Pilgrimage VI

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Yes, that’s a real camel, and yes I’m riding it with no one leading it, on the Mount of Olives, and yes that is really Jerusalem in the back ground. But no, I didn’t travel by camel – I took the middle eastern equivalent to a pony ride at the circus.

Last night was more eventful than I explained in the last post. When our group came out the the Church of the Nativity, we had a surprise waiting for us:

Bethlehem is presently under Palestinian control, and this was a home grown parade escorting a Palestinian who was just released from an Israeli prison. They had guns, they squealed tires and they flew not only the Palestinian flag but another one. It was similar to the Hezbollah flag, but not an exact match. A little too close for comfort…

We started this morning on the Mount of Olives, riding a camel and then walking down the same path the Christ used on Palm Sunday. (Matt. 21; Mark 11 & Luke 19) How do I know? Because there was and is one path down the Mount of Olives to that city gate. On this path, we had to go by the tombs of prophets Malachi, and Zechariah, and Haggai. Obviously, Christ would have as well. We stopped, as He did, at a spot where we had a good view of the Holy City. (Luke 19:41)

Here, as He viewed ( and we viewed) Mt. Moriah, where Abraham bound Isaac for sacrifice, and where David built his city, and where Solomon built God’s Temple and gave the Ark a home, He lamented the coming destruction of Jerusalem. Once He had walked through the palms and praises, He lamented again in Matthew 23:37. This one is more recognizable:

“Jerusalem, Jerusalem, you who kill the prophets and stone those sent to you,how often I have longed to gather your children together, as a hen gathers her chicks under her wings, and you were not willing.”

To show the infinite perspective of Christ as God, this same perspective is shown in 2 Sam. 24:16, 2 Kings 19:32, and 1 Chron. 21:15. Amazing.  For me, evidence that Christ is one with the Father. Also note that He mentioned the killing of the prophets, having just walked past some of their graves.

At this point in the day I have camel hair on my jacket and the dust of ancient Jerusalem on my boots. We stopped again at the Garden of Gethsemane, where He prayed and struggled with the upcoming crucifixion in the city He loved by the people He loved.

We finally made it to the ruins of David’s home, from which he looked down on Bathsheba and was convicted by Nathan the Prophet, and then we walked up to the old city walls. Here we had the pleasure of witnessing the bar mitzvah of a young boy:

At the same time, in a different part of the city, by the western wall, several elderly holocaust survivors were having the bar mitsvahs they missed because they were in concentration camps at age 12. Touching. Moving. Stirring. The more I thought about it, the more helpless I felt against the evil of the world. I heard later that this scene, as well as the parade in Bethlehem, made the world news. Sometimes I feel like Forrest Gump, wandering through history.

As I walked out of the walls of old Jerusalem and visited the ruins of the house of Caiphas, where He was held and tried, and where Peter denied him, the sound we heard was the stirring sound of the Muslim calls to prayer from the Mosques of the City:

This is the view from that house, with the Temple to the left and the graves of the prophets on the hill to the right, along with thousands of other Jews. The City of David has always been in turmoil, and today is no different. The Muslim call broadcasted over the City is an affront to the Jewish families who have no choice but to hear it five times a day. They cannot turn it off, change the channel, or get away from the call to worship an entity they do not believe is God.

Whether Jews, or Muslims, or American Christians, we should not try to force, coerce, or legislate worship or respect of a particular god. Jehovah – Christ – gives free will and our founding fathers of the United States wrote this concept into our Constitution. No particular faith is innocent of this behavior, but I’m going on record to say I’m not a fan of it. Christians should not push our faith through government any more than Muslims should blast the call to prayer in a way that non-muslims can’t escape it.

That’s just my two shekels worth.

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