After the day at the empty tomb, we steadily made up time. We started at the beautiful Garden of Gethsemane on the Mount of Olives. Audio was a challenge there, because Gethsemane, though it was perhaps a quiet place two thousand years ago, is now a city park in Jerusalem, and the sounds of semi-trucks and honking horns threatened to drown us out on a few occasions. But all was well. We found a quieter niche at the base of the mountain, and carried on.
After our first of many trips to Mt. Olives, we visited the temple mount. We had to film cautiously on top of the mount – no slates, and no spoken directions. Everything in the high-security area near the Dome of the Rock had to be low-key and respectful.
Then, at the Davidson Archeological Center, we stood on the massive stone steps that once led up to the temple, and touched the bricked-over arches of the triple gate. After we filmed several scenes with Carl on the ancient stairs, we costumed Amir, our Jesus actor, and filmed him walking up the steps to the temple. The nearby tourists were enormously excited to see a fully-costumed Jesus, and a real-live film crew, so they gathered around and took pictures with their phones as we filmed. When I called "cut," Amir struck a pose for the crowd. They applauded.
For the rest of our time in Jerusalem, people would stop us in the streets and say “Hey, we know you, you were with Jesus!” And, come to think of it, I can’t think of many things I’d rather hear.
Next we visited the famous Israel Museum, which has many of the Dead Sea Scrolls on display, and features a model of Jerusalem as it looked in Jesus’ time.
The museum miniature is the only place to see Golgotha today, since the Church of the Holy Sepulcher, an ornate ancient marvel in its own right, covers both Calvary hill, and the site of Jesus’ tomb.
Filming in the Church of the Holy Sepulcher was a fascinating political exercise. History shows that so many different religious sects wanted control of this sacred space, that the massive church was a battle field for centuries. Then, hoping to preserve the Church and find peace the various religious leaders agreed to share the church. Each nook and cranny inside this gilded house of worship is now run by an entirely different religion, and the filming rules changed for us every time we walked around a corner. It was exciting.
In the church, we made another of my favorite memories from our trip. We were filming the crosses, carved into the wall, many of which are thousands of years old, when a group of priests and nuns walked by. They climbed down a staircase into a tiny round basement room and gathered with their backs to the entrance. This was their moment of worship, not a performance for onlookers. Then, to our utter amazement, they started to sing like the angels themselves.
As they chanted their prayers in perfect harmony, their song wafted up from the basement cavern, into the enormous stone church, where it echoed and expanded into something magical. I had never heard anything as hauntingly beautiful.
"Gary, come record this," I pleaded. I stood, transfixed, next to his camera as the song flowed over us like mist. Thanks to those lovely singers, we left that church with something sacred. A song of rare beauty, sung only for God.