Holy Site Leapfrog

Today was our whirlwind tour of Jerusalem’s Holy Sites… beginning our morning at the Mount of Olives, where we looked out across terraces of white stone tombs towards the walls of the Old City; The Dome of the Rock shimmering in the early sunlight. We moved on to Pater Noster, where Jesus taught his disciples the Lord’s Prayer. Then to The Old City, walking the Via Dolorosa and running our hands along the polished stone where Jesus rests while Simon takes the cross. Winding through a spice-filled bazaar to the roof of the Church of the Holy Sepulchre, where we wandered through a series of dark chapels and caves, passing through to touch the rock at Golgotha. Breaking for lunch, we demolished several tables full of perfectly crisped falafel and creamy hummus. Up again and over to the Western Wall, where we passed through several security checkpoints to march directly up to the Dome of the Rock, it’s blue and green tiles sparkling in the sun. We moved down and around to the Wailing Wall, where you don’t understand why people are bracing their heads and hands against the wall until you get up to the stones, which draw you in with almost electric force and you have to hold on just to stay on your feet in a place where God is so viscerally present.
I could have spent days in each of these places: absorbing, praying, watching, feeling. The Spirit is so alive here; everyone is on fire. The Old City is labyrinthine and smells like incense, cumin and garbage. The Holy Sepulchre is dark and sad, but with tiny dripping candles lit in the blackest corners. The extremes of dark and light are present in every sense. I’m doing my best to “stay present in things I don’t understand,” as Justi says. In the midst of that, I’m grateful for the smooth, warm ancient stones to hold onto and to lean into. Amen.