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Saturday, October 17, 2015

Exploring Jerusalem's Old City

October 14th:  Post by Christina 
We went to the spot where everyone goes to take photos, and talk about the geography, the walls, the City of David, the water supply, the hills....and the recent bus shooting, which occurred on the road behind us.  We were accompanied by a security guard and he will be on all trips outside the hotel. He is not armed but he is an EMT and is our eyes and ears of caution as we focus on our activities. We spoke of the the meaning of Al-Aqsa Mosque, the Temple Mount, and the Church of the Holy Sepulchre. We shared our stories of Abraham, Isaac and Ishmael. We looked at the closeness of the Palestinian and Jewish neighborhoods and the place where there has been so much heartache and death, but also so many moments of transcendence and beauty. We could have stood talking for many hours but there was much more to see.

A short bus ride to the top of what turned out to be a pretty hard walk down to the entrance to the archaeological dig around the southwestern corner of the wall.  We discussed the politics of even a scientific effort.  The project certainly could have continued but they stopped digging when they got to the base of the wall of the second temple - a statement that the Jews were indeed there before and are not newcomers to the area.  I found a transcript of Abbas's speech to the United Nations two weeks ago where he spoke of the deep roots of Arabs and Christians in this place but not the Jews.  It is astonishing that, like people who deny the holocaust or evolution, anyone can deny that the Jews were here before the Christians or the Muslims.

Then we walked to the Western Wall.  We spoke of the fact that the Israelis gave over the Temple Mount (Harim Al-Sharif) , and this is the closest they can get to pray, that it is controlled by the Orthodox, divided men from women unevenly, and then.... Is a place intrinsically holy or does the spirit of the people who come there make it so.  I feel the power of so many coming there to be profoundly moving, Lynn, who is Jewish, had been there many times was going to stand back.  Then a miracle happened.  Julian our guide, thought it unwise to have our Muslim friend Foza go to the wall, but Lynn stepped up and said, she would go with her, so arm and arm the women went, and stood and prayed and cried and made the place holy.

At 5:30 we met with Yossi Klein Halevi, an author, former journalist, graduate of Megill, and a voice for understanding.  He spoke movingly of his reactions to the current problems which he called an intifada of neighbors - the Arab boys and young men who are doing the stabbing and shooting are not from the West Bank, they live, study and work on this side of the wall.  He decried the lies that make these children throw their lives away for nothing. He practically wept as he spoke of the hard-heartedness that keeps the sides from negotiation.
        I learned of the work that Julian our guide did to get Foza, Chukri, and Zakiya to               pray at Al-Aqsa and visit the Dome of the Rock and how warmly they were greeted             there. This is the first time that Julian has lead a three--faith group and it meant a           great deal to him to find them a safe way in. Their gratitude to him for what was a           high point in their lives was profound.  And then, a small thing, but at this fancy               hotel, the waitstaff is primarily Palestinian and the clientele mainly wealthy                     Christians and Jews. Muslims do not stay here. The waitstaff and the room cleaners           have been overjoyed, which is probably an understatement, to see and speak with            our Muslim group members. 

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