meditation and public celebration. Pope John Paul II till a year before his death in 2005 used to carry the Cross himself through all stations on Good Fridays.

The CHAPEL OF ADAM was a favourite burial place of Catholic Crusader kings. Most sects believe that beneath the Calvary and the two chapels there, on the main floor, there is the Chapel where Nabi Adam's skull was buried. Some also argue that at the crucifixion, the blood of Christ ran down the cross and through the rocks to fill the skull of Nabi Adam. One can see a crack in the rock caused by the earthquake which occurred at the moment of Jesus’ death. This was also the origin of the name Golgotha: the place of the skull.


​In the north-east side of the complex there is the Prison of Christ, alleged by the Franciscans to be where Jesus was held. The Greek Orthodox allege that the real place that Jesus was held was in their Monastery of the Praetorium, located near the Church of Ecce Homo between the Second and Third Stations at Via Dolorosa.


The Armenians hold that the said prison is in the Monastery of the Flagellation at Via Dolorosa. Some declare that Jesus was held in the Mount Zion cell in connection with his trial by the Jewish High Priest. Most historians go for the Praetorium for his trial by the Roman governor Pilate, and near the Golgotha before crucifixion.

Monastery of SULTAN:

​It is a village of huts on roof of Church of the Holy Sepulchre. Ethiopian monks live here, although the site is hotly contested by the Egyptian Copts. A Status Quo [a 1852 decree] - an old understanding between them applies to the site, too. Later an Israeli court ruled in favour of the Ethiopian community in a dispute of 1970.

As per BBC Documentary dated 19th October 2008; disputes are not uncommon, particularly over who has the authority to carry out repairs. This Deir al-Sultan monastery was built on the main church roof since ages and the modest small rooms were first occupied by monks from the Ethiopian Orthodox Church in 1808.

PHILIP’s TOMB: Near the entrance to the church one will notice a wooden panel on the right. This is the tomb of Philip d’Aubigne [1166-1236 AD], the tutor of Henry III of England, whose signature appears on the Magna Carta. He had requested to be buried here so that pilgrims would tread over his grave.


It is 12th century Armenian Church at the lower level of the whole premises. In the south east of the chapel there is a chair which is reputed to be a seat that was used by Helena, the mother of the Emperor Constantine-I when she was looking for the True Cross.


During 1973–78’s excavations here, the scientists discovered a void containing remains of Hadrian's 2nd-century temple and a higher 4th century wall to support Constantine’s basilica. In 2017, the chapel underwent renovations which included new white marble altar railing and new tile flooring.


It is there at the entrance to the church pointing towards two big windows of upper rooms. Till 1831 AD, the Christian monks lived inside who managed to get their food ONLY up this ladder and through the window. Because the ladder is part of the ancient status quo between the six sects, no one is permitted to move it, though it isn’t in use any more.

An old agreement between the monks holds that nothing can be done in the church except by consensus, and that includes, amazingly enough, the movement of the ladder. And since 1757, the monks haven't agreed to move the ladder. Even a papal request from the late Pope Paul VI could not bring consensus here.



Interestingly; two Muslim families are entrusted with care of this holy Christian site for centuries: One Adeeb Joudeh, A MUSLIM FAMILY MEMBER, keeps a cast-iron key some 500 years old as he walks through the streets of Jerusalem's Old City. His job, as it has been for generations of his forebears, is to carry the key that opens the doors to the Church of the Holy Sepulchre. It is more than just tradition; this is the very essence of Jerusalem - its religious history so special.

See an eye-opening account dated 31st July 2012, available on Catholic Christians’ official website - Catholic Online:

“In the holiest place of all Christendom, a single Muslim holds the key, Christians fight with one another, and Jewish police intervene - to keep the peace. …..Fights over seemingly trivial issues are part of the reason why this ladder hasn't moved in 255 years [262 yrs in 2019]; it is here since 1757 AD.”

