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New Beginning

In the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit, Amen.

I began this journey in the name of the Most Holy Trinity. I wish to ‘conclude’ this journey in the same way.

My travels over the past five and a half months were a pilgrimage/sabbatical/holiday. I visited Dubai, Pakistan, Romania, Italy, Spain, Israel and Jordan. There were rich and varied experiences in each place. My thanks to all who hosted me and were kind to me along the way.

During the course of my travels I visited three of the four great Christian pilgrimage centres of the mediaeval world (and up to the present). These were Rome,

St Peter's Basilica, Vatican City

St Peter’s Basilica, Vatican City

Santiago de Compostella
The Santiago Cross (Cross of St James)

The Santiago Cross (Cross of St James)

and Jerusalem.
The Jerusalem Cross

The Jerusalem Cross


The fourth one that I missed was Canterbury Cathedral. Another time?

I give thanks to God for all the rich and varied experiences on this journey. I met family, friends and colleagues along the way. I made new friends along the way. I enjoyed four weeks renewing my long association with Pakistan and its people, their love and affection, their struggles and their challenges. I journeyed from afar with my brother, John, and his family, in his final illness, and had the privilege of celebrating his funeral Mass with the huge crowd of family, relatives, friends, neighbours from near and far who gathered to honour his goodness and decency and to support us in our grief and loss. Given my provenance of being overweight, desk-bound and averse to physical exercise, I achieved what was the unlikely goal of walking 1,000kms of the Camino Mozarabe from Granada to Santiago de Compostella, almost the entire length of Spain from south to north! I spent a month doing a Biblical Formation course at Ecce Homo in the heart of the Old City of Jerusalem.

Jesus said to him, “I am the way, the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through Me. (Jn 14:6)

On many evenings in these last months I have gladly taken time and effort to share with you my journey, my thoughts, my reflections. I thank you for your faithfulness and love in following me along the way. These 176 posts are a record of my pilgrim journey in text and photos. They form a deep well from which I can continue to draw nourishment in the coming months and years.

Jesús le dijo: Yo soy el camino, y la verdad, y la vida; nadie viene al Padre sino por mí. (Juan 14:6) [Spanish]

As I go forwards, I may make an occasional post that gathers my reflections as I look back on that journey. However, now that I am moving from pilgrim/sabbatical/holiday mode to my regular daily life and work, the almost daily posts and updates will cease.

Jésus lui dit: Je suis le chemin, la vérité, et la vie. Nul ne vient au Père que par moi. (Jean 14:6) [French]

I ask God to bless all those who by their generosity made this journey possible. I ask God to bless all those who hosted me along the way. I ask God to bless all those who were kind to me along the way. I ask God to bless all those who thought of me, prayed for me, showed concern for me, encouraged me, kept in touch with me, and journeyed with me along the way, which includes all of you who have been following this blog. I have enjoyed sharing my journey and my reflections with you. I hope you have found them interesting and helpful in your own journeys in the pilgrimage of life.

Gesù gli disse: « Io sono la via, la verità e la vita. Nessuno può venire al Padre, se non per mezzo mio. (Giovanni 14:6) [Italian]

Now that I am returned to Sydney and will be resuming my regular daily work, this particular pilgrimage/sabbatical/holiday journey has come to an end. But rather than seeing it as “ended”, as “finished”, as “over and done with”, I am rather trying to see it is a “new beginning”. I am not simply going back to work, as if nothing has happened! Rather, I am going forwards to work, changed, refreshed, renewed, a new man, precisely because of all that has happened! Now I bring those rich and varied experiences of the past months into my work, my relationships, my play, my prayer. I continue the pilgrim journey of life, enriched, simplified, fitter, more deeply immersed in mystery.


یسوع نے جواب دیا ، “میں راستہ ہوں میں سچا ئی ہوں اور زندگی بھی۔ میں ہی ایک ذریعہ ہوں جس سے تم باپ کے پاس جا سکتے ہو۔
(یوحنا 14:6)
[Urdu]

For what has been, thanks. For what I have learned, faith. For what is to come, hope. For what is (and ever will be in each present moment), love.


فَقالَ لَهُ يَسُوعُ: «أنا هُوَ الطَّرِيِقُ وَالحَقُّ وَالحَياةُ. لا أحَدَ يَأْتِي إلَى الآبِ إلّا بِي.
(ﻳﻮﺣﻨﺎ 14:6)
[Arabic]

Glory be to the Father, and to the Son, and to the Holy Spirit, as it was in the beginning, is now, and ever shall be. Amen.

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Madaba and Mount Nebo

Thursday 10th July 2014

Today is my last day in Jordan. I had arranged with the hotel for a car and a driver to take me to Madaba and Mount Nebo. I left at 9.00am.

Madaba is only about 40 minutes drive. It is famous for its mosaics, in particular, a 1,500 year old map of the Holy Land, which includes the oldest known map of Jerusalem. It is preserved in the floor of 19th century Greek Orthodox Church which was built over the site of the Byzantine Church where it was originally installed.

St George's Orthodox Church in Madaba, built over the mosaic map from the Byzantine church

St George’s Orthodox Church in Madaba, built over the mosaic map from the Byzantine church


The mosaic map shows accurate details of places in the ancient world in what are now Lebanon, Jordan, Israel and across the Nile to Egypt. The original map was estimated to be 15.6 x 6 metres in size and to have contained 2 million pieces! Quite a bit of the original has been lost, but there is still sufficient remaining to give a very good picture. In fact, the detail is so accurate that when the map was discovered under the rubble in 1884 during the construction of the new/present church, it enabled archaeologists to find biblical places that had been lost.
Mosaic Map of the Holy Lands in the floor of St George's Church, Madaba

Mosaic Map of the Holy Lands in the floor of St George’s Church, Madaba


There is particular interest in the section which shows Jerusalem. As mentioned above, this is the oldest known map of Jerusalem. It dates between 542AD and 570AD. The map can be dated so precisely because it shows a church which is known to have been dedicated in 542, but shows nothing built after 570AD. Among other places, it shows the gates, the Roman Cardo, the main street on the north-south axis (the line of white tiles across the middle of this section of the mosaic in the photograph below) and the Church of the Holy Sepulchre.
The map of Jerusalem in the mosaic in the floor of St George's Orthodox Church, Madaba

The map of Jerusalem in the mosaic in the floor of St George’s Orthodox Church, Madaba


For more information on Madaba see:
http://www.bibleplaces.com/madabamap.htm
http://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Madaba
http://www.christusrex.org/www1/ofm/mad/

MOUNT NEBO

Then we continued on to Mount Nebo. This place is famous for the following passage from the Bible:

Moses Dies and Is Buried in the Land of Moab

1 Then Moses went up from the plains of Moab to Mount Nebo, to the top of Pisgah, which is opposite Jericho, and the Lord showed him the whole land: Gilead as far as Dan, 2 all Naphtali, the land of Ephraim and Manasseh, all the land of Judah as far as the Western Sea, 3 the Negeb, and the Plain—that is, the valley of Jericho, the city of palm trees—as far as Zoar. 4 The Lord said to him, “This is the land of which I swore to Abraham, to Isaac, and to Jacob, saying, ‘I will give it to your descendants’; I have let you see it with your eyes, but you shall not cross over there.” 5 Then Moses, the servant of the Lord, died there in the land of Moab, at the Lord’s command. 6 He was buried in a valley in the land of Moab, opposite Beth-peor, but no one knows his burial place to this day. 7 Moses was one hundred twenty years old when he died; his sight was unimpaired and his vigor had not abated. 8 The Israelites wept for Moses in the plains of Moab thirty days; then the period of mourning for Moses was ended.
(Deuteronomy 34:1-7

To this day, no one claims a grave site for Moses (surprisingly, as it would be a good economic proposition to set up a Mosaic(!) mausoleum/shrine for pilgrimage!!). This is not to say that the place is not remembered by Jews, Christians and Muslims in religious devotion and pilgrimage in honour of Moses, a great prophet of God acknowledged by all three religions. A small church and monastery dating from the 4th century AD were discovered there in 1933. These have been expanded into a complex including a church in honour of Moses and an exhibition of the mosaics from the original church. Unfortunately for me, the church was closed due to restoration work being carried out on the ancient mosaics, so I was not able to get into the grounds of the church or inside the building. However, I was able to walk around the outside of the mountain-top site.

At the entrance to the site is a statue of the Book of Love. This was dedicated by Pope John Paul II in the Great Jubilee Year 2000. The statue is in the shape of the spine of a book. It has very short texts from the Bible on the spine and covers, and where the pages would normally be, there are faces and titles of books of the bible.

The Book of Love, at the entrance to the memorial complex on Mt Nebo

The Book of Love, at the entrance to the memorial complex on Mt Nebo


There is a commemoration stone for Moses.
Memorial Stone to Moses on Mount Nebo

Memorial Stone to Moses on Mount Nebo


The church stands on the summit overlooking the Jordan Valley to the Promised Land beyond, the administration of which today is divided between the Palestinian Authority and the Government of Israel.
The back of the church as one approaches the memorial site on Mt Nebo

The back of the church as one approaches the memorial site on Mt Nebo


P.S. The round stone on the right is a “round door” for an ancient church. The stone would be rolled over to open/close the church (much the same as the round stones used for rolling over the entrance of tombs e.g. Lazarus and Jesus). The stone has been brought from the site of that church and installed here on Mount Nebo.
The front entrance door of the church on Mt Nebo, overlooking the Jordan Valley

The front entrance door of the church on Mt Nebo, overlooking the Jordan Valley


In the forecourt of the Church, with the Jordan Vally in the background, there is a spectacular Serpentine Cross. It was designed by the Italian artist Giovanni Fantoni. It represents the staff that Moses carried when leading the ancient Israelites through the Reed Sea – remember the story of the Exodus from Egypt, that Moses raised his staff to make the waters part so that the Israelite people could pass through on dry land, and then lowered to make the waters flow back again and drown the pursuing Egyptian army – and through the 40 years in the desert. Entwined around it is the serpent, representing the snakes that were sent among the people as punishment for their grumbling and which caused the deaths of many of them, until at Moses’ instruction they fashioned a bronze serpent and put it on a pole to look upon and be saved, as per the following account in the Bible:

The Bronze Serpent

4 From Mount Hor they set out by the way to the Red Sea, to go around the land of Edom; but the people became impatient on the way. 5 The people spoke against God and against Moses, “Why have you brought us up out of Egypt to die in the wilderness? For there is no food and no water, and we detest this miserable food.” 6 Then the Lord sent poisonous serpents among the people, and they bit the people, so that many Israelites died. 7 The people came to Moses and said, “We have sinned by speaking against the Lord and against you; pray to the Lord to take away the serpents from us.” So Moses prayed for the people. 8 And the Lord said to Moses, “Make a poisonous serpent, and set it on a pole; and everyone who is bitten shall look at it and live.” 9 So Moses made a serpent of bronze, and put it upon a pole; and whenever a serpent bit someone, that person would look at the serpent of bronze and live.
And the shape is cruciform, so represents also the cross of Jesus Christ.
(Numbers 21 4-9)

The statue is cruciform, so as well as Moses’ staff, represents also the crucified Christ, of which the raised serpent was a prefiguring.

13 No one has ascended into heaven except the one who descended from heaven, the Son of Man. 14 And just as Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness, so must the Son of Man be lifted up, 15 that whoever believes in him may have eternal life. (Jn 3:14-15)

Serpentine Cross in front of the Church on Mount Nebo, looking out over the Jordan Valley

Serpentine Cross in front of the Church on Mount Nebo, looking out over the Jordan Valley

Because of the renovation work, I could only take a photo from outside the grounds of the church looking back. I regretted that I could not get a photo of the statue “face-on” as it were, looking out over the Jordan Valley. For that particular view, you will have to go to the websites mentioned below.

The focal point of the mountain is the lookout over the Jordan Valley.

From Mt Nebo, looking over the Jordan Valley, with the Dead Sea visible in the middle left

From Mt Nebo, looking over the Jordan Valley, with the Dead Sea visible in the middle left


There is a plaque which informs you that you are 46 km from Jerusalem, 27km from Jericho and 50km from Bethlehem.
Plaque showing directions and distances to Jerusalem, Jericho, Bethlehem and other places

Plaque showing directions and distances to Jerusalem, Jericho, Bethlehem and other places


From Mt Nebo, looking over the Jordan Valley directly towards Jerusalem; the day was hot and hazy, but on a clear day I am told it is possible to see the tall buildings on the hills of Jerusalem.

From Mt Nebo, looking over the Jordan Valley directly towards Jerusalem; the day was hot and hazy, but on a clear day I am told it is possible to see the tall buildings on the hills of Jerusalem.


