Jerusalem, a holy city to so many. On one hand it’s amazing that after invasions of Romans, Syrians, Egyptians, crusaders, Ottomans, English and Jordanians that all want to claim the hill as their own. How amazing that they’ve found a way to live in their piece of the city and tolerate each other. There’s the Armenian , Christian, Jewish and Arabic quarter. Arabs don’t walk in the Jewish quarter and vice versa. It’s polite but seems after awhile to be rather poisonous. How will they ever learn to love your neighbor if you have so little interaction, and so many gaps in understanding? In other words after centuries, can’t we evolve to someplace where we are getting beyond a truce to more brotherly love?
Finally, on our 6th day in Jerusalem Jonathan and I walked the ramparts, the wall of the old city. We finished near sunset but still wanted time to see the Mount of Olives or at least the Garden of Gethsemane. We saw ancient olive trees, gnarled with roots you could sit on and with trunks wide as a door. We watched the sun set over the city on a hill where Ibrahim was willing to sacrifice either Ismael or Isaac, depending on whether you are Jewish or Muslim. The city had a bustle and a calm at the same time. The trees and white stones washed by the recent rains. I entered into the Church of All Nations. The priest was giving a homily in Latin with several on their knees at the altar. I was worshipful, but hung at the back row to appreciate the whole scene, the cupola, the rich stain glass before the last rays of sun. Then with the Latin in front of me, simultaneously I heard the drone of the mosque’s call to evening prayer. And there my heart stopped, I was all ears hearing the 2 prayers, knowing Jews were lighting an evening candle. Here as the sun kisses the sky, all 3 religions were praying in their own way.
Christian Peacemaker Teams (CPT) has 8 workers here. Several are from Britain, Canada, and the USA. One is from the Philippines and one is Palestinian. The major religions of these CPTers are Mennonite, Quaker and Muslim. They are doing amazing work in stressful situations. They go into protests with tear gas and something worse called skunk spray. They operate by consensus and live in a war zone, surrounded by rifles carried by soldiers 20 or 25 years old. all Palestinians saw the vote at the UN to become a nonmember state as mostly symbolic. Still they long for international solutions to the problem of cooperation. The vote was 138 nations in favor of Palestine, 41 abstaining, and only 9 against including US and Canada. It’s embarrassing to be a country that doesnt want to recognize a people who’ve lived here thousands of years. Still israels and Palestinians are friendly with us.
Hebron is near the green line (the 1948 border), and is located in the fertile Jordan Valley. Its beautiful pastoral land where one can easily see donkeys and some camels in the country. The city is carved up like a puzzle where in given sections only Jews and only Muslims can move freely. Between the borders are three types of Israeli soldiers, all carrying rifles as tall as a ten year old. Palestinians have to go through checkpoints as they move through sections of the city in order to go to school, mosque and market. At one checkpoint women died in childbirth and others from heart attacks waiting for ambulances which cannot pass through security blockades. We visited farms, Abraham & Sarah’s well, and walked through settlements. The huge mosque which is holy to all three religions (see Genesis 23) is divided so that the Muslim side shows Abraham’s tomb and the Jewish side shows Sarah’s—crazy, it makes us schizophrenic.
Altogether I live each day in amazement of the land, the white hills, sharing laughs with my new friends here. We live in such beauty and I love being in the land where the stories from our scriptures began more than 4,000 years. —Thank You, Shukran.
minga, amazing to me that you and jvb are there. i feel so much with you, esp in the fading afternoon light of jerusalem, the soft warm light caressing the walls of the church of all nations, and with you in hebron at the checkpoint. thanks so much for your dispatches.
Dear Minga and Jonathan;
I so appreciate your postings and share the sadness that our government can’t recognize Palestine’s right to exist even though we approved the 1948 agreement calling for two states. How much you will have to share when you return. We pray that this experience helps you to discern your future path.