Archives for posts with tag: Jerusalem

Today we visited Yad Vashem, the Holocaust Memorial. It was like going through a tunnel. Ahead you could see the light of the exit, though there is not direct route through. Instead the path is a zig-zag, left and right through displays, listening to audio-visual presentations, and the voices of guides taking groups. There were many people visiting, including Israeli soldiers who have to come here as part of their military service. The atmosphere was often quite claustrophobic, which is, I guess part of the design of the place. I was full of questions, as I tried to absorb and respond to what I was seeing and hearing. How would I resist persecution? Would I have the courage to? ”.. still there is beauty” – is a quote that strikes me hard. How could there be under such horrendous times? How can there be forgiveness alongside what needs to be remembered? The Hall of Names has pictures of faces in the ceiling, above a deep dark well which reflects the faces. The Children’s Memorial is a building in darkness, with pinpricks of light reflected in mirrors around. As we walk through, there is a continuous narration speaking the names of children who died – their ages and where they were from. There are about one and half million names. It takes 18 months to read all the names.

Next we go to the old city of Jerusalem to visit the Western Wall. As we approach we see joyous bar mitzvah celebrations. I approach the wall a bit apprehensively – joining the women who are separate from the men. I watch other women engrossed in their prayers, aloud or silent. They take their time, and I wait rather impatiently for my turn.  I do not know how I am going to respond in prayer, or if I want to. When I reach the wall I touch it cautiously and it seems to me I feel a kind of energy coming out of the stones. Words fail me and I touch with my hands, place my forehead, my cheeks on the well-worn stones, and kiss them, before backing out and making room for someone else.

We have some free time to wander. Into the Church of the Holy Sepulchre is another experience of prayer with the body, as I kneel down under the altar and reach down to touch the base of a hole where it is said the base of the cross was. Again no words, but a powerful experience.

After lunch at one of the street cafés in the market, we do a bit of shopping. I cannot bring myself to haggle, so probably pay over the odds for a scarf (keffiyeh) and bracelet – but I am very pleased with my purchases, and the seller is very persuasive!

Continuing exploring the city with our Palestinian guide, who has grown up here, he proudly tells us: ‘these stones know me.’

After supper back at the guest house, we meet a couple who tell us of their life in the West Bank. They share the ‘simple difficulties that they and their children live with daily – of interrupted water supply and power supply, of obstructions to travel and work. They are grateful to share their story with us, for our listening and questions, and ask us to pray for them.

Even if I know not

what to say

or do:

Let my body teach me the way.

Let the stones themselves

cry out

for peace with justice.  Amen

 

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After a bad night coughing, I felt pretty rough for the next day of being a pilgrim in the Holy Land. Today we went to the Mount of Olives and walked down the way Jesus would have entered Jerusalem on Palm Sunday. The way was very steep. It was hard not to keep stopping to take more and more photos of amazing views over the city. At the Church of the Pater Noster, we stood in a circle, holding hands as we said the Lord’s Prayer. Afterwards our guide said the prayer in Arabic. It was a powerful moment. Then to the Garden of Gethsemane, to wonder at the twisted beauty aged olive trees. The Church of All Nations was an amazing space. In part of the garden overlooking the city we shared communion and sung ‘Jesus remember me, when you come into your kingdom’ during the intercessions. We were let loose without our guide to wander in Jerusalem and find somewhere for lunch. I loved our meander, walking the streets, seeing spreads of fresh produce laid out for sale – chamomile, spinach, strawberries, cauliflower, and baskets of fresh spices. I felt my heart and mood lifted! In the Garden Tomb we had a different guide who rather movingly told us his faith story as part of the tour. En route back to our guest house, we got off the coach and walked through the checkpoint and turnstiles and narrow corridor that some of us saw part of yesterday. It was quiet and rather eery. We could see no soldiers, but knew they were watching. On the barrier wall words were written by someone presumably queuing up to pass through: ‘have compassion’. Later we had a walking tour through Bethlehem on the search for gifts and souvenirs. I find the walking a lovely intimate way of being introduced to this complex place, step by step, and speaking a little to individuals living and working here.

In this place,

I can remember who I am

and where I belong …

among friend and stranger

may I recognise Christ

in me and beside me. Amen