In November 2016, I did a book research tour of Israel for ARKANE #9, End of Days. As part of that trip, I visited the Old City of Jerusalem and some of the sites that I've used in previous ARKANE books, as well as those central to the End of Days plot.
You can watch the short video below [2 min 46], or here on YouTube, and there are some trip notes below the video.
The opening picture was taken on a very windy day just before a storm arrived on the Mount of Olives, overlooking the Old City of Jerusalem. It is a popular (and very expensive) place to have a grave as Jews believe that the Messiah will arrive here at the End Times.
The video opens at the Damascus Gate and then we walk into the Arab Quarter through the souk (market). We left the street sounds in the video so you can hear the noise of the city, from Arab street vendors to the muezzin call, from text messages to the chant of Christian pilgrims and the tune of a saxophone.
You'll see Muslims and Jews in distinctive traditional clothes, as well as a group of Christians carrying a cross along the Via Dolorosa. I make some cameo appearances taking selfies in the narrow walkways 🙂
There's an Armenian pottery, a chapel at the 7th Station of the Cross, souvenir stalls in the bazaar and then we enter the Church of the Holy Sepulchre, one of the holiest places in the Christian world. Tradition holds that it was the place Jesus was crucified, then anointed and buried, and then where he rose again.
You might see some Indian pilgrims rubbing money on the Stone of Anointing, some of the chapels within the church, and then we go upstairs onto the roof of the Holy Sepulchre.
This is where the Ethiopian Coptic church have their shrine and I actually like the open simplicity far more than the cluttered chapels below. This group of monks feature in Stone of Fire as my first visit there back in the 1990s made a huge impact on me.
We went down into the 4th-century cistern of Helena, the mother of Constantine, who was responsible for turning the Roman Empire to Christianity. There are a number of cisterns under Jerusalem, but most are prohibited for use because of the security risk. I use these cisterns as a key part of the plot in End of Days. You'll see by the size of my grin on the video how thrilled I was to be able to visit one 🙂
Then we walked on through the souk into the Jewish Quarter towards the Western Wall, the most sacred place for Jews. On top of it, you can see the Dome of the Rock, a sacred shrine for Muslims and closed on the day we visited so you just get a distant shot. People pray at the Wall and put prayers into the cracks.
At the Wall, there were a number of boys having their bar mitzvah. At 13, a boy is no longer considered a minor and should fulfil the commandment's of the Torah. The boy will read a passage from the Torah, carried in scrolls in the silver cases you can see. It's quite a celebration with sweets being thrown from the women's side of the wall.
You can see all the pictures from the Israel trip here on Flickr.
Check out End of Days, available for pre-order now and coming in ebook, print and audiobook in Jan 2017.