The Via Dolorosa is “the way of suffering”. This is the path that Jesus walked from Antonia’s fortress, where He was convicted and severely beaten, to Golgotha, where He was crucified. This path, as far as we know, took him out the northern side of the city, and around to the east, where two major roads intersected, where He could be executed as an example in front of thousands of people. The clear message: don’t mess with the Roman empire.
Today, the part of the Via Dolorosa that is inside the old city walls is in the Muslim quarter. We walked through this area to get from Antonia’s Fortress to the Wailing Wall. I think the new name for it is the Via Shopolosa, or “the way of shopping”. It was lined with stores, and street vendors accosted us freely trying to sell us everything from Coke to bookmarks to hats. It was absolutely impossible for me to pause and reflect or to make walking this path any kind of spiritually contemplative event. But at least I was there, which was a blessing.