Live always at the edge of poetic possibilty, even in the face of severe prose. - Walter Bruggemann

Friday, February 29, 2008

Danger Will Robinson

If you are old enough to remember the 1965 television quazy sci-fi series Lost In Space, then you’ll remember the nameless Robot. Every time he saw, or felt, smelled, or intuitively sensed danger, his mechanical arms would begin to flay in the air as he said, “Danger Will Robinson!” Imminent danger of the galactic kind was on its way. The Robinsons, who were lost in space, needed to mobilize and protect themselves all the while hoping to get home some day.

I feel like the robot today. Right now my arms are thrashing in the air and I’m yelling out, ‘danger, danger’, only the Robinsons aren’t here and it’s me that I’m warning. It’s 11:45 pm and I’m on cultural overload. ‘Danger, danger’.

The day was fairly relaxed until 12:30 pm. I watched a trailer for a movie that looks VERY good, Rumi Running. Whirling Dervishes whirled over the screen. I thought, someday….don’t we always dream, someday I’m going to see whirling dervishes live and in person. That’s if the freaking US dollar recoup and I don’t run myself into the poorhouse living in Jerusalem.

Later in the day I went to the Islamic Museum. It’s not a far walk for a very wonderful exhibit of artifacts, jewelry and manuscripts of the Koran from different time periods. There was a special exhibit of kilim rugs from Anatolia. It was a beautiful day here and I meandered back to Ramban looking at the almond trees in bloom and the cyclamen which grow everywhere here, even out of the rock and pavement. And, it was Thursday afternoon so after I returned it was time to walk to Makane Yehuda, the souk with my neighbor.

The fruits and vegetables were as gorgeous as ever, the strawberries smelled so sweet and the fish stank to high heaven. As we were heading back home, out of the maze and alleyways of Makane Yehuda, we heard drumming. And then we could hear other instruments along with the djembe drums. We followed the sound to a street corner with kippah covered dread heads making music. It was music that I’ve never heard before; I’ll call it, Klezmer Caribbean. The clarinet made the Klezmer sound and the djembe had the Caribbean beat.

People gathered round and an old woman with a brightly colored babushka was out on her second floor balcony. We kept time with the beat and the woman, I think, was giving us the evil eye, or some sort of curse! Her hand kept moving like she was trying her hardest to convince someone of something; clearly she was talking but no one heard her. Every now and then both hands would fly up in the air, like “oy vey, mahn!” It was getting late and my neighbor and I each had plans for the evening so we back out off of the street corner and into Nachlaot’s narrow stone roads down to Rehavia, our neighborhood.

At 7:30 I walked over to the Salesian Theological Institute, not far from my apartment. A group of theologians, priests, pastors and interested people form a group called the Ecumenical Theological Research Fraternity in Israel under the leadership of Rev. Dr. Petra Heldt, a Lutheran Pastor from Germany. Tonight lecture…Philosophical Exegesis of the Bible: A Minority Approach to Judaism. Quite interesting, awfully provocative. But, unfortunately I couldn’t stay for all of the Q & A because I had a ticket waiting for me at Beit Schmuel.

This brings me back to the whirling dervishes. I thought I was going to a Belly Dance show of some of the best belly dancers in Jerusalem…and I wasn’t disappointed. Samer, a shopkeeper in the souk in the Old City sold me a ticket. Usually I don’t stop to talk to the shopkeepers but he had some beautiful jeweled and sequined hip scarves. They always catch my eye. So we struck up a conversation one day. He makes costumes for the belly dancers and they are quite lovely. He urged me to get a ticket and go to the show. I know, it was hard for me too. That is to decide – Philosophical Exegesis or Belly Dance. Both on the same night. Well I was glad that I did both.

The show at Beit Schmuel was outstanding. Not only were there belly dancers shakin’ it up but the Georgian National Ballet with whirling dervish dancers made my heart twirl. Darn good thing that I had taken my heart meds. They even had dancers as young as 8 or 9 doing all different types of folk dances from Georgia. It was a Middle Eastern Riverdance!!!!!!!!!

