In God’s Land: Jerusalem
March 17, 2015
God is everywhere. That is what I remember what my grade school religion teacher told me. God is here. God helped me cross the finish line during the Jerusalem half-marathon. He was also watching if I cheated during the race …hehe.
During the race there were lots of opportunities to cheat, cut corners, or plain just give up. There were stretches along the course where you can just make a quick turn and nobody would know. I know I will not win it anyway so why bother. Beside I have I every bit of good reason not to be at the starting line: I have metastatic cancer in my lungs. But I was not going to be robbed of this opportunity. I am hoping in between the pain of running the hilly terrain of Jerusalem and the solitude it brings, I find peace.
Magnificence of this place is striking. The history and the scenic view the city provided was inspiring. The pavement on the course might have been man-made but this is God’s land, therefore holy. There were olive trees, which made me wonder how old they were? Were they around during the time of Christ? Are there olives in Mt. Olives? Perhaps there is something in running that enhances your senses to absorb your pain in your body, the loud cheers of the crowd, and appreciate the beauty of Jerusalem. You notice everything and I could not help but appreciate the significance of this place. I am blessed.
Catharsis, a purification or purgation of emotions that brings about spiritual renewal or tension – Merriam/Webster dictionary. This is my Jerusalem marathon: a cathartic moment.
After my 13.1 mile cleansing, my wife and I got to see the preparation for Shabbat. The hostel were we stayed hosted a Shabbat dinner serving a full vegetarian meal (I can live here). Guest pay for the meal but if you want help out in the kitchen, like cut vegetables, you get a free meal too.
It is not the traditional Shabbat meal prepared at home with fancy silverware and mapah levanah (white table clothes), but the essence of the meal is there. There is the Shabbat candles, Shabbat challah (whole-wheat bread), wine, prachim (flowers), etc. I am sure the food taste good too as well as company of fellow travelers in the table.
There is something to be said about food in this place. It was as if all the fruits, vegetables, and food were touch or made by God himself. The oranges from Jaffa, even bottled ones, taste sweeter. The olives were plump and tasty, perhaps picked from hundred year old trees in the surrounding area. I could go on and list all the typical Israeli food that I tasted which was influenced by many cultures when this country was formed. These are the tahina, hummus, falafel, salad, halva, kebab, and many more. I love it.
A trip to the Mahena Yehuda market is an experience that cannot be miss, especially on a Friday. It is were the locals shop for their daily needs. Going there is an assault to your all senses. Amazing place to explore, taste, and learn. I am definitely not in Chicago. This early I know I am going to miss this place.
The Old City.
The Old City is about one square mile and it is densely packed with more than 45,000 residents that includes Jews, Muslim, and Christians. There are churches, museums, schools, apartments, markets, toilets, eateries, etc., and history. The city is divided into four quarters: Armenian, Jews, Arabs, and Christians.
I came to walk the Via Dolorosa and it is more than I bargained for. The narrow streets were full of merchants selling their wares from fruit juices to pots and pans. If you can think of anything that you would need on a daily basis it is there. The air is punctuated with all sorts of perfume, scents, spices, and vendors calling your attention. It is hard to imagine these are the steps (the Via Dolorosa) that Jesus took on the way to Calgary or Golgotha.
The path of the Via Dolorosa ends at the Church of the Holy Sepulchre, the place according to Christians is where Christ was crucified, died,and was buried.
There are many artifacts on display in the church but the most electrifying object for me was the stone where it is believe where Jesus laid and cleaned after he was brought done from the cross. I touched the stone much like all the visitors coming and felt something inside me. The stone was cold to touch but it pulsated and gave me warmth. What was it telling me?
In Jerusalem I was hoping for answers and peace. I saw and absorbed all the sights and sound of Jerusalem. I indulged in the experience. I prayed to all the Gods (Jewish, Orthodox, Christians, Jesus) and went to all the religious sites, including at the Western Wall. I contemplated. I ran its streets. I swam in the Dead Sea. Met many travelers who come to this place seeking whatever they seek. At the end, it is left to me, and those who came here. It is about believing. And in this place it is not hard to believe.
P.S. We are at the airport now on the way to Rome. The next leg of our adventure. Hopefully, I get tickets to see the Pope tomorrow.