Monday, July 02, 2007

The moon rose in fullness....

As the turn of events would have it, Don's employer decided to put us in a hotel in West (Jewish) Jerusalem. I was very happy about that personally because I wasn't too enthusiastic about secular Israel. I wanted the Holy Land. Jerusalem, divided into sectors, seemed to be a collecting place for all sorts of traditionalists; Muslim, Jewish and Christian. Tel Aviv is very secular, highly influenced by the West. Tel Aviv is to Israel what Bangkok is to Thailand. In Jerusalem, you will see no vulgar billboards or the crass behavior that seems so common in Tel Aviv.

I am a religious pluralist who believes that all religions are just denominations of the Great Religion. A good test of a religion is whether it turns ordinary people into decent people and extraordinary people into saints. We all know those people. There's just something about them that exudes "God". Using that standard, Christianity, Islam, Judaism, Hinduism, Buddhism and all the other faiths are all true, regardless of the conflicting theologies.

Given that, Jerusalem was the best place I could hope for to get a taste of the three main Abrahamic religions. All of them loved Jerusalem for the same reason. One person said that it is where heaven and earth intermingle. That very well might be true. We could walk two miles in one direction and see Muslims in their unique environment. We could go a few miles in another direction and talk with Christians. We could look out the window and experience the Jewish sector.

It must have been something in the air but in the early morning, we were able to hear the call of the muezzin. Even though it was amplified, it still sounded melodic and haunting. Five times a day, the voice would stop us in our tracks, reminding us of something bigger than our measly existences and oh, so, important activities. I saw a Muslim on a crane at a construction site prostrate himself as though he was blessing the city.

This is life in Jersusalem. You see evidence of faith everywhere.

One time while Don was working, I wandered a few streets of food stalls and outside markets. I heard a steady and deep voice singing a Sufi song: "When Mohammed came to Mecca, the moon rose in fullness." He sat there alone in a chair, watching people come and go. As we'd pass him, he would say that he wished for our "truest prayers" to be granted.

In another snippet of conversation overheard, someone said, "The Lord speaks of a person going on a journey. He stops to rest under a tree and then goes on his way. The short time he spent under the tree is the amount of time we spend in this world."

These kinds of discussions could be heard everywhere. In coffee shops, in restaurants and on the street. It was lively and spirited, even though it was nearly always reverent. I don't recall hearing arguments, although I'm sure they took place.

Israel was tense at that time. Each sector of Jerusalem saw the others as threats to their own existence. Terrorism was always around the corner. Despite the many peacemakers, there were those who wanted to destroy all that had been built in the name of their own particular brand of fundamentalism.....

More tomorrow.....




Julie Pippert said...

Oh wow, how amazing. I agree with your concept of the Great Religion...then again I confessed to reading Karen Armstrong. But how awesome to see it all in one place.

Were you sometimes sensorally overwhelmed with such a mesh?

meno said...

The pictures really enhance this story, especially the graffitti.

Anonymous said...

In the world I live in, it is a struggle to remain mindful of "something bigger." I often wish for a life suffused with belief. In something.

crazymumma said...

your head must have been spinning.

I try. and the operative word here is TRY to find something spritual everyday that makes me believe in something bigger than me.

today it was a butterfly in the gym. Sitting on a dirty window.

Chani, you always make me remember and think about my day.

Christine said...

It truly seems as if you travel there with the greatest respect and admiration of the people. So many tourists are crass and rude and imposing. You seem like a wonderful traveler.

painted maypole said...

Love the idea of just being so aware of something bigger all the time. Of faith being such a part of daily life. Of faithful discussions on every street corner. I'm interested to hear more about this... particularly as what I've heard of Jerusalem is always that that it's rather INTOLERANT of other faiths... that the divide is so great and causes so much strife. Your picture is much different. It's fascinating.

thailandchani said...

Julie, I love listening to Karen Armstrong. I have some of her tapes.

