Saturday, April 29, 2006

Interfaith Pilgrimage - Day 2

We all slept over at the Austrian Hospice on the Via Dolorosa. We were given the dorms and thought it was a women's only place and began stripping off our clothing. Just then there's a knock on the door and some Austrian guy is there in his undies - we were undoubtedly disturbing his sleep. Despite the non-working window and thus - no air, I slept fine. Only one woman heard me "mumble" in my sleep. Others heard others snoring, but I didn't. I just heard the Muezzin at 4:00 am - as if he were right in my room n- calling everyone to prayers.

One of the elderly Moslem women that morning took out her prayer mat and began her morning prayers at the more decent hour of 7:30 am.

"You think we are disturbing her by our talking?"

"Nah" said I, figuring Moslems are just like Jews and talk incessantly during services. But I have no idea, since I have never been inside a mosque during prayers and also their prayers don't last for hours on end like ours do. It's like a 15 minute session. I think Jews would be quiet too if our services weren't so long. I just took care not to step in front of her prayer mat because that is forbidden, as I had learned in another interfaith session and told the others too, not to step in front of someone praying on their mat.

We took a tour of the Church of the Holy Sepulchre, this time seeing the Ethiopian churches on the way, the place where Jesus's cross was placed and where he was anointed and the burial tomb, which seems to be the central part of the church where all the tourists wait on line to enter and pray. From there is was on to the Jewish quarter where we viewed the Burnt House and the Wohl Archeological Museum, which uncovered ruins from the time the Romans burnt the wealthy Upper City of Jerusalem and which showed the charred remains. We viewed a film about a re-enaction of what happened during that time and the prophecy that Jews will once again come back to Jerusalem and where the squares will be filled with children playing.

I wondered what the Palestinians were thinking - this not being part of their educational curriculum. And we had a discussion back and forth.

The Romans destroyed Jewish Jerusalem
The Jordanians destroyed the Jewish quarter in 1948, and Israel rebuilt it beautufully.
The Jews destroyed many Arab homes near the Western Wall so a plaza could be built in 1967.

One of our older Arab women showed us where she lived close to the Western Wall. It had not been destroyed, but she did have to move out to make way for the new Jewish residents. We wanted to have another meeting to find out about her life there and what happened to her and how it affected her and her family and about others whose lives had been displaced. Obviously both our peoples had been displaced - us by the Romans and them by us in modern times.

We headed down to the Western Wall, some of the Arab women, even though they were Jerusalemites, had never been there at all. We told them to offer their own prayers and that it would be perfectly ok to go there, even in their distinctly Arab head coverings. Some were nervous that they wouldn't be let in. But we were all let in with no hassle - and all of us offered prayers of peace at the Wall, which we all shared in our closing circle at the Western Wall plaza.

Afterwards, we went to visit some Armenian women and heard first hand their story about the disasterous Easter escapade they endured. They run a shop for Palestinian crafts, made by women all over the country who are not employed, so that they too can make a bit of money from their handicrafts. Before heading our separate ways, we prayed for tolerance and understanding from all the people in this beautiful city.

No comments: