13 April 2016
welcoming the sabbath
obviously, as devout christians, jerusalem is sacred for us especially because it is where jesus lived, ministered, died and was resurrected. but additionally, because we are also believers in the old testament, one universal loving god, the immense good in all religions (as well as in the lives of the non-religious), and the value of learning from conflict, jerusalem is sacred for us generally.
the truth is, i believe, that this city is the most significant place on planet earth. i think every traveler, religious or non-religious - muslim, jew, hindu, catholic, mormon, buddhist, agnostic, atheist – should go to jerusalem. it is an absolutely incredible melting pot teaming with staggering history that has affected (and continues to affect) the entire world. there is so much to learn in jersualem about humanity: conflict, diversity, faith, struggle, culture. i certainly do not claim to understand all the complexities of the dynamics of this place, but i do heartily appreciate the opportunities i have had to learn about those globally significant dynamics by experiencing daily life in the holy city – this has made me a better human being.
on good friday, before visiting all those christian sites i wrote about in the last post, we walked through the jewish quarter of the old city to the western wall. there is an amazing spirit of reverence, devotion and hope despite struggle around that facade, a last shred of an ancient, holy, huge monument of faith in god. we found a couple good lookout points where we could see the western wall as well as the dome of the rock on top of the temple mount – the holiest place for jews and one of the holiest places for muslims in one frame. the area of the temple mount has been greatly sacred for different reasons to different people for thousands and thousands and thousands of years – it’s pretty staggering to take in a view of it.
after our christian “pilgriming” along the via dolorosa and to the different sites of christ’s death and resurrection, we returned to the western wall to welcome in the sabbath day with jews and onlookers of other faiths. when i was a student in jersualem, my friends and i would love to come to the western wall on friday evenings. we were welcomed with open arms by new friends that would invite us to sing, dance, and pray with them in celebration of the beginning of the sabbath. i enjoyed sharing this experience again, with ian.
click through to see some pictures of our time at the western wall and around the old city welcoming in the sabbath both on friday evening and during our walk towards church at the jerusalem center saturday morning:
^^ juice stands like this one are everywhere in the old city. i had a fresh-squeezed pomegranate and orange juice every single day. so so so yummy. ^^
^^ on our way back to the western wall, we stopped at the austrian hospice, which we heard had a rooftop terrace with fantastic views over the old city. the views were fabulous, indeed! ^^
^^ there was a group of jewish men on the street below the hospice singing and dancing as they made their way to the western wall. fun to watch from above! ^^
^^ overlooking christian domes and muslim domes as the sounds of the jews’ singing filled the air. ^^
^^ ahh those old city streets: packed with christian pilgrims, palestinian shop-keepers, curious tourists, devout muslims, singing jews, and israeli cops. ^^
^^ gotta love the selfie-taker in the middle of this photo! ^^
^^ we watched the sabbath celebrating on opposite sites of the partition (the western wall is separated for men and women) for an hour or so, and got to put our own written prayers into the crevices of the huge stones of the holy facade. of course we honored the request to not take pictures while in the plaza. i caught this shot from the overlook on our way out of the old city. ^^
^^ very happy and quite travel-weary walking back to our airbnb through those narrow streets that i love, love, love! ^^
^^ a snapshot from saturday morning, after the easter vigil at the church of the holy sepulcher (more on that in the next post), on our walk towards our church meetings at the jerusalem center. i love the sometimes-cheeky shop-keepers in the old city. this guy posed for my photo and then i showed it to him after i told him he looked good! ^^
^^ i just love these very well-worn, vibrant streets so much. have i mentioned that yet?! ^^
it’s really impossible to describe a visit to jerusalem – a place so wildly significant and stuffed with history and complexities. the really amazing thing is that despite all, all the centuries of conflict and friction and struggle, there is a definitive, very unique spirit of some brand of harmony seeping through it all. there’s really no place like it.