From Mt Nebo, looking across the Jordan River directly at Jericho, the dark smudge under the distant hills (which is the Mount of Temptation)

From Mt Nebo, looking across the Jordan River directly at Jericho, the dark smudge under the distant hills (which is the Mount of Temptation)


Ever since I arrived in Israel a month ago and first saw the hot, dry, rocky Judaean desert wilderness, the same which you see today from Mount Nebo in Jordan through the heat haze in these photos, I could not help but wonder what Abraham and later Moses thought when they looked out on this land which God had promised. Quite frankly, it doesn’t look too promising!! Yes, the clime then may have been slightly different, with more rainfall and more springs of water, both of which have significantly dried up since that time. Yes, the Galilee in the north is certainly more agricultural. And yes, even the desert can be made to bloom, as we saw in the Negev, when water is supplied, and techniques of dry-climate management are applied. So it is not all desolation. But still I wonder what Abraham and Moses thought!? “A land flowing with milk and honey” (Ex 3:8, 17) it certainly is not. Had God duped them?

Yet, despite the climate and the unpromising promised land, the Jewish people have endured. Colonizers, colonized, exiled, returned, undergoing many upheavals, subject to foreign rule, revolting, crushed, dispersed throughout the world, persecuted, subjected to attempted extermination, yet they have survived, and they have come back to this land.

While the state has made astonishing progress in this unpromising environment in the last 60 years, against extreme hostilities, yet the basic issue of the settlement of this land has not yet been resolved. Perhaps we need the pioneering faith of Abraham and liberating faith of Moses to help find new ways of accommodation, hospitality and settlement together. While this geographic promised land, despite its unpromising aspect, has in fact with sustained effort proved promising, may God guide us to the fulfilment of the ideal Promised Land, peace with justice flowing from Jerusalem throughout the Middle East and to the ends of the earth.

As proof of the possibilities, at the foot of Mount Nebo is a valley with green orchards and green fields. I presume it is the place of Moses Spring, to which I had seen sign posts along the road. The spring relates to the story told in chapter 20 of the Book of Numbers:

The Waters of Meribah
20 The Israelites, the whole congregation, came into the wilderness of Zin in the first month, and the people stayed in Kadesh. Miriam died there, and was buried there.

2 Now there was no water for the congregation; so they gathered together against Moses and against Aaron. 3 The people quarreled with Moses and said, “Would that we had died when our kindred died before the Lord! 4 Why have you brought the assembly of the Lord into this wilderness for us and our livestock to die here? 5 Why have you brought us up out of Egypt, to bring us to this wretched place? It is no place for grain, or figs, or vines, or pomegranates; and there is no water to drink.” 6 Then Moses and Aaron went away from the assembly to the entrance of the tent of meeting; they fell on their faces, and the glory of the Lord appeared to them. 7 The Lord spoke to Moses, saying: 8 Take the staff, and assemble the congregation, you and your brother Aaron, and command the rock before their eyes to yield its water. Thus you shall bring water out of the rock for them; thus you shall provide drink for the congregation and their livestock.

9 So Moses took the staff from before the Lord, as he had commanded him. 10 Moses and Aaron gathered the assembly together before the rock, and he said to them, “Listen, you rebels, shall we bring water for you out of this rock?” 11 Then Moses lifted up his hand and struck the rock twice with his staff; water came out abundantly, and the congregation and their livestock drank. 12 But the Lord said to Moses and Aaron, “Because you did not trust in me, to show my holiness before the eyes of the Israelites, therefore you shall not bring this assembly into the land that I have given them.” 13 These are the waters of Meribah, where the people of Israel quarreled with the Lord, and by which he showed his holiness.
Numbers 20:1-13

For more information on Mount Nebo and photos see the following sites and follow the links:
http://www.sacred-destinations.com/jordan/mount-nebo
http://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mount_Nebo
http://www.visitjordan.com/default.aspx?tabid=195
http://www.tripadvisor.com.au/Attraction_Review-g293985-d318787-Reviews-Mount_Nebo-Jordan.html

Afterwards the driver took me to a newly-opened restaurant. It opened just three weeks ago! I thought it odd to open a restaurant just before Ramadan. And in the low-tourist season. I was the sole customer for lunch. I declined the buffet and settled for a chicken burger.

Then the driver took me to a souvenir shop. I was quite reluctant to go in as I had not intention of buying anything, but in the end I was glad to have visited. It is a mosaic workshop as well, so I was able to see mosaics being made.

Making a mosaic in the workshop near Mount Nebo

Making a mosaic in the workshop near Mount Nebo


The artist breaks off very small pieces of marble in the required colour and with a tweezers fits them into place on the design which has been traced out. The pieces are placed so that the smooth side lies flat on the paper underneath. The side turned up where the artist is working is actually quite rough. The small pieces of marble are held in place with a mixture of flour and water. The artist dips the pieces in this mixture before setting them in place in the design. When all the pieces are in place and the design is complete, the whole work is glued firmly. When it is turned over, the smooth underside becomes the smooth topside. I was told that the mosaic being made in the photo for a table top would take about a month to complete. The time varies on the complexity of the design, the size and number of the pieces, and the size of the end product.

Then I went into the actual shop where the finished product was for sale. It was really very good. There were mosaic tables. There were mosaics for walls, regular flat mosaics, raised 3-dimensional mosaics. There were nature mosaics, religious mosaics, copies of ancient mosaics (including the Madaba map). They were really excellent. And of course, being marble, they could be either indoor or outdoor as they would not suffer any damage from the weather.

Mosaics as marble table tops

Mosaics as marble table tops


Mosaics of birds for hanging as decorations on a wall

Mosaics of birds for hanging as decorations on a wall


There was also a lot of other souvenir goods besides, pottery, ceramics, clothing, metalware, all of a similar high quality, and I assume high price. I must have disappointed as I didn’t buy anything, but I was glad to have seen the wares and especially to have seen how mosaics are made.

Then the driver brought me back to Amman. After several long days and late nights over the past week and more, I am quite tired, so slept quite a bit of the way!

I spent the afternoon in my room getting ready to travel tonight, setting out on my return to Australia from Amman at 2.00 am to Kuala Lumpur via Bangkok, then on to Sydney.

Shalom, Peace, Salaam!!!

Petra

Wednesday 9th July 2014

Today I visited Petra. It was an early morning start, up at 5.00am to be at the bus station at 6.00am. It was a very comfortable, modern, air-conditioned bus for the 3-hour trip from Amman to Petra in southern Jordan. We took the Desert Road, a long, straight strip. Not much agriculture in this part of the world!

View of the countryside on the Desert Road from Amman to Petra

View of the countryside on the Desert Road from Amman to Petra


However, in the south towards our destination, there was some low-lying, shrubby, green growth, sufficient for the goats.

On arrival, as I was getting my ticket, I teamed up with a another tourist who had been on the bus with me. He turned out to be a South African from Cape Town, now working in London as a photographer. We shared the cost of a guide to accompany us through the site.

