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After getting some delicious and cheap falafel with Coca Cola for lunch (not the traditional Easter meal, but I wasn’t willing to travel all the way home and thus miss additional parts of the Easter experience in Jerusalem), I started to really get tired. Mind you, 2.5 hours of sleep isn’t so much energy to continually walk up and down hills in the heat of the sun over Israel, and even the excitement of my situation on Easter couldn’t keep me going forever.

With that in mind, I instead resolutely decided to go ever onwards, and experience some more. As such, I finally decided to go to the Garden Tomb, which I always see as I use the Arabic buses and their nearby bus station, but never got a chance to go into. Having experienced the insanity of ever other holy site on Easter, I took the necessary precautions on my approach; I made sure my backpack was fully zipped and secure, took my camera in hand with the strap double-wrapped around my wrist, and adjusted my wallet so it was securely in my pocket. I walked down the narrow alleyway from the main street to the entrance, where a well-dressed usher was eying me from.

I arrive and greet him, which he responds to with the straightforward “you cannot visit, as their is a French service in progress.” Not one to be put off by the usual Israeli arrogant rudeness, I proceeded to instantly respond in French, explaining that I am Lutheran, and I am indeed looking to attend said service. His face’s mask of “I work here and therefore have implied authority” melted straightaway, at least for a brief moment. A very brief moment – he agreed that I could go in, but imposed a strict no-photographs rule on me before I entered, thus reestablishing him as The Boss, at least in his eyes. Leaving El Jefe behind, I entered the beautiful, lush Garden Tomb and found a seat.

The people around me were a mixed bunch with a few being clearly French (from the way they dressed), but predominantly Francophone African people filled the seats. Sitting down in the middle of the service, which happened to me many times previously in the day (in addition to the sunrise Lutheran service, I caught the last 3 minutes of a Latin homily, about 10 minutes of a different English sermon, and then the second half of the German Lutheran sermon at the Church of the Redeemer), I was still more than able to enjoy what was going on. Although the music was too quick and too filled with French slang for me to follow, I certainly enjoyed the 7 or 8 different harmony parts sung by the African folks around me (it was like Zambia Church Service 2.0, now with more Easter fervor). That, and I am incredibly excited to relate to you that I followed at least 85% of the all-French sermon. The preacher was a good one, and his accent was close enough to non-Northern French that I could understand him… so the only things which were problematic were the more technical grammatical statements, as well as the more specialized theological language. But so I sat in the shade of the trees of the aptly-named Garden Tomb, in front of the tomb itself with the Easter-only “You won’t find him here, for he is risen” sign and listening (and understanding) a French Protestant sermon made for the most perfect unexpected end to my Easter in Jerusalem. I hope to get back there soon when they are open and get more photographs of the beautiful setting there.

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