Day 27: Jerusalem market, Way of the Cross, Church of the Holy Sepulcher, West Wall, Dome of the Rock, American Colony
Today was a whirlwind. We did what the typical tourists do today: visited all the most famous places in Jerusalem. While most people have a great spiritual connection to the places we visited, I (sadly, but not surprisingly) did not have any of these. Don’t get me wrong, I was fascinated and found it really cool, but I had no awakening spiritual moment, no burning bush or manna from heaven moment. You will see why as I continue on.
We started off on the Via Dolorosa (which was the same street we were living on that week). As we traversed “The Way of Sorrow/Grief/Suffering”, there wasn’t much suffering at all. Most of the way was lined with shop keepers and merchants, trying to get us to buy their goods. It was a very different feeling knowing that this may have been the path Jesus took to and from trials. Despite the peddlers, many people still traveled down this path on their spiritual journey. We saw many tour groups and several processions of people singing, chanting, or reading from scripture in their own languages (Spanish and Chinese were just the few I saw).
I had a slight hang up at the security checkpoint when I realized that I accidently left a knife in my bag that went through the scanner… yeah… HUGE “Oops!” moment… Anyway, after I talked my way out of that one, we finally reached the West Wall (aka: “The Wailing Wall”, but Jews don’t like calling it that because of the connotation). In fact, there was very little crying at the West Wall when we were there. Most people were celebrating. We ran into at least four boys having their Bar Mitzvahs at the wall. It was really cool, because people there had no shame; they did not care about the tourists running around with their digital cameras and recorders taking pictures and video. Our professor was telling us that this is an exciting day for the entire family; their son just became a man. They celebrate the occasion unashamed because it is an event everyone should enjoy and celebrate.
It hit me how sometimes we can be so ashamed to tell our best friends about how much Jesus has changed our lives. These guys were dancing and singing in public, hugging and kissing each other, shouting and clapping, having a great time. Yet we can’t sit down and have a conversation with someone about the Greatest Love of all time. It was really eye-opening to me and made me think a lot about my own faith.
We moved on the Church of the Holy Sepulcher –or as I like to call it, “Jerusalem’s Jesus Theme Park”. Why do I call it that? It’s not to be disrespectful at all, but I am telling you as I walked through the “church”, I didn’t feel like I was in a church of that time frame or region at all. People were pushing others out of the way, everyone was touching everything, children were running around, babies were crying, and tour guides were talking loudly over the crowds either with their voices or loud speakers. To see my full review of the theme p—church, you can read about it here.
Something else that really struck me was when we went to the Dome of the Rock. Up there, it was so quiet and reverent, very different than what I thought it would be. Well, it was quiet until an obnoxious Christian tour group came by, with the guide lady squawking on her yak-box, “…if these stones could speak, they would tell a story… everyone know what this building is? Well, since most of you do, I might remind you that God still does love the Muslims too, and we need to love them so they can see the Truth …”
I was appalled. Look, I may not agree with Islam either and I may agree that they need to hear the Truth too, but I don’t go to one of their holy sites and say that on a loud speaker for all of them to hear! I’m sorry, but that was just rude. My girlfriend had to direct me away because I was angry about the arrogance and audacity of the lady. If she wanted to tell that to the people, why didn’t she tell them on the bus? I just didn’t understand. She wouldn’t want some Muslim tour guide to come up to her church and start talking about how Christians still need to submit to Allah, would she? Jeez!
So that was my day. Pretty busy and ridiculous, but I wouldn’t trade it for the world. All in all, it was a great learning experience for me in more ways than one. I can’t wait to see what tomorrow holds.
Following His Call,