The Cubs are going to be the death of me! Here it is 11:45 p.m. Jerusalem time...Game 7 begins here at 2:00 a.m. and I have to get some shut eye!! Wow! What a series...I hope it's enough to take your minds off the craziness of this wacky election season.
Today was another great day here. We started out this morning on the Mount of Olives--overlooking Jerusalem. Steve did a great job setting the narrative stage that makes this Mount loom so large in the Christian imagination. Our first visit was to the The Dominus Flevit Church--which translates from the Latin as "The Lord Wept," and is fashioned in the shape of a teardrop to symbolize the tears Jesus shed (on the day we call Palm Sunday) as he overlooked Jerusalem. He wept because "it did not recognize the things that make for peace." (Luke 19: 37-42). Most of you have seen this church from the inside. You'll recognize the view in the picture below. After a brief time of reflection in the church, we sat outside on the wall overlooking the city and Steve shared the text from Luke 19 and called us to feel its relevance for today...and to pray for the peace of Jerusalem...which is to pray for the peace of the world. We paused and prayed together.
We then made our way down the mount...along the same path that Jesus and his disciples followed, to the Garden of Gethsemane. It was there that Jesus prayed his final agonizing prayers before his betrayal and arrest. Steve noted that given that it was Passover at the time, there would have been tents housing pilgrims spread out all across the Mount of Olives and the valley below. The authorities would have had a hard time locating Jesus if it weren't for Judas. We spent some time in The Church of All Nations that stands next to the Garden and commemorates the site where Jesus spend his final hours.
We made our way to the Lion's Gate into the Old City and followed the Via Dolorosa (the path of Jesus as he bore his cross through the city) making our way to the Church of the Holy Sepulchre. This is the site that remembers the crucifixion, burial, and resurrection of Jesus. It was jammed with pilgrims. We made our way in and to the holy sites it contains. Jesus' tomb is undergoing renovation for the first time in over 500 years. Steve took us into a side cave in the church known as the tomb of Joseph of Arimathea--the man who provided a tomb for the burial of Jesus. Nothing ornate. Plain and simple burial chamber carved into the rock. Tempts one to wonder if it might not be closer (at least in representation) to the tomb of Jesus.
After lunch, we boarded our bus and made our way to Bethlehem (maybe a 30 minute drive) to visit the Church of the Nativity--the site that commemorates the birth of Jesus. It too is undergoing a major renovation. I tried to get a picture of the manger...but there was a woman sitting in it getting her picture taken.
I then guided our bus back towards Jerusalem. But I had it stop and drop us off before we passed through the Security Wall that separates the West Bank (Bethlehem is in the West Bank) from Israel. I had arranged for our group to visit a small gift shop that is surrounded on three sides by the Wall. It is owned by Claire Anastas and her family. My thought was there is no better way for folks to understand the Wall and the way of life it imposes on the Palestinians than to see it up close and personally. After visiting with Claire and making some purchases, we set out on foot for the pedestrian check point that would take us through the wall back into Israel. This too was my idea to give folks a firsthand experience of life behind the Wall. The group was game for it.
In my visit to Jerusalem in the summer of 2015, I had stayed at a conference center just outside the Wall on the Israeli side and passed through this check point many times with no delay or difficulty. It was probably a half mile walk from the shop to the check point. As we set out, I came to realize that my previous passages had never been at rush hour and so had very few people around. The road leading to the check point was jammed with cars and men returning from work. We wound our way single file through the cars and crowds of Palestinians who, no doubt, wondered who the heck we were. The crowds consisted of hundreds of Palestinians returning from work in Israel--all on foot. There was a steady stream passing us as we made our way into the check point--the lone travelers heading back into Israel. This was an everyday ritual for these Palestinians. Every morning, I am told, as early as 4:30 a.m. the place is jammed with hundreds of workers going the opposite direction we were now seeing them--back into Israel. Only then, the line would move MUCH slower--they have to go through face recognition and have their thumbprints checked and show their permits. All we did was flash our passports and pass through.
Once through, we were met by our bus and whisked off to our hotel. It was quite a day for reflection on tears and prayers for peace.
For now, I am off to bed for some shut eye before rising for Game 7. Hints of resurrection will linger in my mind as I doze off only to rise too soon from now.