As far as sensory overload, yes, that did happen a few times. Part of it is because we had to cram so much in, in such a short period of time.


Meno, thanks. :) I like sticking pictures in these posts.


De, I did, too. For many years. I finally found it but I was over 50 and pretty much burned out on the seeking. It happened in spite of me.


CM, it's all about my garden. Seriously. Nothing brings me closer to Source. That probably sounds kind of cliched and silly.. but nature.. is it.


Christine, thanks. :) Yeah.. I was in their livingroom, not the other way around.

It was a bit intimidating, too, knowing how much religious history was in that little country.


Painted, we're both right. For whatever reason, and I don't quite grasp this myself, I tend to draw tolerant people. The real fundies, here or in Israel, wouldn't find me very interesting. Maybe that's why. I had no trouble talking to the Jews, the Christians or the Muslims... and they were all nice to me.

As for Jerusalem being intolerant, there is plenty of that, too. Otherwise, the city wouldn't be divided at all.




Matt said...

Religious pluralist. Hmm. That's actually what I've considered myself for as long as I can remember but, to me, it's a very individual thing. The problem is, I've always felt that there was a kind of arrogance behind my wanting to be a part of my own religion, so to speak, without inviting anybody else. Maybe I should give this more thought.

Hel said...

"I saw a Muslim on a crane at a construction site prostrate himself as though he was blessing the city."

Wonderful. I love the poetry of this post.

jen said...

i felt like i was wandering around next to you - the vividness of this came through in such a tangible way. and it made me long for something i've never had and have no idea if i'd even want...and yet i think i would. this awareness, this realness. it makes me hungry.

mitzh said...

The way you write makes me feel as if I was there in that very moment. Smelling the air, hearing those words and seeing those sights and witnessing such faith..

Thanks for sharing this...

Looking forward for more.

thailandchani said...

Matt, religion especially... I think it's important for people to think for themselves. There are too many agendas, too many potentials for abuse. If you want to think of it this way... God gave us a brain for a reason. :)

I've never felt it's particularly arrogant for one to choose their own religion. What's arrogant is to come up with one's own.. and try to suck others into it for personal gain.


Hel, thanks. :) I wish I could write more the way you do.


Jen, we're all hungry for it. It's just that it got convoluted and spoiled by religious pundits who are more concerned with social control than they are with something bigger than us in the universe.


Mitzh... thanks. :) There are several more I can do over the next few weeks. It was such an awesome trip... and a valuable way to spend six weeks. I don't regret a minute!




Bob said...

interesting journey so far, waiting for the next installment.....

Jerusalem has the potential to be the place where peace between these cultures can be established - or where the next great war can start. I can see the seeds of both in the events there today.

Pam said...

I, too, agree with your concept of a grand religion...we are all a part of the same universe, after all. But we are so diverse that we need the freedom to see it the way it suits us best. Goodness is the same, no matter how you say it.

I love your story, much to think about.

caroline potato said...

Hi Thailand Gal,
This is a wonderful post! I agree with you that all of the religions are just different names for the same thing. And I also agree with Pam that we have to pick the one that works for us

Anyway the photos transport me. What a dream to go to the land of Abraham!

Lucia said...

A wonderfully poetic post. I love this: "A good test of a religion is whether it turns ordinary people into decent people and extraordinary people into saints." I like this concept and want to remember it into the future.

I'm hoping to take my first Israel/Palestine trip in January.

Tabba said...

Chani, I felt like I was there with you. Your description was so clear and precise.

I love your thoughts on The Great Religion. And I have to say that I agree. The way you put it into words was perfect.

Emily said...

And this is why they say "Next year in Jerusalem." Lovely post.

kaliroz said...

Wow. I am breathless. Thank you for sharing your experience.

MsLittlePea said...

Oh Chani! I loved these posts. I feel like I'm on the journey too. I've always wanted to see Israel. More!!More!! said...

"A good test of a religion is whether it turns ordinary people into decent people and extraordinary people into saints."

By their fruits ye shall know them. ;-)