Friday, December 01, 2006

Machine Guns, Messiahs and Mohamed

DAY: 127 CITY:23 Country:6
March 23, 2006
JERUSALEM, ISRAEL - יְרוּשָׁלַיִם
I was overwhelmed by Jerusalem. The beauty was surprising, the spirit overwhelming and the history was...well, biblical.

Having recently spent more than a month in the Islamic Kingdom of Morocco and the predominately Sunni Republic of Egypt, Israel was both familiar and new.  It definitely feels and looks like an Arab nation, but it mixes the most fervent followers of Christ, Moses and Mohamed in a small space that forces an uneasy intimacy. Walking though the souk (market) you can cross through the Jewish, Muslim and Christian quarters all in less than five minutes.  In my first quick walk around the area of my hotel I found myself on the purported path that Jesus walked as he carried his cross to his crucifixion, then turned a corner and saw the entrance to the Dome of the Rock مسجد قبة الصخرة, the third most holy site for Muslims after Mecca and Medina. This same place is considered the Holy of Holies for Jews, their second most sacred spot where Abraham was tested by G d, placed his son on the altar and was prepared to stab him to death.  For Jews it's called the Temple Mount. The Muslims say this is the spot were Mohamed flew to heaven on a winged horse.

Tales of a G-d testing blind obedience or of  horses flying to heaven aside - the Mount is powerful and awe-inspiring.  Finally, a few minutes later, I arrived at the Western Wall, or The Wailing Wall, the most scared place for Jews in all the world. This entire walk took ten minutes.
The Dome of the Rock and the Western Wall both have security, with Jews guarding and controlling the Wall and Muslims in charge of the Dome.  At every turn is some phenomenal mark of history, and at every turn, a soldier or guard with a machine gun.

I called it an early night as I heard the now familiar call to prayer emanating from the 
nearby mosques. This was the day's third "call", and my cue to place my head not of the ground, but on my pillow. Tomorrow I visit the Western Wall and get up close, then Yad Veshem יד ושם - the Holocaust Museum.

Shalom, Assalamu alaikum, Peace be with you, and ALOHA!

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