Wednesday, October 25, 2006

Peace Gathering

I was invited to Eliyahu's home for his pretty regular monthly peace gatherings. This guy gets a cool bunch of eclectic folk into his home - and they come from all over - Bedouin, a visitor from Jordan, settlers from Tekoa and Elazar, visitors from Santa Cruz and Santa Barbara, not to mention his guest speaker/chanter. He was Siri Om Singh, an African American Sikh who did kirtan, sacred chanting. What was interesting about this guy was that he wore the whole sikh get-up and is from Trenton, New Jersey. I expected him to say somewhere in the Punjab, but Trenton? Even more interesting was that his wife is Israeli and was the only one at the gathering, besides the tourists there, who left Israel for the US. Most others left the US for Israel.

"We have to have SOME kind of balance!" she laughed, as we all introduced ourselves.

My good friend or, rather, everyone's good friend, Ibrahim from the Mt. of Olives was there telling us that everyone is invited to stay at his home. He has a rabbi living with him and this Friday 30 rabbis will be coming over to visit him. That's alot of rabbis wandering around the predominantly Moslem area. But his neighbors are used to him and he's well respected so hopefully no Moslem extremists will give him a hard time for befriending so many Jews. I guess another reason is that most of the people living on the Mt. of Olives are his relatives in one form or another. His family numbers 12,000 souls.

He went on - "We should stop saying this is Jewish land, this is Palestinian land. It is God's land."

He spoke about the significance of Ramadan - how this time of year is to reflect on the people who do not have enough money to buy the wonderful food seen in the markets, and to give charity to those less fortunate.

During the break I spoke with a gentleman from Edmonton of Arabic heritage (Lebanese, Saudi). He had been on the Haj and told me his take on things, particularly with regard to the Temple Mount. He said the Israelites never referred to it as a temple - rather - it was called a Beit Hamikdash (House of the holiest). He went on to tell me Al Quds, the Arabic term for Jerusalem is from the Hebrew word Kadosh, meaning Holy. Mecca is from the Hebrew word Mikdash. He said the Israelites walked around the temple 7 times during the holiday of Succot, much like Moslems do in Mecca around the Kabaa.

"You see, Abraham taught his two sons, Isaac and Ishmael, the same things." he told me, and indeed, as he voiced the similarities between us, I felt an even stronger kinship with my Moslem brothers.

We heard stories about biblical Noah from a Chassidic perspective from Emunah Witt, a familiar figure in Jerusalem, and a follower of the singing Rabbi, Shlomo Carlebach.

"We're told that if you love just one person, you bring love to the world. If you love just yourself, this can make it happen too."

Another Carlebach follower spoke about incense - that the incense used in the ancient Temple had several ingredients, with one in particular that smelled awful, but when put together with the others, was the one that had that heavenly scent. And that when the 3rd temple is rebuilt, we won't have any animal sacrifices, as the Israelites sacrificed birds, goats, and sheep in biblical times. Because it will be a time of peace and there will be no killing. Not even of animals.

It was difficult for me to pull myself away from this oasis of peace to go back home. It always is. But there are others. Many others coming this way.

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