We arrived in Jerusalem a sunset and a sunrise before the sabbath, and oh was it good to eat supper and bring our bags to the room upstairs. We stayed at Christ Church, a place with a long history and a guest house. We went out walking that night in the light in the streets. We went to a modern shopping district and an unearthed shopping district and made our first of many stops to watch and pray at the Western Wall. Whenever I prayed there, in reach of the stones of the temple mount, I prayed for the peace of Jerusalem.
The next day we went to several museums, including the Holocaust museum, where I was reminded of all the stories I’ve read that are not just stories. For many, those stories are the reason their family now lives in Israel. My favorite falafel of the tour was that day in a crowded stall of the crowded Jewish market on the afternoon before Sabbath. Rush hour before a day of rest. That evening after a Sabbath dinner at the church, we went back to the Western Wall. Hundreds of Jews were gathered in their Sabbath best, dancing and praising and kissing the old-hewn stones. They want so badly for the temple to be rebuilt upon that mount that they have a menora ready, but there is still a mosque, a minaret and a loudspeaker up there. Pray for the peace of Jerusalem.
I made myself too busy on my Sabbath, as always, but I felt it more in a land where so many others are very busy at resting. I walked up and down the streets, spying out souvenirs and bartering with shopkeepers. We went to the church of the Holy Sepulchre (pray for peace) and touched some revered stones. Sunday we explored Zion and went through a tunnel along the temple mount underneath the Muslim Quarter. On Monday we followed the path of Jesus during the days before his death. We sat in the Garden of Gethsemane while the gardener pruned. I am grafted onto an olive tree. We went inside a tomb where Jesus’ body may have lay. Now it is just stone.
Jerusalem is full of stones: the wall that surrounds the Old City, old walls that used to do the same, underground tunnels, overground tunnels, ancient ruins, and brand new apartment complexes. When the sun rises in the morning, it all looks like gold. But Jerusalem is more colorful than that. I couldn’t tell you specifically what an Israeli or a Jew looks like or acts like because the diaspora that has repopulated carry with them the lands where they lived. There are Russian Jews and Polish Jews and French Jews and rich New York Jews. And there are Orthodox Jews and Secular Jews and Messianic Jews (though very, very few). And then there are the Catholics, the Armenians, the Muslims, and the tourists. One time we were sitting in the garden of the Garden Tomb, trying to listen to our Canadian (we guess) tour guide talk about our Jewish Savior while the Muslim call to prayer resounded above the city and a tour group of Vietnamese Christians sang a song I know well in English but cannot remember. Is this diversity, or chaos? Pray for the peace of Jerusalem.
On our last night in Jerusalem, a few of us went to a pub where we spent a peaceful, relaxing evening. On our way out, we met a couple people who were also enjoying an evening at the pub, but in a less redemptive way. They were Americans, and we had a good chat. They were with some peace promoting tour group, but I don’t know if they had enough peace for themselves, much less enough to share.
When you hear Jerusalem moan (or just listen to the bluegrass song), pray for the peace of Jerusalem.