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Copyright: ©2009 Rusty Wright
JERUSALEM’S DELICATE BALANCING ACT
By: Rusty Wright
JERUSALEM – It’s easy to see why this city is the focus of so much world attention.
As my traveling companions – fellow journalists – and I meandered through Old Jerusalem, a group of Asian pilgrims snaked down the crowded Via Dolorosa carrying a cross. Hasidic Jews in traditional black suits and hats scurried by on foot or bicycle. Muslim calls to prayer reverberated.
Our Israeli guide joked that on some special holidays, he’s surprised that World War III hasn’t broken out on the Via Dolorosa (“Way of Suffering”). Hordes of Christian pilgrims, Jews preparing for the Sabbath, and Muslims traveling for Friday prayers all converge on the narrow streets.
Things felt peaceful this day. Busloads of tourists scoured religious landmarks – which are legion – and enjoyed food from street vendors and bistros. Smells of pastries, fish, veggies, and other roasted delights wafted through the air.
Shops hawked crosses and menorahs, antiquities, guidebooks in English, Spanish, French, German … I lost track ... and T-shirts. My favorite bore a large yellow smiley face with skullcap and long side curls. The motto: “Don’t Worry, Be Jewish.”
This fascinating city bustles with contrasts: Jews, Muslims, Christians. Synagogues, mosques, churches galore. Religious Jews wearing tassels, praying at the Western Wall. Secular Jews in jeans, shorts, or even a slinky barebacked wedding dress like the lovely bride wore as she posed for pictures with her groom near the Old City walls. Hasidic Jews just look the other way, my Israeli friend explained.
The nation is a scholar’s and tourist’s haven, teeming with history and archaeology. Significant excavations continue even in the middle of Jerusalem. Workers beneath the Old City filled bags with dirt for sifting and study. We explored underground caverns. So many layers of ruins exist that the planned subway line must be built many stories down to avoid harming important artifacts.
Hopping a city bus, I asked the passenger just behind the driver if the vacant seat beside him was taken. “I only paid for one seat,” he replied with a smile. “I thought maybe this was the VIP section,” I countered. “I’m honored you would think that!” he responded.
We launched into lively discussion of the news of the day. Like the saying goes, if you have two Israelis, you get three opinions. Lots of friendly people seem eager to talk and assist. Many speak English.
David, the ancient shepherd turned king whose name is ubiquitous here, wrote three millennia ago, “Pray for the peace of Jerusalem: ‘May those who love you be secure. May there be peace within your walls and security within your citadels.’" Still relevant advice for a region in conflict.
As we sat in a government conference room meeting with Jerusalem’s mayor, Nir Barkat, I asked what his biggest challenge has been during his short tenure. Smiling wistfully, he explained his dream of establishing one unified Jerusalem. He seems intent on making his complex city a shining star for the watching world.
In a nearby garden is a tomb likely similar to the one in which Jesus was buried. As I entered, a Russian speaker who appreciated my survival Russian began asking me questions that exceeded my language skills. Turned out he wanted me to take his picture inside. I obliged, then exited after him. But I had to return for a better look.
Once inside again, alone, I realized the tomb was very small, very quiet, and very empty. I pondered. What might the Prince of Peace contribute to the peace of Jerusalem?
Rusty Wright is an author and lecturer who has spoken on six continents. He holds Bachelor of Science (psychology) and Master of Theology degrees from Duke and Oxford universities, respectively.
"Real Answers™" furnished courtesy of The Amy Foundation Internet Syndicate. To contact the author or The Amy Foundation, write or E-mail to: P. O. Box 16091, Lansing, MI 48901-6091; email@example.com
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