Muslims have been entrusted with the keys since 1187 AD, by Sultan Saladin – because of the constant feuding between the Christians; mainly the Orthodox and Roman Catholics; Protestants have no presence there. Oren Liebermann of CNN describes his visit [of 26th March 2016] to the ancient Jerusalem:

“We met Adeeb Joudeh at the Jaffa Gate to the Old City. It is 3:30 am….he carries with him an ancient cast-iron key, some 500 years old. The key is 12 inches long, with a triangular metal handle and a square end. Adeeb Joudeh stands at entrance to Church of the Holy Sepulchre.”

Few are aware of Joudeh's significance. In his house, Joudeh keeps a binder full of ancient comments… golden ink; the oldest dates back to 1517 AD. Of course, this is an honour for all Muslims in the world. This task fell to Joudeh's ancestors as a way to keep neutral guardian of the Church of the Holy Sepulchre. He learned the obligations of guarding the key from his father, just as he will pass it on to his son. Thus the holiest site must be unlocked by a Muslim and policed by Jews. He added:


"What we pass to the next generations is not only the key, but also the way you respect other religions …….when Caliph Umar ibn Khattab [RA] took the keys of Jerusalem from Patriarch Sophronius - he gave security and safety to Christians in the region. We co-exist and pass peace and love, which is the real Islamic religion."

Another FACT: Joudeh [family] does not carry this obligation alone. Although he is in charge of protecting and holding the key, another Muslim family opens the door and allow the faithful to enter the church; the liability falls to Wajeeh Nuseibeh.

When Nuseibeh arrives at the church early in the morning, he takes the key from Joudeh, and climbs a small wooden ladder to unlock the top lock. He swings the church doors ajar, and the church is open to visitors. The entire process is repeated each evening, when the church is locked. The two Muslim families are doing it since centuries leading the way to interfaith belief.


Aka way of Sorrow; the path taken by Jesus Christ on his way to crucifixion. It starts at Lions Gate and travels through the two main roads since the Roman times, until it reaches the Church of the Holy Sepulchre. It is only 600 meters long, but it’s possibly the most popular pilgrimage location for Christian groups following the 14 Stations of the Cross – the first nine stations are located along this street and are marked by plaques and inscriptions, while the final 5 stations are inside the church itself.

Via Dolorosa route goes through crowded and winding small aisles, mostly through busy markets and neighbourhoods. At places, it becomes hard to push through these narrow streets, some of which had stairs without any ramps. But it is definitely worth walking this route.


​In the time of 2nd Muslim Caliph Omar RA, the Muslim armies had liberated most of [today’s] Syria, Jordan and Palestine till they reached the gates of Jerusalem. Governor in Syria conveyed a message to the  Patriarch of Jerusalem named Sophronius [560-638 AD] to surrender before the Muslim Caliphate of Madina. The Muslim governor also launched a siege around Jerusalem.


Meanwhile, Sophronius who was the  Patriarch of Jerusalem since 634 AD, sent a request to the Muslim Commander that he is ready to surrender the city before Muslim Caliphate – but if Caliph Omar himself comes to Jerusalem. The request was acceded. A well documented fact that:

“Caliph Omar paid a visit [in year 638 AD] to the Church of the Holy Sepulchre; Sophronius welcomed him in the courtyard and handed over the keys of city.

Soon there was Muslim prayer time and Caliph Omar RA held the ‘Imamat’ along with his Muslim companions in a corner place of the Church Courtyard instead of setting his prayers inside the church though the priest had specially asked the Caliph to do so. It was the far-sightedness of the Muslim Caliph while teaching [newly] Muslims to respect churches and worship places of other religions."

Caliph Omar’s refusal made a precedent not to endanger the Christian sites; opting instead to pray in the courtyard. After that day, the Muslims ruled over Jerusalem for 1300 years but the sacredness of the Church was never disturbed. Contrarily, the Crusaders ruled the city for only 90 years [1099-1187 AD] but they had promptly converted the Golden Dome of the Haram Sharif into the Church of the Lord.

In later periods of the Crusaders’ rule, the corner of the Church’s courtyard, where Caliph Umar had offered prayers, was separated and walled making that place a mosque named as Umar ben Khattab Mosque which is still there sharing walls of the said Church – and in active use with NEVER any unpleasant event reported since centuries. The Umar’s mosque has a distinctively square, 15-meter high minaret that was built in the 15th century and renovated some 300 years later.


