I can only assume that we visited the Necropole (wouldn’t “Necropolis” also work?) in order to build suspense before taking us to the Garden of Gethsemane, But whatever his reason, our tour guide took us on a brief detour to visit a cemetery on the slopes of the Mount of Olives.
The Jews believe (I suppose this is in the Bible, though I confess I don’t know where) that the Messiah will enter Jerusalem through Eastern (or “Golden”) gate when He comes. He’ll then proceed up to the temple (there will have to be one for this prophecy to be fulfilled) on the Temple Mount esplanade and make sacrifices to God. Parenthetically, one of the members in our group was expert in seizing this opportunity to ask our non-Christian tour guide if Jesus had entered in through this gate on Palm Sunday, knowing that the answer was “yes”, but wanting to make the point that the Messiah had already entered through the Eastern gate. Rock on!
Anyway, when the Muslims gained control of the city in the 7th century, they were evidently quite aware of the prophecies about the Jewish Messiah, and wanted to make it as hard as possible for Him to fulfill them. Plus, in general, I think they wanted to seize every opportunity to be a pain in the Jews’ collective you-know-where. Result: they sealed up the Eastern Gate, walling it in, building some nice iron gates, even putting big locks on the gate. I was surprised not to see broken glass on the floor and barbed wire. I’m sure that would have made their little mountain much more safe from the Living God who created them and their barbed wire. But I digress…
On top of walling up the Eastern Gate, they apparently reasoned, “This Messiah guy is probably going to be a priest, so He’ll probably want to remain all ceremonially clean and such. I know what we can do to be even more obnoxious … we’ll put a Muslim cemetery outside the wall-formerly-known-as-the-Eastern-Gate. Then He’ll never come in this way since He’d defile Himself by walking through dead gentile bones.”
Genius! I’m sure God is totally stumped.
Anyway, I told you all that to explain that the next closest place the Jews had available to them to build their nifty cemetery was Necropole, on the lower western slopes of the Mount of Olives, across the Kidron Valley from the Temple Mount, the Eastern Gate, and the Muslim cemetery that is actively thwarting God’s attempts to rule the universe. The goal of having a cemetery “close to the action” was that when the resurrection takes place (something both Jews and Christians believe will happen), these folks would rise first. So, you can imagine how coveted plots in the Necropole are. Very popular place!
So, let’s review…
- The Muslims believe that God can’t handle a stone wall and a few bones.
- And the Jews believe that if you’re physically closer to the temple, you’ll be cooler when you get resurrected.
I think I’ll just go on believing Jesus loves me and wants my heart in return. I’ll leave the burial-related hoops for these other folks. And that’s the end of the story of the Necropole. Truth be told, I could have skipped this part and gone straight to the Garden.