That’s why, when I finally walked through the front door, my arms started flaying about. “Danger, danger….danger Will Robinson”. We’re being invaded by culture from every direction. There was not much more that I could fit in for the day. So I went to bed dreaming of kilim rugs, kippah dread heads, a woman casting an evil eye, a very straight laced Biblical scholar, all the while belly and Georgian dancers danced in my head.

Wednesday, February 27, 2008

And You Think You've Got Problems

In Jerusalem, really in the Old City, really more specifically in the Church of the Holy Sepulchre the term, Status Quo, takes on a whole new meaning. It’s charged with religious, political and sometimes fist-fighting fervor. I was telling a friend, who is an Armenian priest in the Old City, about an incident that I saw when I was taking part in the Solemn Procession of the Latin Patriarch a couple of weeks ago.

Actually I recounted the entire procession to him, like he really needed to know how it works. He’s lived in Jerusalem for 14 years in St. James Monastery in the Armenian Orthodox community of the Armenian Quarter of the Old City. He knows what I’m talking about. He humored me anyway. He was enjoying watching me tell him about the procession. I told him about the stick guys – remember them from one my previous blogs?, and the incense, and the pipe organ, and the procession of monks and nuns that I suddenly found myself encircled, the two hour Solemn Procession.

I was telling him about the part, nearing the end of the procession, where His Beatitude, the Latin Patriarch and the rest of us peons processed around the Edicule of the Holy Sepulchre, not once but three times. The Edicule is the place that everyone, except the Protestants, believes was the tomb of Christ. Around the Edicule is built an imposing edifice with jeweled lit lanterns hanging from the ledges. The Armenian Orthodox, Eastern Orthodox, and Roman Catholics all have rights to the interior of the Edicule and tomb. (Hold your questions for later!)

You can imagine that, with a larger crowd, the procession was one continuous circle at times. Sometimes His B, the LP and the stick men were in front of me and sometimes behind me. I’d like to think that it all revolves around me, but he had the Magenta vestments on, I didn’t.

Around and in the backside of the edifice is a closet size chapel, very ornate with a beautiful icon. The chapel belongs to the Coptic Christians. The priests, vested in black with golden embroidered skull caps, were standing on the side guarding their chapel and the New Testament hand scribed in Arabic, which was on display for His B, the LP. Of course more hanging lanterns. Each time His B passed the Chapel he and the Coptic priest kissed one another’s cheeks and then he would bow to the New Testament. I thought, oh how nice a wonderful moment of honor and respect for one another’s tradition. Think again.

The third time was different. I know this because, this time around the Edicule, I was only five people behind His B. No sooner had they kissed, and the Coptic priest practically pushed His B forward and the rest of us back. He grabbed the New Testament, turned around and all of the Coptic priests followed. I guess three times around the Edicule was a little too much harmony.
So I was retelling this incident to my friend the Armenian priest, who, at that moment, put his hand to his forehead, looked at me and said, “Status Quo”.

Status Quo has a history, a very long and complicated history just like the rest of this place. In a nutshell, from a non-historian….Constantine I built the Church in 325 CE around the sites that his mother, Helena designated as holy and actual spots of Jesus’ death and resurrection. Those being Golgotha and the tomb. In 614 CE fire damaged the Church when the Persians invaded Jerusalem. In 1009 CE it was completely destroyed by Caliph Al-Hakin. In 1027 restoration was begun by Constantine VIII. Crusaders came in 1099 and they refurnished the place and in 1555 Franciscan Friars also renovated. 1808 brought about another fire and fighting between the Franciscans and Orthodox. In 1767 a firman, a Royal mandate, was decreed by the Ottoman Empire who was in control at the time and the Church was divided among those who were claiming it.