A Brief Introduction to Petra

Petra (Arabic: البتراء, Al-Batrāʾ; Ancient Greek: Πέτρα) is a historical and archaeological city in the southern Jordanian governorate of Ma’an that is famous for its rock-cut architecture and water conduit system. Another name for Petra is the Rose City due to the color of the stone out of which it is carved.

Established possibly as early as 312 BCE as the capital city of the Nabataeans, it is a symbol of Jordan, as well as Jordan’s most-visited tourist attraction. It lies on the slope of Jebel al-Madhbah (identified by some as the biblical Mount Hor) in a basin among the mountains which form the eastern flank of Arabah (Wadi Araba), the large valley running from the Dead Sea to the Gulf of Aqaba. Petra has been a UNESCO World Heritage Site since 1985.

The site remained unknown to the Western world until 1812, when it was introduced by Swiss explorer Johann Ludwig Burckhardt. It was described as “a rose-red city half as old as time” in a Newdigate Prize-winning poem by John William Burgon. UNESCO has described it as “one of the most precious cultural properties of man’s cultural heritage”. Petra was chosen by the Smithsonian Magazine as one of the “28 Places to See Before You Die”.
http://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Petra

P.S. In one of our excursions in the Ecce Homo Formation Programme, we had come across the archaeological site of Avdat, a city of the Nabataeans in the Negev, in southern Israel, on the spice route.

For more information on Petra see the following: http://visitpetra.jo/Petra/OneOf7Wonders.aspx#all
http://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Petra
http://www.visitjordan.com/MajorAttractions/Petra/tabid/63/Default.aspx
http://www.sacred-destinations.com/jordan/petra-treasury

The entry to Petra begins along a gently sloping path with tombs carved in the rock wall on either side. Here is a photo of the Obelisk Tomb (see the obelisks at the top) and beneath it the Bab as-Siq Triclinium, two tombs one on top of the other, the latter having a place of gathering for sacred feasts to honour the dead.

Tombs carved out of the rock

Tombs carved out of the rock


The ancient Nabataeans were ingenious in gathering every possible drop of water in what would otherwise be a dry, harsh, inhospitable land. They carved channels to carry run-off rain water to storage cisterns whence it could be drawn upon as needed. The rain falling on the hard rocks creates flash floods, which was a major problem for the city in the valley below, so the Nabataeans ingeniously bore a tunnel through sheer rock to divert the water to another valley where it could be stored. This water-management system was later damaged by earthquakes and sealed by rock falls so that for several centuries flood water did again flow down the valley causing erosion. The Nabatean system was restored again after 1963 when a group of French tourists were caught in flash floods and 23 of them were washed to their deaths.

The entrance path wends through the siq (lit: “shaft”) or gorge, a spectacular narrow passage through a natural crack in the sandstone rock which the ancient Nabateans used to their advantage as a route for ceremonial and burial processions, carving out a wider passage where needed,along with niches for gods, and other carvings. It is 1.2 kilometres long and from 90 to 182 metres high.

The siq winds through the split in the rock face

The siq winds through the split in the rock face


The siq winds its way through the split in the rock

The siq winds its way through the split in the rock


Looking up between the rock walls towards the sky as we pass through the siq in the afternoon

Looking up between the rock walls towards the sky as we pass through the siq in the afternoon


The photos don’t do it justice!

Along the way, there are various carvings, as mentioned above. Here is one clever carving that from the side looked like a fish, but from the front took on the appearance of an elephant.

Rock carving - from the side it looks like a fish

Rock carving – from the side it looks like a fish


Rock carving in the siq - from the front it looks like the head of an elephant

Rock carving in the siq – from the front it looks like the head of an elephant


In another place, there is a carving of a train of camels. It is now quite worn away by erosion, but you can just make out the feet of a camel-herder leading the train and the two sets of feet of the camel behind him. The hump of the camel is very vaguely outlined in the rock, but everything else of the man and the camel is eroded into dust and washed away.
Rock carving in the siq - you can see the lower leg and feet of the camel driver in bottom right; moving to the left are the two sets of padding hooves of the lead camel; the vestiges of the camel's hump appear on the wall above; the height was about four metres

Rock carving in the siq – you can see the lower leg and feet of the camel driver in bottom right; moving to the left are the two sets of padding hooves of the lead camel; the vestiges of the camel’s hump appear on the wall above; the height was about four metres


The gorge opens out onto the Treasury. It is the iconic building of Petra. It has featured in books, legends and Hollywood movies. It is 30 metres wide and 40 metres high, carved out of the rock face, with an inner chamber 12 metres square. It is astonishing to try and imagine how the ancient Nabataeans were able to do this carving work, reaching up to such great heights.
The Treasury

The Treasury


Proof that I was there!

Proof that I was there!


Again, the photos don’t do it justice!

As you can see from the foreground, in contrast to the narrow entrance gorge, in some places only 3 metres wide, the Treasury is in a wide valley. The path continues further along the valley to other carved sites, all impressive in their own right, but, perhaps unfortunately, not as spectacular as the Treasury, so I admit there is a bit of a sense of “let-down” as one continues to explore the ancient city ruins.

Further down the valley on the left-hand side was a Roman-like Amphitheatre, carved out of the rock. Built in the 1st century AD to accommodate 3,000 people, it was later expanded to accommodate 7,000 people. The shape and the rock assured fantastic acoustics. The sandstone is now quite badly eroded in places.

Roman Amphitheatre in Petra

Roman Amphitheatre in Petra


Further along again, up a slope on the right-hand side, are a series of tombs carved into the rock face. They are called the Royal Tombs, though actually they were for Nabataean dignitaries rather than monarchs.
The Royal Tombs carved in the rock walls in Petra

The Royal Tombs carved in the rock walls in Petra


Having come out of Lazarus’ tomb in Bethany a week ago, I could not resist coming out of a Royal Tomb!!
Royal Pilgrim emerging from the royal tomb!

Royal Pilgrim emerging from the royal tomb!


Pilgrim emerging from another cave carved out of the rock; it is not a tomb as the tombs are distinguishable by the decorative features carved around the front-facing entrance.

Pilgrim emerging from another cave carved out of the rock; it is not a tomb as the tombs are distinguishable by the decorative features carved around the front-facing entrance.


