Friday, 2 April 2010

Peace and Sword

I have not come to bring peace but sword...

And a sword shall pierce your own heart, too...

And so I am back to the normal life, back to the world of reason and subdued emotions - to look at it with the eyes that have changed. Yesterday I shared a cab to the airport with someone who had the exactly opposite views from my own - and Big Brother, as you know, is watching you. I was escorted right to the passport control in Ben Gurion ... As I was saying good-bye to my courteous and friendly escort, she wondered whether I was really that sad to leave. It's not just leaving, I said, it's all this. And none of us could really say anything else. What is there to say?.. Well, good-bye - and stay safe, I smiled. She raised her hands halfway up through the air, thrust them back down again, nodded with a sad smile - and left. Stay safe. Yeah, right...

I have been blessed and privileged to spend the Holy Week and Easter in Jerusalem - the most special, but also the most challenging time in the Holy City. Holy Thursday was a special night in Jerusalem. We prayed on the Mount of Olives, in the Peace Garden of the Sisters of Zion - an order founded by a Jewish convert to Catholicism, father Alphonse Mary Ratisbonne - and then went down, through the Garden of Gesthemane, to the Kidron Valley (the Valley of the Shadow of death).

Some stairs lead up from the valley to St. Peter's in Gallicantu, a new church built next to the place where the house of Caiaphas once was. These would not be the same stairs that Jesus would have walked on, the ones that were used in his time led straight up to the house, whereas the modern ones start somewhat closer to the entrance into the valley - but you can see the ruins of the 2000-year-old stairs near the church. The ancient steps were decorated with red lanterns and a few people would sit on them, scatterred in a picturesque manner - some to the right, some to the left, narrow, half-ruined staircase - in silence and darkness, meditating, in awe.

I imagined what it would have been like back then - with no city lights and no cars, like a street on Panarea. Bats, olive trees, jasmine blossom, moonlight, a huge courtyard with fires, like the ones we would set up on the streets on a cold night like this, soldiers laughing, people eating... Peter loved the Lord so much, not less so when he sweared he didn't know him - yet he was betrayed by his own weakness, as we are, over and over again. My Lord and my King, the Lover of my soul, was spit at by the leaders his own people, the ones whom he longed to gather under his wings as a mother hen gathers her chicks.

Good Friday is a day of an endless Via Dolorosa, pilgrims singing under our windows from 5 am. I made my way of the cross at 7 in the morning, passing by an occasional group, but mostly couples and individuals praying the stations on their own. I prayed the last three outside the Church of the Resurrection, which was now closed - and an Ethiopian woman fingered my scarf to check the quality. As I lifted up my eyes, the police were already there, setting up roadblocks. The real Via Dolorosa was beginning. Soldiers, police and special forces in hoards, lined up along El Wad. With no real action happenning, they were taking photos, filming, chatting and drinking water on side streets.

A special forces unit geared up for street combat on a side street just below us looked really bored and would chat up the passers-by. They informed us politely that they would need to be outside our door. But nothing was going on and they were all too happy to have their photos taken, compliments galore. Stay safe, I said, as I took the last one.

The Via Dolorosa itself coincided with people going to El Aqsa for midday prayer, the two throngs of two faiths forming a letter T, merging with one another just outside our main entrance. The police and special forces have left by then, people left to themselves to figure out how to get through the narrow street packed to the brim. A walk that would take 5 minutes on an ordinary day took an hour and a half in this horror of a procession.

Sunday morning found us on the terrace, celebrating Mass in the soft morning light, overlooking the two domes of the Holy Sepulchre and the mount of Olives, reliving the story - and as for me, saying good-bye. Feeling unexpectedly peaceful, I went for a walk to the Potter's Field. Wanting to go everywhere one last time, I could never get enough of Jerusalem. Having seen the best and the worst of humanity in such a short time, what will I remember? The morning of the Resurrection? The fragrance of the Stone of Unction? The sister who told me she will pray to be like me, joyful? Singing the Yedid Nefesh in a synagogue? Praying in tongues at the foot of Mount Moriah, in the place where time and space bend and cease to apply? A discussion on an unusually warm Jerusalem night, next to shelves of books in a language I don't know, when the most dangerous idea of them all suddenly seemed to make perfect sense and I whispered, breathlessly: "I want to know more!"? David's Tomb? The soldiers? The Wall? Crazy shabbat meals? Tear gas and shooting? The realisation that nothing is what it seems? All of it?

Jesus - the King of the Jews, Pilate wrote mockingly... For a granddaughter of a revolutionary, a cousin of politicians, who grew up with guns and ammunition in her own house - I guess campaigning for Jaffa oranges would never really be an option. My grandfather was sentenced to death three times for what he believed in - then finally executed 20 years later by his own party mates. We don't live in a perfect world.

Swords and ploughshares... Yet you have no choice but to prevail. You cannot loose a single war. Not peace but sword... The one that cuts to the heart.

Stay safe.

No comments:

Post a Comment