Finally in 1852 another firman was issued. Status Quo. It was the status quo of territorial division inside of the Church, no part of the territory can be rearranged without consent from all of the groups who maintain the inside of the Church – Eastern Orthodox, Armenian Orthodox, Roman Catholics, Greek Orthodox, Coptic and Ethiopian, and I think also Syriac’s. Since it’s a rare occasion that they all agree, everything stays put. Status Quo. As is. Keep your blasted mitts off!

Fist fights have broken out for simple things; a door left open was seen as a sign of disrespect. A ladder is left on the outside ledge FROM 1852 no less because it is common ground. Just this year, in Bethlehem at the Church of the Nativity who, also shares this Status Quo, a fist fight ensued between two priests the very day after Christmas as they cleaned up.

Protestants believe that the Garden Tomb outside of the Old City is the burial place of Jesus. We stay out of it! And clergy colleagues, if you think you’ve got troubles trying to move Aunt JoJo’s tapestry that she needle pointed for the Church, on her deathbed in 1903, which has never been moved, to another spot in your sanctuary. Think again.

Monday, February 25, 2008

Every Day, and then the Rest

A Bird in Rehavia

There is a bird in Rehavia
who busy’s herself long before the sun’s rays warm the stone walkway;
long before the kiosk’s shutters open and the Turkish coffee is put up.
She nests in the crossroads of migration,
neither coming or going,
certainly no intention of leaving.
Rehavia is her home.
She warbles
and dawn wakes the night.
But the horn of a taxi,
And the bus engines sound.
It’s time to get up and her prophetic song fades into the day.
©Wagner 2008

Thursday, February 21, 2008

Jeepers Creepers


Nothing like a jeep ride in the Judean Desert, really, nothing. I was invited by some friends for a ride in the desert. It was a chance to "get into" the desert hills rather then just passing through on the way to somewhere. There is so much beauty and ruggedness in the desert. These first few photos are not too far outside of Jerusalem heading west. They are green because we've had some rain and snow. Amnon the guide said that in another couple of weeks it will be very brown.
At one point - OFF ROAD - which was all of the tour, we came across this Bedouin boy riding his donkey. Bedouin are nomad herdsmen pitching tents, or tin huts as you'll see below. There are about 140,00 Bedouin in the State of Israel.
We got out of the Jeep and Amnon took us closer to where this boy was headed on his donkey. His father was there and we came close to see the goats and sheep.

The father of this particular clan. Bedouin's are Arabs. According to one guide book of Israel's Arabs 78% are Muslim, 12% Christian, 10% Druze and Bedouin.

There is a herd of sheep at the top of this photo. Amazing how they are so camoflouged with the rocks.

Following the patriarch to the family 'compound'. It's fairly green where they are, many Bedouin cultivate the land as much as they can.
At this Bedouin family's home.
It was laundry day. Their water is stored in sisterns.

The matriarch of this clan. Families live together in their own compound, which is not large. There is a lot of space between families. Quite a different lifestyle than the western culture of Jerusalem and Tel Aviv! Hygene is not high on the agenda. Bedouin's are well known for their hospitality. We were given a cup of tea, the water was boiled outside on a open flame. Because there is no wood in the desert they burn sheep dung and the fire is lit by flint which there are many outcroppings along the hills in the desert. Many Bedouin these days are going into the cities for education but, for the most part, they are uneducated. Inbreeding is also a problem. In this family there were two adult children who were mentally disabled in some way.
Mama comin' out of the kitchen to greet us.
One of the tin sheds was the sleeping quarters. This is an inside view. Behind the hanging sheets are bunks. In one of the other sheds was their 'living' quarters. Most of their living is done outside.
The kitchen. There is no running water and the water is not purified in any way. Amnon says that 'they're used to it'...we'd get sick.

Chicken dinner anyone?
Resting sheep. We said, "Shoo-Khran", thank you in Arabic, and were on our way.

