Welcome: » Travelogue » Israel » A Day of Meetings and Stories. Today is 12/16/09 in Jerusalem.

A Day of Meetings and Stories. Today is 12/16/09 in Jerusalem.

Awoke 30 minutes late this morning – finally getting a bit more sleep. Breakfast was still waiting.

Planned the next three days and packed the camera gear accordingly.

Decided to try a new route today to avoid the walk down to Kidron Valley and up again to the Old City. Instead I think I will walk the Kidron Valley to the Garden of Gethsemane avoiding that hill up to the Old City. I will start my day at Dominus Flevit Chapel.

It is a nice walk – Kidron Valley by the Mount of Olives is being landscaped for a park – new stone walls are being stacked. They are beautiful.

At the end, of the walk, behind the Tomb of the Virgin, is a small cemetery that I walk through to a wall, and finally an opening that leads to the back patio area of the church of the Tomb…where there is a locked gate and an old, not to happy about my being there, Orthodox priest. I need him to unlock the gate which he finally does (he does not speak English and is one step from shoving me back the way I came), and shoes me from the restricted area like I’m a a troublesome fly.

The taxi drivers parked out front recognize me and say, “Where are you going? You want to go to Bethlehem today? It has been a week…”. I ask the ‘Stuff Man’ the price of his Mehnorah’s for Mel – Mel, they range from $5 – $80. – bit of a rip off if you ask me though I am sure they are originals from Soloman’s Temple…. I am sure he will haggle.

Walk up to Dominus Flevit (The Lord Wept).
“O Jerusalem, Jerusalem, which killest the prophets, and stonest them that are sent unto thee; how often would I have gathered thy children together, as a hen doth gather her brood under her wings, and ye would not!” Lk 13: 34

“And when he was come near, he beheld the city, and wept over it, Saying, If thou hadst known, even thou, at least in this thy day, the things which belong unto thy peace! but now they are hid from thine eyes.” Luke 19: 41,42

A Franciscan tells me I can not take commercial photos with out permission. I tell him what I am doing and my mission to restore arts patronage and visual beauty through the arts to American churches. He agrees it a worthy calling. His name is Brother Leo.

_mg_3560brotherleo It turns out he knows my friend Fr. Joe Scerbo. We talk a while about the crucifixion of Christ. He relates two meaningful crucifixes he has witnessed and never forgotten – images speak to the soul beyond language – one is in Oceanside CA, and the other in Assisi. The one in Assisi, he recounts, had the most beautiful look of peace and it was from seeing this that he realized it was with Joy that Jesus suffered the immense pain, anguish and humiliating rejection that He endured – Joy, knowing the end result of His sacrifice. That when it was done he had Peace… and Joy…

Brother Leo’s smile and distant eyes were upon the Lord’s Joy as he told me the story. He gives me a postcard to deliver to Fr. Joe and takes me into the back room to show me a crown of thorns made from a bush that is native to here and was the type used to make the crown of thorns pierced into the skull of Yeshua.

We hug – he asks to pray for my mission, its protection and blessing. He prays over me.

I walk down the hill to the Church of All Nations for a second visit and walk into a small private mass. After ward the priest tells me how beautiful it is to see people praying, worshiping. Beauty, and love. He is young and has the peace of God on his face.

I walk over to Lions Gate and  and to Mike’s for a water and continue to the Kotel. I hear gun shots behind me and am tempted to turn around and go look for them. I keep walking to the Wall. Several undercovers walk by (you can tell them as they have radios under their clothes and a communicator on their collar.

I go through security and enter the Western Wall. I pray for a bit and stuff a few prayers into an impossible space (so stuffed are the cracks with prayers already that one must crush in any new prayers).

I take some photos. Decide to leave but am stopped by a young man named Jacob. He asks if I am a Jew. I say I am by way of my mother but was not raised as a Jew. He says, “Then come, I will give you an experience.”

At a table of phylacteries, Jacob dresses me with a  hand-tefillin, or shel yad, on my left upper arm (the weaker arm) wrapping down to my hand and fingers; while the img_2802jeff_at_the_wall head-tefillin, or shel rosh, is placed above my forehead , with the strap going around my head and over the shoulders. He explains that the Torah commands that they should be worn to serve as a “sign” and “remembrance” that God brought the chlidren of Israel out of Egypt. “And you shall bind them as a sign upon your arm, and they shall be as totafot between your eyes.” (Shema).  “Hear O Israel, the Lord our God, the Lord is One. And you shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul and with all your might.” – he has me say the fist part in Hebrew. then explains what is meant by “the Lord is One” – he says it is not a quantity but means “all encompassing – everything”. The Lord is One.

I tell him I look like a warrior – he says that the Jews used to wear this into battle… I go back to the wall to recite the prayer scripture I am given.

I return the tefillin and Jacob tells me I need to learn about and embrace my Jewish roots. It is important, he tells me.

I go back out to the middle of the plaza and can not seem to leave. It just seems right to stand there. My mind is empty – not numb, just quiet. I think I should go, but I feel sort of held there. So I stay a while, listening with my eyes closed.

I head out toward the Church of the Holy Sepulcher. I am almost there when I feel this curiosity to pop into the Lutheran Church of the Redeemer. It is still open but only for another 15 minutes. So I hurry. It is plain inside but nice architecture. A wedding just took place (I am told only two weddings a month are conducted here and that a non-Jew cannot marry a Jew here – AND that only 2% in Jerusalem are Christian). I am asked to take a photo of the group – then another – then individual photos …. I end up being the wedding photographer….

I finally make it to the Church of the Holy Sepulcher. It is complex and rather empty…. I take a lot of photos and step out to leave as dusk has arrived. It is a perfect time for a shot of both interior and exterior as the light is even for both in luminosity… but people just stepped into what aI wanted to shoot. So I wait until they are done. But the waiting continues for quite a while as they have brought a bag of goods to lay on the slab of burial where Jesus was prepared for burial in the tomb. I decide to scrap the shot and turn to leave when I hear singing from a mall room of Coptics. I go inside and record their worship. When I enter back out into the fore square, I hear Catholic singing from inside the Church and catch a procession of worship from one section to another ending in the Catholic Chapel. Very beautiful.

In many ways, another day of amazing timing.

_mg_3835_tawfik Walking back through the Muslim Quarter I stop for a bite to eat. After I pay to leave, I end up in a long conversation with Tawlik, one of the family owners. He is philosophizing from having seen a National Geographic special on the wonders of the Animal World… about the miracles of nature and how it can only be God who created this. (actually, I wonder now if he wasn’t perhaps a Muslim Evangelist…). He brought up the nature of man as evil… God is good… etc. I mentioned I would put his picture on my Log and got his name to which he added, “just a man looking for the truth.”

Stayed up until 1am editing photos and still never finished the lot. Soon I will be behind unless I stay in on a rainy day and catch up.

What a day.

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  1. mike thornton
    Posted December 18, 2009 at 11:28 am | Permalink

    jeff, great stuff! keep up the good work, I pray you have the endurance. Mike

  2. Posted December 19, 2009 at 3:05 pm | Permalink

    Thanks Mike- we have been though a lot, brother! Thanks for the prayers.

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