Sunday, June 29, 2008

Peoples Of Israel

In my last posting I mentioned I had been pondering my trip to Jerusalem last week, from a spiritual perspective.

As I discovered Jerusalem’s Old City, the epicentre of all of the world’s main religions, I wondered whether, like lightning, a sense of faith (or at least of spirituality) would strike me.

As I entered one of the Catholic churches in the Old City I opened my mind to the possibility of God. Sitting alone in that dark, cool Church I waited for my own personal epiphany

DSC00384

I realised that the last time I entered a church for any meaningful purpose was at least 25 years ago.

Five minutes past. I enjoyed the calm, though spiritually I was void.

If there was a God, then why didn’t He hit me there and then? Give me something so so I would know Him in a way that could change my life.

Another 5 minutes. Nothing. I left as empty as I had entered. What I saw all around me was a people divided by the devices of religion and faith. Something that just can’t be right.

In the event, the most spiritual part of my experience was entering the Old City through David’s Gate with the "da-da-da, Da-da-da" anthem of Jesus Christ Superstar blasting through my iPod earpieces.

Peoples Of Israel

I've heard the term "melting-pot" applied to London and New York. So to Tel Aviv and Jerusalem.

Here there is a huge mix of cultures and concerns. You can see it etched on peoples' faces.

Enjoy this small selection of people at work, rest and play.

Work, rest...

gunsWW
danceworry
kebab2
soldier2couple
trio
soldier
shawarmoo
kebab
hatworry
arab

...and play

beach
beach-2run1beachb-2beach9jog2
shower
jog1
jog4
jog5
jog6
beach2beach7
beach3beach15
beach4
beach5
beach6

beach13beach8
beach14
beach16
soldier1
USsoldier2

Dead Sea Drive

As I might have mentioned, driving doesn't come naturally to me. It's been over 7 years since I last drove. I gave up my car when I moved to London.

Here they drive like they drive in London, aggressively. It's on the other side of the road and there are strange signs to deal with.

Most of Xfe's Israeli friends have expressed concern that I should be driving.

So, as each day passes it's becoming more of a nightmare...

Friday, June 27, 2008

Why Good People Do Bad Things

I don't really know. Perhaps I should ask top transformational educator Debbie Ford who just asked me to take a picture of her and some (I presume) Israeli journalists in the lounge.

Later I discovered that Debbie is in the room next to us. Maybe I'll get some free 1-on-1 counselling later.

Jerusalem Gay Pride 2008

Yesterday (Thursday) was gay pride in Jerusalem.

Last year thousands of religious protestors rioted, causing much damage.

This year, ultra-Orthodox Jews protested from a safe distance and the Pride march was kept off the main streets.

In what has become an annual test of strength, Monday saw the Isreali High Court of Justice reject a petition submitted by Baruch Marzel and Itamar Ben-Gvir, followers of the murdered ultra-rightist Rabbi Meir Kahane, brought to prevent this year's Gay Pride parade from being held.

Here the gay community sees itself as deprived of full recognition, equality and rights. Ultra-Orthodox Jews reject homosexuality as depravity.

Inevitably, the gay issue taps into existing tensions in Israel between religious and secular and right- vs. left-wing politics.



not quite a guard of honour

In the meantime I have been reflecting over Tuesday's trip to Jerusalem, spiritually.

Wednesday, June 25, 2008

Jerusalem

Xfe was working in Jerusalem yesterday, so I took the car with him and spent the day there.

Because we were sharing Jerusalem with Sarko (well he was in Bethlehem), there were problems on the road. Therefore the driver decided to approach the Holy City from Ramallah, which is in Palestine.

The Israeli chaperone wasn't very content, and became decidedly uncomfortable. They do tend to overreact I've found. In the event we were perfectly safe and I think the reality was that we never actually left Israeli occupied land, though we did find ourselves between the two walls dividing Jewish land from Palestinian land.

We did receive the usual welcome to Palestine...

Jerusalem wall
This wall "protects" Jerusalem

Palestine Wall
This wall contains Palestine

welcome to Palestine

Jesusalem was fascinating. The Old City is remarkable.

