We are at the beginning of our second full day in Jerusalem and already our heads are full of the wonder of this amazing city and questions about the things we have seen. The clash of the ancient and modern was never more clear than when we walked the Stations of the Cross through the narrow streets of modern day Old City Jerusalem. As one person put it, “It certainly wasn’t like what I have experienced at church as we walked from one station to the next and the shop keepers were yelling ‘2 caps for 20 dollars’. I wonder what would happen if I did that next time in church.”
The reality of tension between Israel and Palestine was visible in the increased presence of police yesterday as Muslims made their way to the mosque for their sabbath and Jews headed to the wall later that evening to greet the Sabbath.
It was with joy that we heard about the work of the Lutheran World Federation and Augusta Victoria Hospital in East Jerusalem during a tour. The money that we give to them through the ELCA and our tax dollars help them do important work with Palestinians.
For me, the most poignant moment came when we sat in the garden tomb and read the story of Jesus’ burial and resurrection. It was easy to imagine the women coming to the tomb and the disciples running to look and Mary pleading with “gardener” to show her where the body of Jesus was. In that moment I was reminded of my own unworthiness to be loved by God and God’s overwhelming response of love through Christ.
As we made our way to the Western Wall near sunset with our Israeli guide Ari, we could hear the church bells ringing and then the call to prayer and then the joyful singing at the Wall. It was an auditory reminder that 3 faiths inhabit this land and a sign of hope that one day this place could be a light on hill, proclaiming peace.
We are incredibly blessed with our two guides: Ari and Nabil. Ari, as I mentioned before, is an Israeli Jew and Nabil is a Palestinian Christian. Both offer us a perspective we would not normally hear and are fearless in their answering of our many questions. We have already benefited from their expertise and knowledge.
Today we head to Jericho and the Dead Sea and this evening we meet with representatives from the Parent Circle. I am sure that as the day goes on the questions will continue to come, the Spirit will work in us to call us to the work of peace and justice and our faith will be strengthened.