As we were gazing in awe at the carvings in the cliff face, I noticed another donkey, this one not coming out of a tomb, but
standing higher up, on a ledge. I have no idea how he got there, but there must be a path from the side. He certainly did not climb the cliff face!!
Donkey high up on a ledge on the cliff face

Donkey high up on a ledge on the cliff face


He did not look suicidal, as if he was about to jump, but was quite calm and passive, indifferent to the spectacular scene which he was overlooking!!
Donkey on a ledge on the cliff face

Donkey on a ledge on the cliff face


Further down, near the colonnaded Roman street, a series of steps and a large plaza were all that remained of the Great Temple.
Steps leading up to the Great Temple

Steps leading up to the Great Temple


The man in the photo is Charl, my South African photographer companion for the day.
Plaza area of the Great Temple

Plaza area of the Great Temple


There was also a large residential area with houses for the ordinary people built along the edge of the valley. However, these were not as substantial as the more elite housing and they collapsed in the earthquakes that occur in the area. All that remains is an area strewn with bricks of the ruined houses.

The Nabataeans had become Christian, so at least one of the carved tomb buildings had been converted into a church. But there were other churches besides, from the Byzantine era.

Pilgrim Priest standing in the steps of the sanctuary of the Byzantine Church in Petra

Pilgrim Priest standing in the steps of the sanctuary of the Byzantine Church in Petra


Looking out between two of the pillars of another church; the remains of the Byzantine Church are under the white awning to the right; the plain is strewn with bricks from the collapsed houses of the ordinary folk; the Royal Tombs are carved into the cliff face in the background

Looking out between two of the pillars of another church; the remains of the Byzantine Church are under the white awning to the right; the plain is strewn with bricks from the collapsed houses of the ordinary folk; the Royal Tombs are carved into the cliff face in the background


There were other sites to see, which involved steep climbs, up the High Place of Sacrifice, another one to Ad-Deir (The Monastery) which involved 800 steps. As it was a very hot day and we had already been on our feet for a few hours, we settled for a buffet lunch instead. While the views from both of these heights would have been spectacular, I guess the carved Monastery cave/building would have been much like those we had already seen.

We made our way back up the valley towards the entrance gate for the bus station and the modern town of Petra. Local Arabs tried to entice us to take a donkey or a camel or a horse, but we remained faithful to shank’s pony!!

Donkey for hire for a ride in Petra

Donkey for hire for a ride in Petra


Camels for hire for a ride in Petra

Camels for hire for a ride in Petra


We caught the bus at 5.00 for the three hour trip back to Amman. I slept some of the way. We arrived back in the dark and I caught a taxi to my hotel and went to bed after a long and enjoyable day.

Shalom, Peace, Salaam.

Amman – Visits around the city

Tuesday 8th July 2014

Today I walked the streets and climbed up and down the hills of Amman. There are seven hills (seems to be the required number for a city, as Rome too is built on seven hills) which converge on King Faisal Street.

KIng Faisal Street, one of the main streets in downtown Amman

KIng Faisal Street, one of the main streets in downtown Amman


Just off King Faisal Street is the Gold Market, with shops crowded with golden jewelry, rings, bangles, earrings and much more.
Shop in the Gold Market

Shop in the Gold Market


The King Hussain Mosque, also known as the al-Hussaini Mosque in downtown Amman

The King Hussain Mosque, also known as the al-Hussaini Mosque in downtown Amman


Feature inside the courtyard of the King Hussain Mosque in downtown Amman

Feature inside the courtyard of the King Hussain Mosque in downtown Amman


The Roman Amphitheatre in downtown Amman,  capable of holding 6,000 people on the terraces, serviced by 108 steps!!  (but who's counting?!)

The Roman Amphitheatre in downtown Amman, capable of holding 6,000 people on the terraces, serviced by 108 steps!! (but who’s counting?!)

From the stage of the Roman Amphitheatre, looking out on the seating carved high up into the hillside

From the stage of the Roman Amphitheatre, looking out on the seating carved high up into the hillside


Incidentally, the round stone terraces make for great acoustics. If you stand in the middle and make a sound, it “echoes” around in that space.
The top row in the Roman Amphitheatre was also known as "The Gods" for the very obvious reason that it is high up a steep climb, but it provides a spectacular view of the stage far below , across the valley and up the far side to the Citadel

The top row in the Roman Amphitheatre was also known as “The Gods” for the very obvious reason that it is high up a steep climb, but it provides a spectacular view of the stage far below , across the valley and up the far side to the Citadel


A performer standing on the stage of the Roman Amphitheatre in downtown Amman

A performer standing on the stage of the Roman Amphitheatre in downtown Amman


After the Roman Amphitheatre, around midday I had a cheese sandwich for lunch in a restaurant. Hardly worth reporting? But it is! The sign on the closed door of the restaurant said “Yes, we are open during Ramadan”. And they served beer, wine and spirits too! Clearly Jordan has a much more relaxed attitude to Muslim religious observance. However, the doors do remain closed so as not to offend Muslims who are fasting. Of course, non-Muslims are not obliged to observe the Ramadan fast. Yesterday afternoon as I was walking around I had been invited into a “tourist” restaurant that was serving non-Muslims! And Muslims who are travelling, sick or pregnant are exempt from fasting too, though they are required to make up the days later in the year.
View from the Citadel, looking down on the Roman Amphitheatre in downtown Amman and the houses climbing up the hill behind it.

View from the Citadel, looking down on the Roman Amphitheatre in downtown Amman and the houses climbing up the hill behind it.


From the Citadel above the city, looking east along the valley past the Roman Amphitheatre to the suburbs sprawling up the hillsides

From the Citadel above the city, looking east along the valley past the Roman Amphitheatre to the suburbs sprawling up the hillsides


The entrance pillars to the Temple of Hercules on the summit of the Citadel above Amman.  It was built around AD160-166.

The entrance pillars to the Temple of Hercules on the summit of the Citadel above Amman. It was built around AD160-166.


The entrance pillars to the Temple of Hercules on the summit of the Citadel above Amman

The entrance pillars to the Temple of Hercules on the summit of the Citadel above Amman


Like Samson of old, a modern day Hercules stands between the pillars of the Temple of Hercules and flexes his muscles!  He is dwarfed by the pillars, made to look puny!

Like Samson of old, a modern day Hercules stands between the pillars of the Temple of Hercules and flexes his muscles! He is dwarfed by the pillars, made to look puny!


The modern day Hercules in the previous photo looked puny, all the more so when compared with the original statue of Hercules which stood in the Temple there.  Only part of the knuckle and part of the elbow remain, but it is calculated that the statue stood 13 metres tall.

The modern day Hercules in the previous photo looked puny, all the more so when compared with the original statue of Hercules which stood in the Temple there. Only part of the knuckle and part of the elbow remain, but it is calculated that the statue stood 13 metres tall.


