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Natalia / Natalia in the Holy Land / Israel: Day 3

Israel: Day 3

25 January, 201025 January, 2010 0 comments Natalia in the Holy Land Natalia in the Holy Land
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\"Out of darkness comes light, a twilight unto the heights
Crown heights burnin\' up all through the twilight\" - Matisyahu lyrics

 

 

Today we visited the Mount of Olives and walked on the path known as Via Dolorosa, which essentially is supposed to mark the route Jesus took carrying the cross to the crucifixion. I must say that, as a lover of contradictions, I found it particularly striking that most of the way snakes around the Arab quarter; the juxtaposition of religious pilgrims and everyday Arab merchants was arresting. On the way there we had visited the garden of Gethsemane (where Jesus was betrayed by Judas and arrested); seeing as how I am somewhat skeptical of religious cites that claim to mark some biblical story, I must admit that I really enjoyed being in the garden from an entirely literary perspective: Boris Pasternak has a beautiful poem that bears the name of the garden as its title and it is one of my favorite pieces of poetry in any language (the original is in Russian).

 

On the way to the first \"station\" of the Via Dolorosa we also stopped at St. Anne\'s, a church dedicated to Mary\'s mother. This church is renowned for having incredible acoustics so we asked permission to use them...we marched in quietly, took our seats, and began singing \"Amazing Grace\"....it was incredible! Holy acoustics!!! There is no way to really convey this, so I am posting a video taken by Hunter.

We then followed the Via Dolorosa until we ended at the Church of the Holy Sepulcher, which encompasses both Golgotha (where Jesus was crucified) and the area of the Resurrection. The church had a very marked Orthodox feel, which I found very comfortable, but which the Protestants in our group found new and somewhat disconcerting.

Overall, today had an incredible religious feel and very little political/archeological discussion took place.

On a tangent, let me introduce Ohad. He is our 22 year-old security guard and medic! He recently finished his service in the Israeli Defense Forces, where he worked in Counter-terrorism in Gaza (of all assignments). Having Ohad has been incredible, not only because we all seem to have adopted him as one of our own with great ease, but because he is opinionated and informed and can provide a perspective from a real Israeli; its an invaluable resource, especially for those among us who have never met someone from Israel before. Ohad is currently working as a security guard before beginning the application process for Medical School, and although he talks freely about his experiences in Gaza and the IDF, one can tell that they have scared him. As he says, \"I was the medic, so you can imagine there are plenty of stories I don\'t tell you.\" How trite everything we say or do on this trip suddenly becomes if you forget that there are eighteen year-olds pulling shrapnel out of their friends in parts of this tiny speck of a country, no? Ohad keeps us grounded, he keeps us from forgetting what we are actually here to change.

Tonight we went out to celebrate Ohad\'s birthday in Jerusalem. We sat around a big table and talked and sang for a good portion of the night, even though we were all exhausted from a day of walking. Several of us did shots of Arak for his birthday, which is an aniseed liquor that has an incredibly high alcohol content (ours was at about 70%, but it can go up to 90%). Needless to say, my body was not too happy with me the next morning.

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