OK, now we really got OFF ROAD! It was akin to taking a donkey ride into the Grand Canyon only in a 4 x 4. You'll notice that it's not green anymore. It was an absolutely beautiful day, the sky was a wonderful turqouise. This photo doesn't quite do justice to it.
A shepherd crossing our path.

Another Bedouin home. This family was of some means because they had a truck.
The quiet was astounding. Every now and then we could hear a few birds but couldn't see them. This is along the Syrian African rift which is a crossroads for migrating birds. In another part of the rift we could hear cow bells on a herd of sheep very far below us. Other than that it was blissfully quiet.
Another shepherd with his donkey and sheep.
No matter where the Bedouin'll always find a pot of tea brewing.

A pot of tea and a black relationship!

One of his sheep with a bell around its neck. I think he's smiling at you.
The desert in bloom.

Wednesday, February 20, 2008

The Nerve!

I know that it was my decision to attend the Rothberg International School at Hebrew University. Without arm twisting, or duress, or even any doubt I sent in my check proudly showing my intent to be a student in, what else, Religious Studies during this year in Jerusalem. Part time granted, but still it was an attempt to keep atrophy from seeping into the small dark crevices of what little mind I have left.

The first semester ended during the last week of January. I missed a few classes due to the course that I took at Yad Vashem. That didn’t seem to stun the professors too badly especially since I said that I’d still do the final research papers. Professors here are, let’s say, a lot more relaxed. Not about the work and the scholarship but in attitude.

But, actually, early on in the semester I realized that, honestly, I wanted to be an auditor, not an active student with all that paper writing stuff. University, Seminary…enough paper writing is enough! What was I thinking? Why would I come all this way to sit inside of a mole hole of an apartment and write research papers and try and remember how to write pain-staking punctuated bibliographies?

That’s right, apparently, I wasn’t thinking. But you bet your booties folks that now I am! I just completed the final paper for the semester. Melito of Sardis, an early Church Father of the virulent kind. There are not many extant writings of his left. I say, so be it. Let bygones be bygones. It feels so good to get this off my desk and onto someone else’s.

Don’t they know that I’ve got photos to take, paintings to watercolor, people to meet, sites to see, hummus to eat, blogs to write? I ask, what are they thinking?? Really, the nerve.

A new semester begins next week.

Friday, February 15, 2008

Hooray for Monotheism

Would you worship this goddess? The people of the Ancient Near East, way back in the day, worshipped all sorts of gods and goddess'. Need a fine glass of Chardonney - call upon Geshchtinanna, a Sumerian god grapevines and wine. How about a nice ciabatta with that? Dagen, god of grain can help. I guess when you're desparate, it doesn't matter what the deity looks like, if they've got the goods, well so be it.

But this babe? I've named her Ahjah Dah, godess' of upper intestinal distress. Clearly she's hurting and feeling your pain. Maybe the ciabatta had too much garlic and she lifts her well rounded breasts to breathe easier. Perhaps she's performing an ancient semitic ritual of cleansing hoping to rid herself of what ails you. But the eyes, well they tell the story man, they tell the story.

I saw this sweetie in the Tower of David Museum inside of the Jaffe Gate at the Old City in Jerusalem. She's a beaut!

Wednesday, February 13, 2008

Every Day, and then the Rest

It seems as if I get later each week with my Shabbat reflection. I think I even missed last week’s entry. I’ve been trying to understand why this is. Why don’t I just sit down and write it on Saturday each week, the Jewish Sabbath? Surely there must be something to write about. There must have been some moment of grace, or a moment of peace or a reflection on rest and renewal that I could record. To say that it was Shabbat, and that I wouldn’t use my computer is, for a non Jew, not authentic at all.

What I’ve realized is that, for a Christian, Shabbat really is Sunday and not on Saturday. We intellectually know this, especially us church workers. Going to church on Sunday is part of a Christian’s programmed identity. It stems back hundreds of years for us and through layers of Christian theology. Sunday-Church-Sabbath, it works together sort of like the Trinity. Sunday is our day of rest.

