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Tuesday, August 2, 2011

Looking Back [Updates in Progress]

I've been back in Philadelphia for twenty-four hours.
The first thing I noticed was how green is Mt. Airy, even with the summer heat waves: there is so much grass and so many green trees in comparison with the rocky landscape of Jerusalem punctuated with tropical plants and flowers in every color.
I've been back more than fifty hours now. As I walked in Valley Green Park along the Wissahickon, savoring the intense woodsy greens so different from the more spare, often succulent, tropical greens and burst of color in Israel. I also considered the local bedrock; it is deep grey and black and shiny with mica. The houses here are also dark - I never noticed how dark. I like brown and grey stone. But there something about the golden stone of Jerusalem, from earth red to creamy white, with chunks of chocolate obsidian and flint. The earth and stone in Jerusalem reflects the colors of the skins of all the humans who are said to be created from it. I imagine the people indigenous to the forests here have different stories...
I've been home more than a week now. I have only one word to describe Jerusalem, Israel, Palestine and my experiences there: complicated.
I am still regularly deeply concerned about the state of affairs in Israel and Palestine.
I am also still deeply hopeful and prayerful. 
As I close this blog I leave a link to a site whose photos take me back: the Jerusalem Photo Archive.
Thank you for traveling with me. 

Friday, July 29, 2011

Immahoth (Our Mothers)

More sculptures from the Mamilla Mall outdoor gallery:


Hannah - a praying woman

Rachel Immanu (Our Mother)

Tzakat Rachel (Rachel's Cry - for her missing children)
This one is so powerful for me, Rachel's now-empty womb has formed its own tongue and is shrieking.

Devorah under her palm tree

Miryam with what should be a hand drum

These images bear witness to the power of these sacred stories to transcend time, space and culture, to reveal old and new Torah, again and again.

Thursday, July 28, 2011

St. George College, Parish House, Cathedral and Grounds

The Cathedral and grounds of St. George are home to a Pilgrim Guest House, College (that offers pilgrim courses), the Cathedral, a Parish House, Diocesan Offices, Bishop's House, museum, gardens and more.

It is a great privilege to live in community here for my final week. Each day is bound with prayer and/or Eucharist. The emphasis on pilgrimage here (as opposed to tourism) means constantly discerning for God's guidance in setting out each day and in reflecting on the sights, sounds, conversations and experiences. My fellow pilgrims are a source for discernment and inspiration as well. The Cathedral congregation is fluid and welcoming. Those of us who pray Evening Prayer are few but faithful.
The Parish House above: look for the stained glass windows in the slideshow at the very bottom.
The property is beautiful and the appointments are exquisite. It is a lot like living in a castle!

The College of St. George (sitting room pictured above) has become one of my favorite places.
Look for pictures of its chapel and grounds, and more of the interior in the slideshow below.

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

Calvary: Walking in the Way of the Cross

Today I walked the way of the Cross. I walked the Via Dolorosa.

In truth, I had not felt the call to the Church of the Holy Sepulcher in the past seven weeks. Today I thought I would just stop by and visit, like an old friend. But when I got to the place where I could first see Calvary's Cross (the cross on top of the Golgotha Chapel), my breath caught in my throat and I felt the holiness of the place, in the midst of the street, in the middle of the market as I looked up at that cross and began making my way towards it, as had generations of pilgrims before me, walking in the footsteps of Jesus.

The Church of the Holy Sepulcher is an overwhelming collection of churches and chapels enfolded under one massive structure.
For me the most holy place there is the double chapel formed by the intersection of the Calvary (Crucifixion, Golgotha) Chapel and the Place of Nailing (where Jesus was nailed to his cross). The intersection, an arch leading from one to another, has the words Stabat Mater, "where his Mother stood." (I did not get a good shot of the mosaic inscription.)

The Calvary Chapel also has some of the old bedrock from the Golgotha Hill. The rock of Jerusalem is the enduring image I am taking with me from this trip: the rock on which Ibrahim/Abraham bound Ishmael/Isaac and from which Muhammad ascended, now in the Dome of the rock, the stone walls of Jerusalem - old and new, the surviving wall of the temple in which the Living God resided, and the rock hill on which God-in-human-form shed his blood and died. These rocks speak to me. They are the bones and soul of this holy city.

Here is a slide show:

What's in a Name?

Haram Al-Sharif or Temple Mount?

Professor Amina Wadud reminded a group in a talk I heard some years ago that to speak a name is to invoke a single tradition when that name is allied with one and only one tradition. She spoke of and to those of us who were engaged in inter-religious discourse who talked about Hagar and Abraham rather than Hugr and Ibrahim.
The professor who guided us through the Dome of the Rock and the Al-Aqsa Mosque yesterday explained to us that Al-Haram al-Qudsi al-Sharif (meaning "the Noble Sanctuary") was the Arabic name for the site and that he and many other Muslims heard in the Jewish traditional name, the Temple Mount - also used by many Christians - an erasure of Muslim presence, history, culture and religion. The Jewish temple has been gone for almost 2000 years. The mosques have been there for more than 1300 years. In any tradition, the holy place is a noble sanctuary.
I also know that  many people still mourn the loss of the Temple and treasure its remaining Western wall. I count myself among them. For some, the absence of the temple is compounded by the presence of other religious sites on the same contested ground. And I understand that the words "the Temple Mount" are an essential reminder of  sacred history and lineage. And there are some who seek a third temple in place of the mosques - I am not among them.
The language seems to force the speaker - even the peace-loving and seeking speaker in an inter-religious conversation - to choose a side, a polarity in the binary. Of course I am a "both/and" woman.