Yesterday morning we recieved news that a Palestinian man had been shot and killed at the Temple Mount and that there were other clashes at a check point not far away. The first thing we did on our first full day in Jerusalem was visit the Dome of the Rock, located in the center of Temple Mount. Religion meets religion on either side of a massive old stone wall, the Western Wall. On one side is the hub of Islam and on one side of the wall itself is a sacred prayer space for Jews. We have been fortunate to visit both despite the recent clash of cultures. It was interesting to visit the Western Wall after the shooting, having visited the Dome about four days prior to the shooting.
The image of this place is still so clear. The sky that day was so blue, just like the intircate mosaic tiling that enveloped the walls of the temple and the golden dome obsorbed the sun and warmed the sand-colored terrace surrounding it; this was a holiness I haven’t felt before in the simplicity of a meeting house. I remember seeing Israeli soldiers for the first time in this space– a pack of green jackets and big guns. It seemed weird that they would occupy a place of prayer, but there are a lot of unsual things about this city. There guns, surprisingly didn’t trigger fear; perhaps, this is because we were walking past quickly or perhaps it was because, these soldiers are my age and their activity seemed more like hanging out with friends, playing their Ipod and people watching.
Hearing the news of the clash, I pictured the hundreds of Muslims leaving Mosque friday afternoon and the Jewish extremists who had come to take over Temple Mount. I pictured the stone throwing and rioting that took place in response to their actions and the tear gas and rubber bullets used to prevent further rioting. The violence seemed to contrast so deeply with the purpose and teachings of both religious spaces.
Five or six days now, since we visited Temple Mount and two days since the shooting, we visited the Western Wall. There were more than three times as many soldiers present as there were last time, and all looking more serious. Women and men are seperated for prayer. My girls and I covered are hair in scarfs and entered this sad and hopeful space. From a distance it looks like a wall people are merely touching or kissing and praying in front of. Coming closer, you see there are hundreds of little rolled up prayers wedged in the crevices. After the recent clashes in the area, I wrote in hope that one day the people in this historical courtyard would not need their prayer to be accompanied by guns and soldiers. One day, the two people could pray together.
After the Western Wall, we went to an orginazation called Rabbis for Human Rights. Since I have allready gone into such details about other events I will keep this breif. Basically, I came out of this meeting and discussion very inspired and hopeful. They were against human rights violations not just against Palestinians but other areas in Israels flawed democracy. Key word: democracy. Arik emphasized this point, that he was lucky to be living in a democracy, there are many places in the world where we could have been arrested just for having the conversation we had. (on the other hand my host family argues Israel is not a democracy… but thats another story.) Arik said many things that stuck with me and here are the highlights:
-If schools on both sides continue to teach hate, there is no chance for a peace treaty
-Either the two countries will live here together or die here together
-Very basic Jewish teaching: people can change. Never discount the power of truth that is in our hearts.
-In a democracy, some are guilty, but ALL are responsible
I will share stories of my first host family tommorow.