But more importantly than rest, it is a day set aside especially for renewing our grace filled life and relationship with God. It’s a day when we can, and hopefully we do, set aside all that consumes our time and energy during the week. We can put down our worries and concerns trusting that God will protect us and give us strength to pick them up again.

After morning worship, thanksgiving and praise, for me there is a Divine aura that encircles the rest of the day. It feels different, even here in Jerusalem when the rest of the population is back to work and beginning their weekly tasks. The day has a distinctive feel to it because it is infused with God’s spirit and that is made so visible and tangible to us because I have rested in grace.

So, what does this have to do with my weekly Shabbat reflection? Nothing and everything. I’m on Sabbatical rest this year. It’s a year to rest. It’s a year to dig very deep into my spiritual life and nature without outside interruption. It’s a year to do things when I am moved because I can and I want to, not because I must. Shabbat Shalom my friends, you can decide if this was last week’s or this week’s reflection!

Sunday, February 10, 2008

A Solemn Procession

Just another Saturday in the Old City of Jerusalem. Ho Hum. Well, not really. I knew that the Latin Patriarch was due to arrive at 2:00 pm at the Church of the Holy Sepulchre in the Solemn Procession. I grabbed my camera, took the ½ hour walk from my apartment to the Church, and found a great spot in the Square of the Holy Sepulchre for photographing His Beatitude Michel Sabbah and the rest of the muckety-monks surrounding him. The Solemn entry happens throughout Lent. At the end of this blog entry are photographs…bear with the reading.

At five minutes before two the doors of the Church of the Holy Sepulchre were closed. Now, that may seem like a very simple act – but not in Jerusalem, nothing is easy in Jerusalem. A Muslim family is the Key Custodian of the key to the front door. Wajih Y. Nusseibeh is the current custodian of the key. How do I know this? Two years ago I was in the Square, met Wajih, had my pic taken with him and got his card. Honest to Pete – the card has his name and underneath, Custodian of the Key to the Church of the Holy Sepulchre. He shut the door and locked it. Whoever was in was in and whoever was out was out. Just a little peep hole was opened and some guy kept looking out and checking to see if the Patriarch had arrived yet.

I sat and waited. Then I heard what sounded like a loud pound against the stone. I heard it again. Looking up towards the steps I saw four men with red fezzes on their heads carrying large sticks with metal on the bottom. Every five seconds or so, as they walked they pounded simultaneously, the sticks on the stone. It was a little eerie but impressive. Then monks, all sorts of monks processed after the fez men. An ornate cross was held high above everyone’s heads. The doors were opened and in they proceeded. At the very end of the processional, in-between the monks, was His Beatitude and a few other higher ups. Quite patriarchal. The little nuns followed behind.

I decided as long as I was there to follow them in and because I was close to the door and I was able to get very close. I really didn’t have any intention of following them. I thought the procession was just into the Church for a service. I was wrong! As I entered all I could hear with the chanting of the monks and the absolute beautiful pipe organ. The sound filled the entire Church, which is large, very large. He stopped at the Stone of the Anointing and then went to the Holy Sepulchre and went in. He came out and they went into the Latin Chapel. He vested in his magenta cape and patriarch hat. No one was allowed in there with him, we stood outside. The air was thick with incense and the candlelight glowed in the dim light of the old Church.

A few monks were passing out thin candles and booklets of liturgy for the solemn procession. One of the monks asked me if I wanted a candle and if I wanted to be in the procession, I said, can I? He answered, yes of course, we want to you too. So…..for the next two hours I found myself in the Solemn Procession of the Latin Patriarch. (I never did listen to my mother when she said not to go with strangers!) At first I was taking pictures and then all of a sudden I stopped. It seemed really intrusive and wrong. I was totally immersed in the Latin liturgy, the singing, the incense and the pageantry.

