Saturday, May 08, 2010

Holy Cities in the Holy Land

We had our last interfaith meeting in Abu Dis.  Our coordinator tells us this may be our last meeting at his office because the main supporter of his NGO is upset with the fact that he is meeting "settlers" and withdrew all funding.  He tried to tell them that we don't talk politics and it's a meeting over our religions and around other "safe" cultural themes, but unfortunately, these people don't see beyond the trees, and are stuck on the rigid green line thing. They make their own fences and walls it seems. As it so happened, I was the only "settler" at the meeting.  The rest were from Nablus and Christians from Germany and Norway -and a Reuters reporter. 

We were told that Abu Dis may become area A in a matter of a couple of weeks.  The guy who told me seemed so happy.  It's a step for the Palestinians but to me it means I won't be able to visit the city legally.  I'll either have to sign a 10-page army document or come in illegally.  What a fucking drag.

We spoke about Holy Cities in the Holy Land.  It could have been a charged subject, but it wasn't.  I simply noted that Judaism considered four cities in the Holy Land.  And I didn't mention the more "charged" political entities of Palestine or Israel - thinking perhaps that we should rename the area to just plain The Holy Land with the coexistance symbols of the Sulha.  Oh, so getting back to the presentation, the cities are Jerusalem, holy to Jews for over three thousand years, corresponding to the element of fire - because of the ancient Temple sacrifices.  Then there is Hebron, where our forefathers are buried.  That city relates to the element of earth, because of the holy burial place.  Safed is the city of the Kabbalists - so that is corresponds to the element of air because of its spirituality.  Tiberias is the city where the Jerusalem Talmud was written as well as the home of many great rabbis in the 18th and 19th centuries - and corresponds to element of water because it's on the Sea of Galilee.

The Palestinians asked me about the the Hebron thing and that it caused quite an uproar because Bibi named it a top Jewish Heritage site.  I told them, that because Bibi did it, that caused the uproar.  If it was me telling Hebronites that the Cave of the Patriarchs is like the 2nd holiest site, no one would have said boo.  But you can't change these facts that it's a Jewish holy city, as the Koran can't be changed, I told them. 

Being that there was no Christian presenter, I read through a list of lesser known cities where Jesus walked and talked and performed miracles.  The Christians laughed because I made no mention of Jerusalem, Bethlehem and Nazareth.  Revisionist?  Not really.  I just, well, didn't mention them because I focused on the lesser known places and it totally slipped my whatever-is-left-of-my-mind.  Silly Jewish girl they must have thought.

Jerusalem is the 3rd holiest city for Moslems, and what I never knew was that before the Kaaba was built in Mecca, Moslems faced Jerusalem.  Just like us Jews when we pray.

And speaking of similarities, I attended a lecture in Jerusalem of Tzvi Misinai who spoke about the Jewish origins of Palestinians.  The audience was mostly Orthodox Jews who were curious and never heard of such a thing.  "What about the Arab massacres of Jews in Hebron?" one asked, when discussed how we lived in harmony at one time.  The lecturer said that the rumor that Jews were murdering Arabs in Jerusalem spread to other parts of the country and outsiders came in and perpetuated that lie to instill fear - the deadly F word - in its Arab inhabitants. 

He mentioned the rituals of some of the local tribes, especially the lighting of candles on Thursday and Friday nights (the Thursday night was to throw the Turks off track to prove that it wasn't a Jewish Sabbath thing) and praying in caves and marrying within the clan.  He even mentioned one Palestinian family I know and said they know they're from Jewish origin.  Indeed, I had even asked that person once about his origin and they looked at me and said they didn't know.  But I remember the look on his dad's face.  His dad is in Palestinian politics.  They don't like to be found out.  It was a disturbed look as if I did indeed uncover a family secret. 

Tzvi is distributing pamphlets in Arabic, Hebrew and English about the origins of and testimonies from Palestinians.  He believes in one state for one people - but that one people would include the Palestinians who wouldn't  have to convert to become the People of Israel.  They would be first-class citizens - all with Israeli ID and Israel would be fully democratic.  Interesting thought.  But that would mean people would have to see them as brothers instead of enemies.  A complete change in the mainstream Israeli mindstream would have to happen.  I wonder if  the lecture changed the mind of some of the people in the audience who probably never had any deep heart-to-heart conversation with any Palestinian. 

In the 11th century, there was an edict in the Holy Land that if one does not convert to Islam, the remaining families would have to leave the land.  Rather than leave, they converted to Islam.  This also is probably the reason why there is such a fierce tug of war over the land.  Because if they would do anything, absolutely anything, to stay on their land, then nothing and no one could ever take it from them.  And we shouldn't have to.  We should live on it together. 


(google) rabbi lars shalom said...

this is the greatest post, youve ever written!!!!11 cool

Sara said...

This was fascinating....thank you.