​While some people believe that holy Jesus was crucifixed, died, and Resurrected at the site of Church of the Holy Sepulchre, another group of Christian believers strongly think that Garden Tomb is the actual site where Jesus died and resurrected. Some Christian sects believe that Jesus was crucifixed somewhere away but his body was brought back to this garden - owned by Joseph of Arimathea during that time. In the garden, a rock-cut tomb is said to be the burial place of Jesus and the spot of his Resurrection. Presently, the garden is maintained by an independent British charitable trust and admission is FREE.

The Garden Tomb was unearthed in 1867 AD and history of the place goes back to the 8th century at least. The trench in front of the tomb and the nearby cistern and surrounding garden’s source of water, respectively, have both been dated to the Crusader period [12th century]. However, the pilgrims visit the Church of Holy Sepulchre since the fourth century with more confidence and didn’t by this later theory.

Since 1894, the Garden Tomb provides tranquil environment for prayer and reflection but any claim that this is where Christ was buried and rose from the dead lacks authenticity. The site is particularly favoured by Protestant pilgrims, in preference to the cluttered Church of the Holy Sepulchre in the Old City because this faction of Christians is not ‘so welcomed’ in the above said Church. Moreover, all the tombs in the Garden Tomb area date from 7 to 9 centuries BC — the time of Jeremiah or Isaiah, rather than Jesus.

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The door of AEDICULE where holy Jesus was laid to rest & resurrected. The AEDICULE lies inside the Church of the holy Sepulchre [2018] @ 

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Aedicule inside Church of the Holy Sepulchre - COURTESY: Jorge Lascar [2012]

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Main entrance to holy Jesus Church [Church of the holy Sepulchre] 2018 @

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Full wall painting at main entrance to the Church of the holy Sepulchre 

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Stone of Anointing, where holy Christ' body was laid down after being removed from the crucifix and prepared for burial [2018] @

14.5 Annointing Stone in Sep 1844 [5x4.2

THREE GENERATIONS of a family at the Stone of Anointing [2018] @

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The original church gate; c1600 years old 

@ [2018]

The 1st station of the Cross @ [2018]

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The Adam's Chapel inside Church of the holy Sepulchre @ [2018]

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The 2nd station of the Cross

The 2nd station of the Cross

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The Stations 3 & 4 @ [2018]

The Station V @ [2018]

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The ladder at the door of Church of the Sepulchre is there since year 1757 AD 

 @ [2018]

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The station VII of the Cross @ [2018]

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Crack in the Calvary rock @ [2018]

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Inside Church of the holy Sepulchre @ [2018]

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Inside Church of the holy Sepulchre 

@ [2018]

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Inside Church of the holy Sepulchre @ [2018]

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In above TWO images: Huts on roof of Church of the Holy Sepulchre - occupied by the Ethiopian monks & their kins since 1808 AD [2018] @

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Centuries old SABIL installed by Muslim rulers on Via Dolorosa [2018] @

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St Helena Chapel in the basement of Church of the Holy Sepulchre [2018] @

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Roof-top view of Church of the Holy Sepulchre [2018] @

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c.1600 + years old ORIGINAL stairs of Church of the holy Sepulchre - remains of St Helena's church pillars are also seen in the image

Entrance of church having Stations 3 & 4 inside

[2018] @

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The AEDICULE of holy Jesus within Church of the Sepulchre [2018] @ 

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The way-up to the Cavalry in the Church of the Sepulchre where holy Jesus was crucifixed

[2018] @ 

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Tourists inside the Church of the Sepulchre [2018] @ 

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The Omar Mosque @ [2018]

The Station IV @ [2018]

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The Omar Mosque @ [2018]

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Prison of the Christ within Church of the Holy Sepulchre

COURTESY: Ian & W Sewell [2007]

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Entrance to holy Jesus Church from Jaffa Gate side 2018] @

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Garden Tomb of the holy Jesus [2018] @ 

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Inside Dome of Church of the Holy Sepulchre

[2018] @

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Front view of Church of the Holy Sepulchre

[2018] @

Garden Tomb of the holy Jesus [2018] @ 

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Shopping at Via Dolorosa [2018] @ 

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