Saturday, October 1, 2011

Interfaith Journey to Israel #5

In the Path of Abraham: A Jewish, Christian, Muslim Experience of the Holy Land
September 5-11, 2011
Day 4

We began our day at the Temple Mount, the location of the famous Dome of the Rock and the Al Aqsa Mosque, holy sites in Islam.  But few of our Muslim friends were with us because they were visiting the Mosque where Christians and Jews are not longer allowed to visit.  We were standing in a circle on the beautiful grounds in the early morning sunshine, when one the guardians of the site, clanging two metal "pot covers" together, ran toward us shouting.  "No prayers here, no Jewish prayers" and kept clanging this metal pot covers together to prevent any prayers from reaching God's ears.  He started shouting directly at me.  "you Jew, no prayers" I told him quietly not to worry.  I was not praying.  Our Roman Catholic priest had been praying for peace in Jerusalem a few minutes earlier.  We all left the site.

Our bus took us all the Yad Vashem, the Jerusalem Holocaust Museum.  I have visited this museum many times but I find each experience to be unique.  Survivor, Hanna Pick, shared some of her story with us in a private room.  She had been a childhood friend of Anne Frank and the story she shared was around her friendship with Anne Frank when they were schoolgirl friends in Amsterdam, both German immigrants, escaping the Nazis in a new city.  As a fellow prisoner, she also met up with Anne Frank again in 1945 just before Anne Frank and her sister Margot died of typhus in the concentration camp.  Our whole group was profoundly affected by this experience.

Back in the bus, we drove to Gush Etzion, a settlement in the disputed territory (the West Bank) beyond the "green line".  Mayor Saul Goldstein, gave a talk about why the Jewish settlements make sense to him.  These areas that were intended to be Arab Palestine by the UN in 1947, were given by God to the Jewish tribes of Judah and Simon when the Jewish people entered the land from slavery in Egypt according to the Bible.   In fact, Jews bought back some of this land from Turkish landholders in the 20th century for purposes of Jewish settlement.  There were Arab raids on the settlements before the founding of the state of Israel and the children of the original settlers, the fathers of whom were killed in the raids, returned after the 1967 war.    Saul Goldstein and his fellow settlers has created a beautiful, green community and were determined not to leave it again for the sake of a peace deal.

Back in the bus, we drove to Hebron, a mostly Arab city in the disputed territory.  In Hebron, which existed from the biblical era, there is a cave, purchased by Abraham, where most of the Jewish patriarchs and matriarchs are buried according to the Bible.   Muslims also revere Abraham.  Buildings have been erected around this cave to mark the holy site.  However, after terrible battles between the Muslims and the Jews in current times, the building has been divided into a Jewish section of access and a Muslim section of access for visits.

We have seen much "marking of territory" by each religious group and even within religious groups on this visit and lots of hyperbole about who is really in charge.  It makes a mockery of holiness for everyone.

We returned to Jerusalem late but went on a tour of the archeological tunnel under the western wall.  How such huge stones were cut and laid out with biblical era technology is a mystery to me.
More about Jerusalem later.

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