The Gateway to the Ummayad Palace on the summit of the Citadel.  It is said that this was once a Byzantine Cathedral, and it certainly has the nave and apse forming a cross as was typical of churches of that era

The Gatewayu to the Ummayad Palace on the summit of the Citadel. It is said that this was once a Byzantine Cathedral, and it certainly has the nave and apse forming a cross as was typical of churches of that era


View over Amman from the Muslim Medina (city) atop the Citadel, with the massive Jordanian flag flying above the city

View over Amman from the Muslim Medina (city) atop the Citadel, with the massive Jordanian flag flying above the city[/caption>

Raghadan Flagpole

The Raghadan Flagpole is a 126.8-metre (416 ft) tall flagpole located in Amman, Jordan. It was built from steel and erected on the grounds of Raghadan Palace at the royal compound of Al-Maquar. The leader of Jordan, King Abdullah II, officially hoisted the country’s flag on 10th June 2003. It was the tallest free-standing flagpole in the world at the time, and is clearly visible across the capital as well as from as far away as 20 kilometres (12 mi). It is illuminated, making it visible at night, and was also developed to withstand earthquakes and bad weather.

It flies a 60-by-30-metre (200 by 100 ft) flag. Although it is a distinctive landmark, the excessive noise created during high winds has resulted in the flag being lowered during periods of bad weather.

This free-standing flagpole surpassed the previous record-holder, which was located in Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates, and had held the record since 2001. The Raghadan Flagpole is 3.8 metres (12 ft) taller than the one located in the United Arab Emirates. In 2004, the flagpole lost its status as world’s tallest following the construction of the Aqaba Flagpole. The latter stands at 130 metres (430 ft) tall, and is also located in Jordan. As of 2011, Raghadan is the fifth-tallest free-standing flagpole in the world. The tallest flagpole is the 165-metre (541 ft) Dushanbe Flagpole in Dushanbe, Tajikistan, constructed in 2011. All three flagpoles were constructed in the Dubai port of Jebel Ali by the United States-based company Trident Support in sections 12 metres (39 ft) long from 50 millimetres (2.0 in) thick steel plates.

[caption id="attachment_2186" align="alignleft" width="625"]Zooming in on the Raghadan Flagpole towering over Amman Zooming in on the Raghadan Flagpole towering over Amman


The remains of a Byzantine Church from the 6th century. The outline of the nave and semi-round sanctuary are clearly visible.

The remains of a Byzantine Church from the 6th century. The outline of the nave and semi-round sanctuary are clearly visible.

An astonishing coincidence happened when I was about to leave the Citadel. I was concentrating on taking photos of the Temple of Hercules. I noticed a pilgrim group coming along but paid no attention, until one of them came up to greet me. It was Fr Aidan, one of the participants in the Biblical Programme at Ecco Homo, with whom I had spent the last month in Jerusalem. He was on a two-day tour of Jordan. He had planned to do it earlier but was prevented by a sudden onset of sickness. Having heard good reports from my Columban colleague, Jim, he re-booked to do tour. He had e-mailed me that he was doing the tour, but I had no idea when. So you can imagine my astonishment that by coincidence I was in that precise spot on the Citadel when his tour group came for a hurried 30 minute visit. His tour group continued on to stay overnight in a Bedouin camp and visit Petra in the morning. I have planned to go by bus from Amman to Petra early tomorrow morning, so we may even meet there too!!
The Al-Abdullah Mosque.  I removed my sandals and walked in barefoot as per custom.  The prayer hall is cavernous.  It is the largest mosque in the Middle East that it unsupported by columns.  It can hold 3,000 Muslims for prayers.  It was air-conditioned, so was refreshingly cool after the heat outside. The carpet pile was very thick and was very, very soft to walk on.  The softness had a further benefit.  A number of men were stretched out on the soft pile and fast asleep.  A security person approached me and informed me that the visiting hours were over so I was not able to stay and take photos.

The Al-Abdullah Mosque. I removed my sandals and walked in barefoot as per custom. The prayer hall is cavernous. It is the largest mosque in the Middle East that it unsupported by columns. It can hold 3,000 Muslims for prayers. It was air-conditioned, so was refreshingly cool after the heat outside. The carpet pile was very thick and was very, very soft to walk on. The softness had a further benefit. A number of men were stretched out on the soft pile and fast asleep. A security person approached me and informed me that the visiting hours were over so I was not able to stay and take photos.


Outside, I took this photo of the crescent moon decorative feature at the top of one of the minaret towers.  The photo may seem rather plain, but it is very cleverly composed (if I say so myself!). I found just the right place to take the photo so that the Ramadan moon which was high in the sky in the late afternoon appears in the middle of the crescent moon decorative feature.

Outside, I took this photo of the crescent moon decorative feature at the top of one of the minaret towers. The photo may seem rather plain, but it is very cleverly composed (if I say so myself!). I found just the right place to take the photo so that the Ramadan moon which was high in the sky in the late afternoon appears in the middle of the crescent moon decorative feature.

Shalom, Peace, Salaam!!!

Amman – First Impressions

Monday 7th July 2014

I left Jerusalem by public van. For the last time, as on several previous excursions, I went out over the Mount of Olives and down the road through the Judaean wilderness from Jerusalem towards Jericho. We continued on to the Allenby Bridge border crossing, where I passed through Israeli security without any problems. Then another bus took us through the several kilometres of no-man’s-land – it really is a barren place!

P.S. I pulled my walking boots on for the first time in five weeks. It was easier to wear them than to pack them! I have been wearing walking sandals for the past five weeks. The boots, once so familiar, as familiar as a comfortable sock or a second skin, felt strange! Either the soles of my feet have softened so are not accustomed to the boots, or have hardened and adjusted to the walking sandal so are not accustomed to the boots. But they settled quickly enough as I wore them all day.

The Allenby Bridge was underwhelming. It was so small I barely noticed it, let alone photograph it, thinking it was just a section of the road. Neither did I see the Jordan River! Either it was hidden in the reeds or I was asleep!

On the other side, I passed through Jordanian immigration without any trouble – I had arranged a visa for Jordan when in Rome, without which I could not have gone across this border, but would have had fly from Tel Aviv to Amman or travel north or south to other crossings, where a visa would be granted on arrival.

Then I caught a shared taxi to Amman. Including a 4o minute wait in bus stop in Jerusalem, and waits at each of the border crossings, and waiting for the shared taxi to fill, the journey from door to door took about four to five hours.

For information on the Allenby Border crossing see:
http://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Allenby_Bridge
http://www.themadtraveleronline.com/travel-tips/how-to-cross-from-israel-to-jordan-or-jordan-to-israel/

First impressions – Jordan is a very rocky country. There are rocky hills along from the border to Amman. Jordan is also an agricultural country, for there are date palms and other crops wherever irrigation makes production possible in this hot, dry land.

