I was recently blessed with a trip of a lifetime; not a term I use lightly or often.
Our business found an opportunity to collaborate with an Israeli company in which our company will help bring some technology to the U.S. that has been developed by a company in Jerusalem. The deal came up pretty quickly, so from the time I thought I may be going to actually getting on an airplane to Tel Aviv was only about two weeks.
The host company arranged a tour for me and my traveling companion (a Principal Applications Engineer from our company) with Dvir Hollander, who has got to be the hand’s down, best tour guide imaginable to take one through the Old City, explain the nuances of the local politics and history, deliver local cuisine to our table and lead us to many places off the beaten path that few tourists travel. All of this for reasonable price, 8 hours of my life and 24,000 steps.
Dvir Hollander | http://www.justjerusalemtours.com/
Jerusalem did not meet my expectations; it revealed itself to me in a way I never expected.
We walked in the footsteps of Jesus, and the many others who inhabited this long-embattled city, as rich with history and story as any place on earth. We enjoyed time on the Mount of Olives, where Jesus spent time teaching and prophesying (Matthew 24 and 25) as well as the place he came the night of his betrayal to find comfort in prayer as well as to align his will with the Father’s. On this hill, we saw the version of the plant that may have provided the crown of thorns for Jesus; too sinister to touch and would cause incomprehensible pain when jammed onto the cranium of a man. The view of the city revealed the Dome of the Rock, a mosque located on what is believed to be the original temple site, that was felled in 70 AD.
Dvir guided us down the mountain and up into the city as may have been the way David may have entered when he conquered it about 3,000 years ago – by traversing through the caverns that provided the city’s water supply. We enjoyed the marketplaces including a lunch of lamb, pita bread and humus. We toured all the typical sites including the Western (or Wailing) Wall. the Via Delorosa (believed to be the route Jesus carried his cross) and the Church of the Holy Sepulchre; the historical site believed to be the location of Jesus’ crucifixion and burial. I witnessed many people’s reverence for these sites. I saw people lying prostrate on the site where it is believed the body of Jesus lay. There was weeping and prayer where it is believed the cross was erected. Overall there was an extreme reverence for the place; as well there may ought to be.
But a funny thing happened to me. Actually, it was odd because really nothing happened to me.
I didn’t get overcome with emotion. I felt a little hollow, a little empty. Like something used to be there but wasn’t any longer while at the same time wasn’t absent. I thought I’d feel different. I’m a pretty emotional person usually and figured to have the tissues ready at any moment during the tour. But it never happened. Then, it hit me.
I often get emotional when I take communion. Why? I sit quietly and mediate on my own shortcomings, past and present, and think about what Jesus did for me to right me with the Father. I imagine as a dad, asking my own son to do what our heavenly Father asked of Jesus. I can’t imagine asking that of my son and yet our Father asked this of Jesus. And he humbly agreed. That, makes me emotional.
When a snake molts, it leaves behind its outer skin. When you happen upon a molt of a snake, at first glance it looks to be the snake itself. Only upon a closer inspection does one notice that it actually isn’t a snake at all but only a hollow representation of the snake.
There’s that word again, “hollow”.
Jerusalem to me was hollow. I don’t mean that in a negative or disrespectful way – not whatsoever. I love the city. But Jesus isn’t there. He’s left it behind, at least physically, for now anyway. Jesus actually resides in the heart of every believer. You see, we carry Jesus with us where ever we go. I don’t need to go find him somewhere. He is in me. Not in the physical place of Jerusalem but he has taken up residence in my heart. I didn’t need to go to Jerusalem to find Jesus there. He already found me.
Jerusalem is a city of contrasts. A Muslim mosque is on the site where the Jewish temple was. You can imagine the Jews aren’t too happy about that. As a Jew or Christian, your access to this holy site is severely restricted. And in an ironic twist, the Jews are the ones providing the security for the site. In another instance, the Church built as a monument to Christ’s crucifixion has been split by several Christian denominations all of which lay claim to their part of the church. And who holds the keys to the church and locks the doors every night? A Muslim family. I also saw young children walking freely home from their schooling; younger than I would ask my own kids to walk in my neighborhood alone. While in other parts of the city, I witnessed a young boy with two armed security guards escorting him home while ensuring his safety.
Our guide, Dvir, explained to us that there are a number of peoples that all lay claim to that piece of dirt…the site of that city. And they all think they were first AND they all think they’re right. When at the Mount of Olives on the West Bank, we saw a home, barricaded by tall walls topped with razor wire. The windows had large, thick metal bars protecting them. Over the home flew a large, Israeli flag. This is in the Palestinian area, but this particular Israeli family wanted to make this point. We can be here. This belongs to us and not to you. Its like a daily showing of one’s middle finger to your neighbors. And not to pick only on this one Israeli family, the hate cuts both ways.
The tension and animosity is something that could only be explained to me but honestly, I have no context to relate to it. As an American of European descent with my family having lived in the northern part of the United States for several generations, I have no experience that relates to the loss, feelings of being invaded and wronged having been done to me and my people for centuries.
So who’s right? That’s a big question. I’ll leave that to God to sort out, as He as promised to, in the future.
As for now, I do love the city, its people and the sights. If you can imagine visiting a museum that has people living in it, well, that’s Jerusalem.