Wednesday, August 17, 2011

We enter the gates of Jerusalem

Abraham, who sells carved religious art
“Now our feet are standing within your gates, O Jerusalem.”
Psalm 122:2

JERUSALEM -- I read those words as we entered Israeli airspace early Tuesday morning. It was the psalm assigned for the day.

We are in Jerusalem after a long journey through the air and a short bus ride from Tel Aviv. We boarded our flight in Toronto, connecting from San Francisco, and the airplane ride itself was a holy adventure.

During the flight, a group of ten Jewish men stood in a galley and prayed the Kaddish for someone who had died. In the back of the plane, an Hasidic Jewish rabbi, in long coat and black hat, faced a wall and said his prayers, rocking as he recited them. As for me, I read Morning Prayer at my seat using my iPhone. We are products of our culture, are we not?

We are at St. George’s Anglican College in Jerusalem, not too far from the YMCA (a very huge building) and the American Colony Hotel. We are to the north of the Old City, only a short walk to the ancient gates. The college is on the grounds of St. George’s Anglican Cathedral, which is a gothic stone cathedral that would look more appropriate for the green hills of Kent than the parched landscape of Jerusalem. Every Christian sect has a foothold in Jerusalem, and this is ours.

Lori and I and a few friends took a walk soon after we arrived. We made it as far as the Damascus Gate. We walked through Muslim food stands, ducked into a shop with carved olive wood crosses, and feasted on the sights of so much in such a small space. It is Ramadan, and so the Muslims are fasting. The restaurants and cafes were mostly closed but we found one that served us lunch of roasted chicken sandwiches and cucumbers.

This land is bathed in prayer, and all one needs do is walk down a street to feel it. The prayers are those of many religions, and many sects of each religion, and are said in many tongues from many nationalities. For now I see and listen as an outsider, and give thanks for our safe arrival.


JanetK said...

Thanks for the post. I appreciate your sharing your experience with us. Y'all are loved.

midlifebatmitzvah said...

Jim, I'm so jealous of the two of you!

Here's one thing you MUST do: Go out for a Palestinian dinner where along with the grilled meat they serve lots of little dishes of mezzes (appetizers) and fresh pita. I suspect there are a bunch of places near the American Colony serving this.

Well, here are some other things. Drink hot tea with mint (shai maa naanaa) from one of the kiosks in the Old City. Order "pizza" in the Armenian quarter. Order falafel from one of the stands in West Jerusalem that has lots of pickles etc. Visit Machane Yehuda, the big vegetable market in West Jerusalem and buy some halvah and olives.

Oh yeah... I guess there's also Yad Vashem and the Western Wall and the Dome of the Rock and the Holy Sepulchre. But I'll just stick to the food. :-)

Is this your first visit?