After he came out of the Chapel vested, the entourage proceeded to the Cave of the Discovery of the Holy Cross. He never just walked through the grand corridors of the Church though; either side was lined with monks holding candles. We waited and sang liturgy while he was in there. There was a ‘cantor’ who would sing responsorial lines with us as he and the LP were in the different places. I lost my place many times until I got the hang of what they were doing. It was never quiet nor was the air ever clear. Thank goodness for the nuns, they took pity on me a poor protestant dressed in jeans.

From the Cave we proceeded to Golgotha, also in the Church. He went up there as we stayed down below – believe me there’s not enough room for a tour group in there let alone the LP, the monks, the nuns and us others. Back down again – now this guy is not young so it took him a while. We wound up back at the Holy Sepulchre and the organ began once again. MAGNIFICENT – I can’t even describe it.

By this time the fez men, who had been with the procession all along, began pounding their sticks. Around the Sepulchre we processed three times. The His Beatitude went into the Sepulchre, came back out and ended at the Latin Chapel. I was well satisfied with the Solemn Procession. I do wish I knew what exactly the liturgy was saying and accomplishing. I think that he was consecrating all of the holy sites inside of the Church.

I went out to the Courtyard and sat down to take some photos. All of a sudden I hear the fez men pounding the sticks on the ancient stones. They recessed out of the Church in to the Courtyard and just like when they came, they were gone. For an interesting glimpse of the Church and its history check out the website.

I don’t agree with His Beatitudes politics nor am I crazy about all this patriarchal stuff, but he sure puts on a rockin’ Solemn Procession.

Wajih, the Custodian of the Key
The Door to the Church of the Holy Sepulchre

The beginning of the Solemn Procession

The lead monk in the photograph above is the 'cantor'. He also vested in lavish vestments. Don't you think he looks like Garrison Keilor?

Right after the Latin Patriarch left the Sepulchre the first time. Already the air is getting thick with incense.
A peek into the Latin Chapel where the vesting of the Latin Patriarch was happening.

Waiting for him to come out.

His Beatitude is the second from the left.
There he is....all in magenta.
Incensed that I couldn't get a good shot, I gave up.

Back out into the Square.

Saturday, February 9, 2008


Before and After

Thursday, February 7, 2008

Thursday Night LIVE!

Live from Jerusalem it's.......
Thursday Night LIVE!

After another great dinner at Timol Shilshom off of Ben Yehuda my friend, Trotsky, the poodle who's ears flapped in the wind on Mea Shearim, and I heard drumming in the not too far distance. We walked to Ben Yehuda Street and it was happening! 20 & 30 something Jerusalemites were feeding their spring fever, smoking their hookahs (with tobacco mind you!!), walking happy gangs. Tourists were snapping photos like crazy. It really was like a spring day here today. Thursday night, the eve of the eve of Shabbat always has a special kind of festive mood.

It was busy for 10:30 at night in February. I stood there listening to jembe drumming by two young guys at the main 'square' of AM Luntz St. and Ben Yehuda St. The only time they stopped was when a girl who usually has her microphone set up and her somewhat on key voice singing songs like, "New York, New York" came over to them. I couldn't exactly hear what they were saying but I could see that it wasn't a conversation. The three of them were talking at the same time. Their hands were flying in the air as only Israeli's hands can do when they talk.

They won. She lost. She huffed back over to her stand up mic and the jembe's began once again. A skateboarder whizzed by. A white bearded old man tried to sell us a red thread bracelet with an evil eye on it. I bought one five years ago on my first visit to Ben Yehuda. What a fool. You're supposed to wear it until it wears off...for good luck. A month and a half later I was on to this old guy's tricks. I cut it off, my luck had not improved.

We looked for the 'eternal light' lady but she hasn't been around for a while. Her case of Jerusalem Syndrome must have cleared up and her light ceased being eternal.

After enough cultural stimulation we walked up Ben Yehuda St. heading for home. On a lone corner was a harpist. She had just finished harping and pulled out a recorder and started playing, "My Favorite Things" from the Sound of Music. My friend sang along a few bars. Trotsky peed on the lampost again and I thought, these are some of my favorite things.

