You may have noticed that I have not recently posted anything on my blog; to say that I have been busy is an understatement. I have spent the last two weeks learning, tasting, inhaling, seeing and feeling Jerusalem. All five senses are in use every day – the smell of fresh baked bread and cookies from the baker just behind my apartment; the sounds of buses, and vendors, and people as they go through their days; the taste of the delicious food – hummus, falafel, shawarma, and Arabic coffee. The sight of the old city walls, the stone streets, Augusta Victoria hospital and the never-ending beautiful blue sky; the touch of the sun, the warmth in the handshake of someone I’ve just met, the feel of an olive branch in my hand as I comb the olives from its leaves. All are wonderful sensory experiences that will never leave my memory.
My mind will also never let me forget the following sensory experiences either. The smell of refuse because the Palestinians in East Jerusalem are not provided with regular sanitation services as the settlers and residents of West Jerusalem are, even though they pay the same taxes. The sight of people being herded like cattle into cages, on a daily basis, to go through a turnstile to get to their jobs because they live on the wrong side of a barrier built by the Israelis. The taste of despair that hangs in the air, as people are evicted from their homes that their families have lived in for generations because there may be a garden under their city that King David may have walked in at some time. The sound of the spit hitting the ground at my feet because I held a sign that said “Stop the Occupation.” The touch of the butt of a loaded machine gun on my arm, as a soldier walks down the aisle of a bus checking passports and residency permits.
The dichotomy is disconcerting, disturbing and difficult to experience. I have formed a tentative explanation for all that I’ve experienced. I’m deliberately choosing not to share that explanation now. Instead, I invite you along on my journey. I will describe for you what I see and hear and experience. I will share with you the stories that I am told by the people I meet. At the end of the journey, let’s compare explanations and we’ll see if they are the same.
In the meantime, I have what may seem like an odd prayer for you: I pray that your beliefs, your opinions and your emotions about the Middle-East are challenged, shaken, rattled and changed as a result of what you read here. God's peace be with you and me and with everyone here in Jerusalem.