Mary and I did our traversing through the Holy Land yesterday, touring through Jerusalem and Bethlehem. Jerusalem is definitely a special place, though the legions of tourists do their best to detract from that fact. Nevertheless, it's hard not to feel a little awed when you are walking on streets that are 6,000 years old and are the heart of holiness to billions of disparately-minded people.
Christians are definitely more capitalistic than the Muslims or Jews; non-Muslims are not allowed near their holiest sites, and the Jews are content to pray at foundation stones, preferring the coming of Judgement Day to the stone façades of the present. Christians, however, are invited and encouraged to walk, trample, touch and fondle everywhere that Christ may have concievably been: where he was born, where he was laid in a manger, where he preached, where he walked, where he cried, where he carried the cross, where he died, where he was bathed, where he was buried, where he ascended to heaven, where he had his first wank - there is no moment in Christ's life unworthly of a digital photo and a souveneir.
Bethlehem was fascinating - not for the Church of the Nativity (which is actually three churches - who knew?), but for the glimpse of life behind the security wall. The residents of Bethlehem, technically in Palestinian-controlled "Palestine", effectively live in a cage*. Israelis live like Americans, Palestinians like Tiajuanans. I did my bit to support their economy by buying a key chain (hey, a people that, as a rule, do not sell alcohol can't expect more economic support from me than that, I am sorry), but for the most part, tourists pop in and pop out again without really understanding the 'facts on the ground'. Hangover willing, I am taking a tour of the central West Bank on Friday to get a better grasp.
Attached are a few pics from the day.
Shalom / שָׁלוֹם / حالة حبّ وسلام,
1) DSC00003 - Overlooking Holy City from the Mount of Olives
2) 000_0985 - Next to some of Jerusalem's holiest sights
3) DSC00013 - At the Wailing Wall; you write down a request for a blessing or help from God and put it in between the bricks of the wall. I asked the Jewish God for my foreskin back - he was not amused.
4) DSC00024 - Entering Palestine
5) DSC00025 - The entrance to Bethlehem
6) DSC00045 - Graffiti on the wall
*Political aside here - skip at will:
I am sympathetic to the Palestinians - at least the ones who aren't blowing up Jews. I am also, however, sympathetic to the Jews who are getting blown up by Palestinians, so I cannot begrudge them security measures, even if used overzealously as a guise for further colonisation. It's a maddeningly intractable situation full of mutual wrongs, so in discussions with Mary Keany over drinks last night, we agreed on the following solution for peace in the Israel-Palestine conflict:
1) The Old City will become a world city, under the jurisdiction of neither, but the UN, guaranteeing free access to all regardless of religion
2) Israel will pull back to the green line at a measured pace; for each year free from attacks, Israel will return 5% of the land it has occupied. This will put the onus on the Palestinians to break the cycle of violence and the Israelis to stop the cycle of land-grabs. It will also give Israel two decades to plan for and extract its recalcitrant settlers from the West Bank and the Palestinians to build up a government that can govern the reverted territory.
Neither side will be fully happy with this, but all good compromises leave everyone equally pleased and displeased.
Easy-peasy-lemon-squeezey, right? Mary and I should rule the world.
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