Ethel Smith

Ethel's a genius on the Hammond Organ - HAH eat your heart out.

Wednesday, February 6, 2008

Not Everything in Israel is Glamorous, Exotic, or Holy

Take for instance cleaning. The buildings are made out of stone, inside and out. The walls are concrete on the inside and beautiful Jerusalem stone on the outside. The floors are lovely stone tiles, cold to the foot and always collecting fuzzies. Because of all the stone you never hear of a building burning down here, just maybe a stove fire, which of course can be dangerous. While it’s a little cold in the wintertime, I hear that I’ll really appreciate it in the summer because they stay nice and cool.

One of the problems with concrete and stone is mold. One night I was laying in bed reading and I looked up and saw mold growing over my head. I jumped up. I looked around the apartment and then noticed mold around the doorway, around the windows and of course, in the bathroom. Mold had come to stay. I opened a few windows because I could imagine the mold growing in my lungs during the night.

The next morning I went to Moshe at the hardware store and asked him what to do. Thank goodness for Moshe, what a nice man. He hand delivered after work a drying rack that I had bought from him. He has read my water bill and told me how to pay it. He figured out how to attach the bookshelves that fell off of the wall one night all of a sudden.

Moshe said, “bleach, it’s the only thing.” So I bought some bleach and mixed it with water and swiped the ceiling and walls and bathroom tiles. I have to say the place looked pretty good. But, to my complete disgust, the mold grew back. It’s me verses the mold now. Every month a new batch of mold grows back to replace the old. And now, I’m down to using straight bleach to combat my nemesis.

As I did today. The place looks great. Underneath my fingernails, it’s is the cleanest I’ve ever seen them. A little Van Morrison’s Moondance makes the job go much quicker. Only problem is, I have to vacate the apartment for a while otherwise I will pass out from bleach asphyxiation. Oh well, maybe I’ll stop to say hello to Moshe on my way to the Post Office, another excellent adventure.

Tuesday, February 5, 2008

Every Day, and then the Rest

Fruits and vegetable somehow always look fresher and riper when you buy them in an open air farmer’s market. So you can imagine the produce at Mahanah Yehuda, the souk to end all souks, in Jerusalem. Each day there are strawberries as big as golf balls, even bigger, and they are as sweet and delicious as Godiva candy. There are persimmons and pomegranates, grapes, oranges, bananas, cantaloupe. Just about any fruit on earth is there for your shopping pleasure. Even dragon fruit is there when it’s in season.

I walk along each vendor who is hawking his merchandise; there are hundreds of them who are ready to make a sale. “Geveret, b’vacashah, Mrs. Please”, and he points to some luscious looking fruit or vegetable. But I pass them by. I stop at the usual places; the cheese man who gives you slices of samples and says for each cheese that you taste, “it’s the best cheese in the world”. I stop at the salad and olive man who always seems distracted, but somehow gets your order right even though he has talked to two other people in the meantime. And then I go to the fruit man with his dreadlocks. I pick up some bananas and a couple of pears that are soft and ripe and ready to eat and give him my shekels. As I begin to walk away I see some cantaloupes.

I pick one up and sniff it. Hmm, it smells ripe. It’s not too soft and looks rather good. It’s been a long time since I’ve had fresh cantaloupe. Another fruit vendor makes a sale. It’s rather heavy and since I’m walking I throw it into my large carry all for a safe journey home.

My knife makes the first cut into the melon and, to my surprise; it’s not the usual orangey-melon color inside. It’s green! It looks like the inside of a Honeydew melon. How strange I thought. I smelled it again and looked at the outside of the melon and sure enough it was a cantaloupe. I still didn’t believe that it was cantaloupe until I tasted it. It was sweet and delicious, just as cantaloupe ought to be.

