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The Garden Tomb of Christ Jerusalem

Wherever you look in Jerusalem there is a religious site from one of the major faiths, Judaism, Islam or Christianity. Most tourists head straight to the most popular of these sites within the walls of the Old City but if you want to venture off the well beaten tourist path then the Garden Tomb is a truly spiritual and significant Christian site worth visiting. 
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The Garden Tomb is located outside the Old City walls, near the Damascus Gate. It is a two chamber tomb cut out of rock which was discovered in 1867 and has since been considered the possible site of Jesus’ burial and resurrection. Since the mid-19th century the rock escarpment which bears the tomb has been considered by many experts to be the Biblical Golgotha or Skull Hill, where Jesus was crucified. The traditional site of Golgotha and Jesus’ burial tomb is within the Church of the Holy Sepulchre in the Old City. As early as the 4th century pilgrims believed that the site within the Church of the Holy Sepulchre was where Christ died and was resurrected but since the discovery of the Garden Tomb in 1867 many Evangelical and Protestant Christians have identified this as the authentic tomb of Christ. The Garden Tomb attracts Christian pilgrims from around the world. 

Could the Garden Tomb be Jesus’ Burial Site?
A debate continues as to whether the Garden Tomb is really Jesus’ burial site or whether the site within the Holy Sepulchre is the authentic place of Jesus’ burial and resurrection. The location of the Garden Tomb indicates that it may be the authentic site. Hebrews 13:12 tells us that Jesus was buried outside the city walls. The Garden Tomb is indeed outside the Old City walls while the Holy Sepulchre site is deep within the Old City. 

The Tomb has been dates by archaeologists as being from the 9th-7th century BC which would mean that the tomb was carved out of the rock during the Old testament era. Several Biblical passages refer to Jesus’ tomb as being new. 
The Garden Tomb is carved out of a rock escarpment which resembles a skull and the word “Golgotha” means skull in Aramaic. This suggests that the rock escarpment could have been the Biblical Golgotha or Calvary or Skull Hill where Jesus was crucified. 
John 19:41 tells us that Jesus’ tomb was within a garden and archaeologists have uncovered an ancient win press and cistern near the Garden Tomb which suggests the area could have been an olive grove.
A groove in the stone outside the tomb corresponds with the Biblical account of a stone being rolled or slid in front of the tomb entrance to seal the tomb. 

Visiting the Garden Tomb
The garden is a tranquil place where people come to reflect and worship. There are many places to sit beneath the trees. Today the Garden Tomb is owned and managed by a Christian non-denominational charity trust in the UK called the Garden Tomb Association. The garden has been landscaped, benches and seating is scattered throughout the garden and there are flower beds and trees. Signs in many languages welcome visitors. There are signs painted on ceramic plaques with quotes from the Bible including “Jesus himself stood in the midst and said peace be unto you.” A sign reads “He is not here – for he has risen.” From the garden you can see the rock cliff face with a distinct skull shape naturally formed in the rock. Be sure to see the groove in the rock floor thought to be where a stone slab was slid in front of the cave entrance to seal the tomb. There are windows and doors in the rock which were added in the Byzantine era. 

There are two chambers in the tomb carved out of the rock; the burial chamber would have been the one on the right. There are benches in the chambers but some were damaged and broken during the Byzantine era in an attempt to deter Christians from having faith in this site rather than the Holy Sepulchre. We can still see where the Crusaders lowered the rock floor in front of the tomb to turn it into a stable and built a drinking trough. Other sites in the garden include a Crusader era water cistern and a wine press.

Practical Information
Location: Conrad Schick Street, Jerusalem, 91193. Reach the Garden Tomb on foot from the Damascus Gate; cross Sultan Suleiman Street and walk up Nablus Road (Derech Shechem). Take the first right onto Conrad Street after Schmidt College. 
Open Hours: The garden is open Monday to Saturday 8:30am-5:30pm but is closed or lunch during the winter. 
Admission: Free. 

If you come individually without a tour group there are information leaflets at the entrance to help guide you through the garden. There are guided tours within the garden every half hour which should be booked in advance but are also free. 
Information: 02 - 5398100.

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