|At the Western Wall - Monday morning|
Sunday ended with an evening walking tour through the old city – very quiet in some spots, but in others enlivened by Jewish Purim celebrations. At the Western Wall we could watch a fascinating mixture of spirituality, as Hassidim prayed and chanted right against the stones, while a little further back young men jumped around in fancy dress and with multi-coloured wigs. In the streets of the Jewish quarter we ran into groups and small processions who were clearly having a good time, whether or not embracing the traditional bounds of spiritual exaltation.
|The Dome of the Rock|
From that point on, it was free time: some went shopping, while others of us found ourselves still doing serious stuff. Phil and I spent a couple of hours in the Citadel of David, having an English guided tour by an Israeli volunteer. The views from the top were splendid – and it was interesting to hear about “new neighbourhoods” rather than what we now knew to be illegal Jewish settlements, and to hear the modern parts of the story told from a very different perspective from that shared with us over recent days. But to be fair most of the 4,000 year story told through the museum exhibits was put across with humour and I think no obvious bias – and the Biblical narrative, while respected, was viewed with a degree of scepticism from time to time.
Back at the hotel we left Brian, who is staying on for a few days for various meetings, and said our heartfelt thank yous to Amir, who then drove us to the airport. The challenges of Ben Gurion security surmounted, and the one hour’s delay endured, we were eventually on our way home.
I don’t feel ready yet to reflect more deeply on these past ten days than I have already done on a daily basis in this blog – where I appreciate I have often shied away from doing much more than simply recording the bare bones of our encounters. Many of them have been deeply moving, and nearly all of them have been deeply troubling. As we are brought face to face with the plight of the Palestinian people, we not only see one of the great fault lines in the contemporary world, but are also challenged in terms of our own human response. Do we care enough to act on their behalf? And if so, how are we to act?
I’m wanting more time for reflection, but meanwhile sign off this blog with the offer to come and talk to anyone who wants to hear more about our experiences and whatever might flow from them – and that’s an offer which I am sure will come equally from every member of the group.
Linda posted her final reflection on the URC blog yesterday:-
The question hangs in the air, What can we do? Every place we visited we heard the same five cries:
1. Tell others of our stories
2. Read and understand more about the situation
4. Bring others to visit
5. Help financially
I think that provides at least the beginning of an answer to my questions.