N.B. Like Israel, Jordan also claims a baptismal site on the River Jordan!! I saw the road signs.

From the river to the capital, Amman, it was a climb up nearly all the way. Amman itself climbs up and down the hillsides of the valley around which it is located.

A view of some of houses in the city of Amman sprawling up the hillside

A view of some of houses in the city of Amman sprawling up the hillside


Where there are hills, as I have learned to my cost over the past three months, on the Camino in Spain, and in my excursions in Israel, where there are hills, there are also steps!!
Steps from the hillside down to the Main Street and markets in the old part of Amman

Steps from the hillside down to the Main Street and markets in the old part of Amman


Amman and the other towns I passed through are not unlike parts of Pakistan. The same hot dusty, slightly run-down look, as in some of the large provincial towns of the Punjab. The same rubbish around the streets. The same proliferation of mosques. The same, high curb along the roads as in cantonments in Pakistan – is it part of the British heritage?

The markets are much the same as others I have seen in many places, Lahore, Delhi, Istanbul …

Fruit and vegetables in the market in Amman

Fruit and vegetables in the market in Amman


Varieties of nuts in a shop on a street in downtown Amman

Varieties of nuts in a shop on a street in downtown Amman


This one had me puzzled?  I thought it was treated cabbage or some such for spicing up cooking!  I asked and was told that it is actually various mixtures of tobacco, for smoking in the water pipe.  They are flavoured, to make them sweet, perfumed, aromatic.  The water pipes can be soon on the lower right.

This one had me puzzled? I thought it was treated cabbage or some such for spicing up cooking! I asked and was told that it is actually various mixtures of tobacco, for smoking in the water pipe. They are flavoured, to make them sweet, perfumed, aromatic. The water pipes can be soon on the lower right.


When I asked, some men in the market declined to be photographed.  But to my surprise, this woman asked me to photograph her!  I am careful about photographing women, so was surprised to be asked by a woman!  I showed her the image on my camera and she was pleased!

When I asked, some men in the market declined to be photographed. But to my surprise, this woman asked me to photograph her! I am careful about photographing women, so was surprised to be asked by a woman! I showed her the image on my camera and she was pleased!


A young man outside a craft/souvenir shop offered to show me how he makes images in sand inside a bottle. It was very clever. He has a variety of coloured sands. He mixes a base made from different colours and pours it into the bottle. With a funnel, he introduces a particular coloured sand, pouring and pushing it along the side of the base sand already inside the jar to make the design/shape that he is creating, in this case, as you can make out, the lower half of a camel.
Inserting coloured sand into a bottle to create a shape, in this case, the lower half of a camel

Inserting coloured sand into a bottle to create a shape, in this case, the lower half of a camel


When he has finished the design, he pumps a rod into the sand in the bottle to pack it in tight so that the design is “fixed” and won’t dissolve with the otherwise proverbial shifting sands, then glues over the top to hold it securely in place.
The finished product - a design in sand inside a bottle - and now you know how it is done, very clever!

The finished product – a design in sand inside a bottle – and now you know how it is done, very clever!


Amman has a Roman Amphitheatre. So the Romans were here long ago. There are other Roman ruins in Amman and in other cities of Jordan, some of them quite well preserved.
The Roman Amphitheatre in Amman

The Roman Amphitheatre in Amman


The King Hussain Mosque in Downtown Amman

The King Hussain Mosque in Downtown Amman


My overall impression is of greater poverty than in Israel, though not as much as in the Palestinian Territories. I am guessing that it is a struggling economy. The infrastructure looks a bit run-down. The goods on sale in the shops are older models, air-coolers rather than air-conditioners, hawkers selling a mixed variety of second-hand used goods, all indicative of greater economic hardship.

Jordan hosts many refugees from neighbouring countries, and has done so for many years, from Palestine, from Iraq, from Syria, from Egypt …. The numbers are huge, a significant proportion of the population. It must be a big burden for a struggling economy. The longer they stay, they will have more and more ramifications on the composition of the nation in the future.

However, I have heard that it is at present a very stable place, in a very roilsome part of the world!

My other impression is that the Jordanian people are more friendly than in Jerusalem, where the shopkeepers were certainly keen to engage with passing tourists to make sales, but otherwise seemingly not interested. Here there are more people disinterestedly saying “welcome” as I walked around, more pleased to see a “tourist” (we tourists are certainly a rarer species here than in Jerusalem, at least in the parts around which I was walking today, though I am sure there are hordes of tourists at the tourist sites of Jordan, even if not so many at this time because of the summer heat!), more willing to engage in conversations.

I have been getting a few laughs from a line I learned in Bethlehem. The shopkeepers call you “friend”. They want you to buy from them. They want you to come into their shop. So one of the first questions they ask is, “Where do you come from?” Then they know in which language to engage you! I answer “Australia”. Then, to reciprocate, I ask, “Where do you come from?” The answers are illustrative! In the Muslim quarter, the answer is often not “Jerusalem”, but “Palestine!!” So that opens up possibilities for conversation. If they say “Jerusalem”, that too opens up possibilities for conversation. On one occasion, when I asked the question, “where do you come from?”, one smart shopkeeper in Bethlehem replied,”from my mother!” I laughed.

It is actually a profound answer. If more of us saw ourselves as humans first, rather than in terms of nationality, religion, politics, sex or whatever other way we divide and separate ourselves from others behinds walls and names, then there would be more possibility of building human relationships, of making peace, not war!

So since then, in Jerusalem and here in Amman, when people ask me, “where do you come from?” I plagiarise the response of that Bethlehemite shopkeeper and sometimes reply in Arabic, “min ummi!” (“from my mother”), which first confuses them and then gives them a laugh!!

I have much more to see and explore, but only have three days in which to do so. It will be an interesting time.

Shalom, Peace, Salaam!!

Farewell to the Holy Sepulchre

Monday 7th July 2014

This morning I got up early again and made my way up the Via Dolorosa to the Church of the Holy Sepulchre.

The Church of the Holy Sepulchre

The Church of the Holy Sepulchre


Again, the Franciscan Brother who is the sacristan accommodated me. This hospitality is quite astonishing!

By the way, that is not a slur on Franciscans, but simply noting that being accommodated in this way was well and truly outside the system! Normally one is required to make a prior booking with the Pilgrim Office to offer Mass in the Church. Times and places are limited for offering Mass, by the number of altars in the Church, and by the number of churches who claim them at set times! Sometimes, when a pilgrim group is only in Jerusalem for a few days, the booking is done months in advance. So opportunities can be few and far between. When pilgrim numbers are very high, it often happens that all the available altars in the Church are completely booked up for the entire time that a priest is in Jerusalem, so he misses out on celebrating the Eucharist in the Church (though of course may attend masses, and perhaps even concelebrate with another priest if time, language and circumstances allow – but according to protocols, even the number of concelebrants should be booked in advance!). For the sake of order, without a booking, it is not possible to celebrate the Eucharist, as our group found out when there had been a bureaucratic mix-up. However, here I was, three days in a row, without any booking, and there happened to be a vacant spot in the timetable for a Mass on Calvary!!! Thanks be to God!! And may God bless the accommodating Franciscan sacristan!!

