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God’s Hand? Today is 12/14/09 in Jerusalem.

It is gray outside, looks like we may have rain.

Breakfast this morning cornflakes and yogurt, cold-cuts and cheese, bread and Turkish coffee, grounds and all.

Trying to pack for today’s outing and decide to bring the laptop to my meeting with Lela.

Can’t seem to get my act together with packing choices and realize I am late to be walking to our 11:30 meeting at Jaffa Gate. Outside the convent  I see it is 11:20 and decide to call Lela but can not figure out how to turn on my iPhone roaming for International calling… so cautious not to incur any overseas charges of any kind, I now realize I probably needed a overseas  plan? I don’t know – I do know I am late and just have to get there… I start running with pack, laptop, in hiking boots down to the bottom of the first hill – I have a little over a mile of hills to cover.. Walk up that hill to the North Eastern Corner of the Old City and start running again. Hard running in these boots (and on slippery stones from a morning mist) but I have to make up time. I wasn’t counting on this.

Jaffa  Gate. I finally make it out of breath, and Lela is sitting there by the Jaffa gate waiting (I am 15 minutes late). Not a good start. We start walking out from the old city and I still can’t catch my breath.

We walk through a new shopping mall.

There is the YMCA that was built to honor the three religions and looks architecturally more like a church than most protestant churches in America that I have seen.

King David Hotel. Lela sets me straight to some of the complexities occurring here and sheds light on my naive first impressions. “…need to ask the question, ‘what is a Jew?’ ”

IMG_2764_LelaGGerman Colony. Looks so much like Europe I forget I am in Israel. Like I would know for having only been here for a few days – but quite the contrast from the Old City.

We stop at a little neighborhood store so I can buy band-aides. The run caused a nail/toe problem and I want to nip that in the bud before it gets worse.

We have lunch at Luchana’s. The food is GREAT. I can not think of a restaurant in Laguna Beach that is better (and that says a lot considering Laguna’s restaurant reputation).

The lunch conversation is worshipful and insightful – I wish I had recorded it. Lela is writing and has written some very interesting books – her current one especially, which I do not feel at liberty to divulge.

We talk about God,  Islamic conversions to Christianity from multiple simultaneous dreams of Christ crucified (Holy Spirit indeed) and the need to keep that quite among themselves for fear of death (sounds like the early Jews and Saul’s persecution  by death of the converts), Jews, the Jewish nation, the history of the nation and the conversion from desert to paradise, churches, Islam state of affairs, complexities in the Middle East, Icons (Lela co-authored the book “Windows to Heaven” [about icons]) and how she feels the Kotel (Wailing Wall / Western Wall) is the largest icon in the world, her experience at the Holy Sepulcher (chills as only the recounting of the Holy Spirit’s presence can), about some of the people she has met and their conversion stories… amazing stuff and affirming that God is good and present and working in our lives.

We leave Luchana’s and head to her neighborhood and her house, Lela points to a trendy restaurant that has been bombed three times by terrorists, and stopping to buy a knife for her son in law from Miki the street merchant.

Lela wants to give me a book to read on the Holy Sepulcher before I go to visit it, but can’t find the book in her bookshelf. She gives me a copy of “Windows to Heaven”.

My first day here a merchant of icons on Via Dolorossa said to me that “the old people, when they get a new icon say, ‘another icon, another window to heaven.’” I will write about that experience for my Consecrated Space Blog when I have time.

I walk back to the Old City, wanting to pray at the wall and insert a prayer or two but the light is waning and I loose that urge once inside Jaffa Gate. My joints are aching from the early run (knees) and I decide to get to Lion’s Gate and avoid a few long hills outside the Old City.

Of course I get lost and end up at the Kotel and the Dung Gate – which leads to the hilly walk I want to avoid.

I double back and get lost again thinking I am lost and it is now too dark to shoot anything….I am kvetching.

A couple police direct me to Lion’s gate and I set off in that direction grumbling more for lost time and more effort than I wanted this time of the day.

I hear singing.

I see movement.

I see police.

I approach.

israeli_police_at_mikes_mg_3421 A group of yeshiva students are dancing in joyous celebration of the lighting of the Menorah this 4th day of Hanukkah. They are surrounded by a protective shield of some 7 or eight armed police and 6 undercover police (first time I realized there are undercover among us).

Then I see Mike, and Abdu Achmad, whom I photographed my first day out just two days ago!

This celebration with protective guards are directly blocking the street in front of Mike’s restaurant in this section of the Muslim Quarter of the Old City on El Wad street down from the Via Dolorossa! Interesting timing and placement of events for me.

Mike is in his restaurant praying and looks worried. The Israeli students are making a statement (this verified by an undercover I interview after the celebration, who  likens this to the provocation with the houses in the West Bank).

I talk to Mike also, and he takes this as a slap, feeling the statement being made. The complexities Lela was talking about are showing.

I wonder why of all the places this happened in front of Mike’s place…

I am wondering about God’s Hand (in my life, at this time, in this place – and in the lives of us all, and in particular these people here, and why am I a witness to this moment given the timing of the day…)

I leave for a gate on the North side thinking it will be the easiest walk rather than Lion’s Gate and end up at Damascus Gate taking walk-by night shots on the way of merchants working.

Back at the convent guest house I pop a couple Advil from the plastic baggy of gel caps that Lela gave me, and go to bed. It’s 8:30pm.

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