Within its walls the Old City is roughly divided into the Muslim Quarter, the Christian Quarter, the Jewish Quarter and the Armenian Quarter.



The Old City is home to the key sites of religious importance for all main faiths: the Temple Mount and its Western Wall for Jews, the Church of the Holy Sepulchre for Christians, and the Dome of the Rock and al-Aqsa Mosque for Muslims.

Is that just coincidence or does it suggest that the genesis of the learning texts of those religions is more common than is acknowledged?

You probably know the Western Wall as the Wailing Wall. It's where the Jews come to mourn the destruction of the Holy Temple.

Behind the wall is the sacred land the Jews mourn. Where the Holy Temple stood is now Islam's Dome of the Rock and the al-Aqsa Mosque, built on the Temple courtyard.

It's absolutely fascinating. The bitter divisions of the faiths. How can there be a God of love that lets man fight in His name over land that has no worth beyond its religious significance? Explain to me how that can make sense?

Western Wall
Praying at the Western Wall, prayers written on scraps of paper stuffed into the cracks of the wall

Western Wall
Beyond the Wailing Wall lies Islam's Dome of the Rock and the al-Aqsa Mosque on the Holy Temple site, its loss mourned by the Jews

football
Although for these children, playing above the Western Wall, it doesn't yet trouble them

I spend 3 hours strolling the alleys of the Old City. The Israeli chaperone had warned me not to stray into West Jerusalem by accident, worried I'd loose myself in the maze of small alleys, over various levels before stumbling out of the Lion Gate into West Jerusalem and danger.

Certainly the Old City's alleys and caves seemed endless, but I have a fairly good sense of direction, and I always knew which way I was heading.

At one point I found myself in the passage into the al-Aqsa Mosque, but they wouldn't let me go through into the courtyard because of "prayers". That was a pity. Through the archway, from a distance, the view beyond was beautiful.

Although the alleys run seemlessly you can easily tell which quarter you are in. Though in the Muslim Quarter, Israel likes to remind the Arabs that they are tolerated.

Christian Quarter

DSC00337

DSC00370
From here the al-Aqsa Mosque, and beyond East Jerusalem where it had been suggested I shouldn't roam, though they wouldn't let me beyond this gate due to "prayers"

still israel
It may be the Muslim Quarter, but the Star of David still overflies

DSC00378
Now feeling very Arabic

bread head

DSC00383

At times I found myself tracing the steps of the historical figure known as Jesus of Nazareth as he made his way to his death, carrying his cross through these narrow and steep streets.

Here are the sixth, seventh and eighth stations of the cross, with a Catholic Church inside by no. 7.

station 6

DSC00384

station 7

station 8

Elsewhere in Jerusalem it's life as normal with metal detectors and security everywhere - shopping malls, restaurants, bars. In fact it feels safer than London because security searches, and pritection, are a way of life.

After I'd gone into a couple of places I thought it was a little forward that someone was touching my bum. But then I realised each time I go past security they weren't taking advantage of a fair Scot's ass - they were simply taking a hand held metal detector against my back to see if I was carrying one of these.

I have no idea who these over-easy dressed people carrying guns and rifles are. Yet they are worn so casually. I could easily have grabbed this one from the guy in the shawarma (kebab) shop.

scanner

gun

gun

I took a bus ride. I didn't tell any of Xfe's Isreali colleagues I was going to do it, nor Xfe.

Even though Israelis feel secure in the peace they are currently enjoying, you never know where or when an atrocity might occur, and people don't like riding buses. No metal detectors there. I really could feel a tenseness, though I'd probably partly contributed to that myself when I asked how much and was asked where I wanted to go.

I explained that it didn't matter, that I just wanted to ride a couple of stops - to anywhere. How strange it seemed to the driver and those sat at the front of the bus who began eyeing me with suspicion.

I was actually glad to get off 2 stops (and some distance) later.

on the bus

bus Jerusalem

bus Jerusalem

bus

All was well in Jerusalem though, and we were driven home safetly to Tel Aviv as the sun set over Palestine under an Israeli sky.

sunset

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