Pilgrim having celebrated the Eucharist at the 11th Station of the Cross, Jesus is nailed to the cross, Calvary,  Church of the Holy Sepulchre

Pilgrim having celebrated the Eucharist at the 11th Station of the Cross, Jesus is nailed to the cross, Calvary, Church of the Holy Sepulchre


As on the other occasions, I offered the Eucharist for family, friends, relatives, confreres and colleagues. I offered it in a particular way for myself too. It was a re-dedication of my life, echoing the words that Jesus uttered on this spot, “Father, into your hands I commend my spirit”. It was a re-dedication of my priesthood, echoing the words of the consecration, “this is my body given for you (for God, for Jesus, for the church, for the people, for the life of the world); this is my blood poured out for you).

As I reflected in the previous post, in this spot, the Paschal Mystery revealed the fullness of death-dealing sin and life-giving resurrection.

The Aedicule, the Chapel which, according to tradition, contains the tomb in which the dead body of Jesus was buried and from which he was raised, Church of the Holy Sepulchre

The Aedicule, the Chapel which, according to tradition, contains the tomb in which the dead body of Jesus was buried and from which he was raised, Church of the Holy Sepulchre


I go forth from this place in the power of the Spirit, renewed! In my ministry and relationships, may I live out more deeply my having been conformed to Christ the High Priest. Amen!

Shalom, Peace, Salaam!!!

Farewell to the Wall

Monday 7th July 2014

Last night I said a personal farewell to Jerusalem at the Western Wall. It is not a remnant wall of the ancient Second Temple building, but the retaining wall of the platform or esplanade on which that Temple stood. Because of its proximity to where the ancient house of God stood, Jews consider it the holiest place on earth.

The Western Wall (Ha-Kotel Ha-Ma'aravi) in Jerusalem

The Western Wall (Ha-Kotel Ha-Ma’aravi) in Jerusalem


Jews come to the Western Wall from all over the world to pray. Others come here and pray as well. Many people leave a written note of petition in cracks in between the stones. I made my way to the Wall and prayed for peace.
Pilgrim Praying at the Western Wall

Pilgrim Praying at the Western Wall


Today as I was leaving Jerusalem I was reflecting on my experience there. I remembered the words of the Psalmist, lamenting in Babylon over the destruction of the first Temple.

Psalm 137
Lament over the Destruction of Jerusalem

1 By the rivers of Babylon—
there we sat down and there we wept
when we remembered Zion.
2 On the willows there
we hung up our harps.
3 For there our captors
asked us for songs,
and our tormentors asked for mirth, saying,
“Sing us one of the songs of Zion!”
4 How could we sing the Lord’s song
in a foreign land?
5 If I forget you, O Jerusalem,
let my right hand wither!
6 Let my tongue cling to the roof of my mouth,
if I do not remember you,
if I do not set Jerusalem
above my highest joy.

Will I forget Jerusalem? Will I remember Jerusalem?

I will definitely remember Jerusalem, not the place, Jerusalem, but the ideal for which Jerusalem stands, the Abode of Peace.

The Gospels record Jesus lamenting over the place, Jerusalem.

“Jerusalem, Jerusalem, the city that kills the prophets and stones those who are sent to it! How often have I desired to gather your children together as a hen gathers her brood under her wings, and you were not willing! (Matthew 23:37)

Is such a Jerusalem worth remembering?

In his turn, Jerusalem is the place where Jesus too suffered and died. Disowned by some of the Jewish leaders of that time, handed over to the Romans to be killed. Is such a Jerusalem worth remembering?

Jerusalem today continues to be a place of tension and conflict, as I have seen and heard in the last week. I have not seen the demonstrations, but they have been reported on the news. However, I have seen the greater militaruy/police presence. I have seen the sullen stares of the Palestinian populace. I have seen the sense of entitlement of the ultra Orthodox pushing their way through the population to get to the Wall. I have heard the exploding fireworks that taunt the police. I have heard the gunfire at night. Is such a Jerusalem worth remembering?

If we do not remember the suffering and those who have died needlessly, we are bound to keep on killing. But if we remember, then by the grace of God we will be moved to ensure that no one else feels that pain of losing a loved one needlessly.

But as a Christian, there is further reason for remembering Jerusalem. It is not only the place of his suffering and death. It is also the place of his resurrection!

I will remember Jerusalem, not just for the death-dealing sin which is fully exposed here, but also for the assurance of the forgiveness of sin that it reveals, for the new life that bursts from the tomb, for the hope it offers.

When we remember these things, we can transcend pain, suffering and death. We can rise above selfishness and live selflessly. This is what matters. Not the place! But the hope and the promise that it holds out, forgiveness, peace, new life, salvation.

In the encounter with the Samaritan woman we read:

21 Jesus said to her, “Woman, believe me, the hour is coming when you will worship the Father neither on this mountain nor in Jerusalem. 22 You worship what you do not know; we worship what we know, for salvation is from the Jews. 23 But the hour is coming, and is now here, when the true worshipers will worship the Father in spirit and truth, for the Father seeks such as these to worship him. 24 God is spirit, and those who worship him must worship in spirit and truth.” (Jn 4:21-24)

It is not the place, Jerusalem, that matters, nor any other place, for that matter, neither Rome, nor Athens, nor Mecca, nor Medina, nor Washington, nor Santiago de Compostella!! What matters is the spirit and the truth.

But the truth of our death-dealing sin and its forgiveness is fully revealed in the paschal mystery that took place in Jerusalem. That mystery cannot be understood apart from its heritage in ancient Israel whose focus was Jerusalem. In the power of the Spirit poured out at Pentcost, the peace of salvation flows from Jerusalem to the ends of the earth. That is why I will remember Jerusalem.

Pilgrim at the Western Wall in Jerusalem

Pilgrim at the Western Wall in Jerusalem


For more information on the Western Wall see:
http://www.bibleplaces.com/westernwall.htm
http://www.sacred-destinations.com/israel/jerusalem-western-wall
http://english.thekotel.org/content.asp?id=212
https://www.jewishvirtuallibrary.org/jsource/Judaism/Western_Wall.html

Shalom, Peace, Salaam!!!