Israel and Palestine have conflicting narratives.
At the Western Wall we gathered around listening as our Palestinian guide explained how their access to holy sites are restricted by Israeli policies, while not more than 100 feet from us an Israeli guide described how Jews cannot enter the sacred places of their patriarchs: Abraham, Isaac and Jacob.
Both sides are speaking truth. The sites holy to the children of Abraham are not open freely to all people who want to worship there. Even more than not being open, judging from the tension present at the open area of the Temple Mount – where an orthodox group’s demands for entrance to the mosque were met by an equally vociferous chant from the women studying the Koran – these areas are the sorest of the sore points we’ve seen.
As one of our group said it, “Monotheism gives God a bad name.” That’s pretty much how it feels.
There is an amazing archeological treasure trove going on under the Western Wall. Cisterns, city streets, and market columns built by Herod the Great are being unearthed, cataloged and protected. I spent 2 hours exploring it with a delightful guide name Sholmo (“rhymes with Nemo!”) who sold me saying, “I’m not giving you a tour. I’m giving you an underground adventure!”
But even this archeological adventure is freighted with conflict as the tunnels extend into the Muslim section of a divided Jerusalem.
Here’s what everybody I’ve met can agree on: Everybody wants a home. Everybody wants what Robert Frost described as “that place where they have to take you in.” After 1948, the Palestinians who had to leave their homes took their keys with them. They were going home. Eventually. No matter how long it took.
At Kibbutz Levi, an elderly woman in the giftshop described her feeling when she arrived in Israel and saw the City of David: “I knew I was home. I never returned to England again.”
Somehow this is home to this wonderful array of people. Somehow this land is home to those who have held the Name of Yahweh sacred. Somehow this place of beauty is called to be a blessing to all the people of the world. And somehow we can be part of it.
Today we walk some of the life of Jesus. Starting in Nazareth, continuing to Cana and Mt. Tabor. I have to believe Jesus felt this struggle and love for home with every step.