Sometimes we are asked to trust and believe in the simplest of ways aren’t we? When we are so sure that things must be this way or that in order for our lives to be in order, God throws us a curve ball out of left field, and we are urged to trust that everything will be ok. It’s God’s humorous way of shaking us up and reminding us of who is in charge of this great creation. If God wants to create cantaloupes that look like honeydew melon on the inside, who am I to argue? I just needed a gentle reminder.

Saturday, February 2, 2008

36 Hours

36 hours of discovery and fun with a friend from the states. Dale was here to visit friends in East Jerusalem, Shfar'am, and Abu Qash. On the way we sidetripped to Nazareth and Kfar Kana. Lot's of fun, lot's of laughs, lot's of photos. From hotel window in Nazareth overlooking the Jezreel Valley
Nazareth YMCA. Here we met Samer who was very involved in MVP, Moderate Voices for Progress. MVP was a joint program between the Y's in Israel and CT. You might remember that I hosted a young woman in my home for a week through this program that brings Jews, Muslims and Christians, Arab and Israeli, from Israel and Palestine to the states to foster relationship and communication.

YMCA, Nazareth
Mary's Well. Grotto inside of the Greek Orthodox Church of St. Gabriel.

Outside of St. Gabriel's Church.

Inside the Old City of Nazareth.

The Synagogue Church. Tradition has it that this is the place where Jesus was taught as a child and where he returned to read from scripture, Luke 4:16-21.
Below is the Basilica of the Annunciation.
Traditionally, this is the site of the home of Mary and the scene of the Annunciation. Luke 1:26-38. This is the largest basilica built in the Holy Land consecrated in 1969.
Priests having a service.

Side altar. The Grotto itself is not open currently, due to open in March.
There are many side altars and chapel off of the main basilica. There are also mosaics, paintings and statuary images of Mary and Jesus. This one above is from China.

And Japan.

Laundry day in Nazereth.

This is Dale right after we were given a drink of Holy Water from Lourdes. Our friend Sharli and his bride received this Holy Water bottle from Lourdes. We were very surprised when he said, here have a drink. So he gave us a little sip. I'm feeling much better already and as you can see from Dale's face, she's feeling it!

From a balcony in Shfar'am and Arab village northwest of Nazareth. We are overlooking Haifa. This is where Sharli lives.

Off to Kfar Kana - Cana from the New Testament where Jesus performed his first miracle. John 2:1-11. Jesus went to a wedding at Cana and changed water into wine.

Of course I bought a small bottle of Cana wine.

Ruins underneath the Wedding Church. As in all of Israel Churches, Mosques and Synagogues are built one on top of the other.
Inside a courtyard in Cana.

At every junction on the highways there were strawberry stands. And, the were yummy.
Safed - above an alleyway. Below a courtyard. Safed is the spiritual capital of Jewish Mysticism, Kabbalah. It has also become a very rich artist's colony.
There are lots of old alley ways and tiny Synagogues. I have been here before so I didn't take many pictures here plus it was almost time for Shabbat to begin the town was closing up for Shabbat.

A night photo taken from a home in East Jerusalem.

Ramallah. This is the gate to the Palestinian Authority compound,home of Fatah. To the right of the building is the headquarters where Abbas is. To the left is the grave and museum of Arafat.

Grave of Yassir Arafat.

This a museum for the Fatah party and Arafat. As you can see there is snow here in Ramallah also. It looks a little eery because there was steam rising from the snow as it had gotten warmer. The museum is not opened yet.

Someone's donkeys had gotten loose and were rummaging through garbage. They were not afraid of us. One looked up at me as if to say, "oh, you."


Ramallah snowman.

City center of Ramallah. We travelled through Ramallah to visit friends in Abu Qash and Arab village home of Bir Zeit University where are friends are professors.

Back in Jerusalem. The Old City and Jerusalem at night.

I need a tripod.
A note: Please don't ask me if I felt safe. I have Israeli friends and Palestinian friends who I trust will not take me to places of harm or danger. It is all a matter of which side of the fence you are sitting on.