One April I travelled to Israel with the Sisters of Zion on a trip to visit a whole host of peace initiatives, that involved both Arabs and Jews or people from 3 different religions. The first Arab/Jewish nursery in a private home shared by 2 families, one Palestinian, the other Israeli. A crossroads at which a mosque, a synagogue and a church stood within feet of each other, and they all worked together peacefully on a single project.
We also visited groups that were strictly living on their own terms and on their own turf. The ultra orthodox neighbourhood of Mayer Sharim, where “daughters of Jerusalem” do not “disgrace” themselves by wearing trousers. We saw the remains of the first strictly socialist Kibbutz which banned marriage and whose motto over the door read somewhat chillingly “Freedom through Work” – the same motto that was placed over the entrance to the Nazi concentration camp at Dachau (see picture on the right). We visited the graves of the members of that first Kibbutz, who had died of starvation or suicide. It wasn’t exactly your average holiday.
Later, we sat on low stools around a brass tray table in a ‘Casbar’, drinking very strong coffee, to hear from the man who holds the keys to the Church of the Holy Sepulchre, where many Christian denominations from Coptic to Orthodox both pray and argue incessantly over who owns what and who can go where and when. It was an extraordinary microcosm of history, human stupidity, diplomacy and devotion.
By the end of the 10 day trip, I was exhausted and planning the osteopathy appointment I’d need on my return to recover from the stress of having to make sense of it all. Our very last appointment was the Garden Tomb. The sun at least was shining. I felt rather depressed though, about the whole maelstrom and wasn’t remotely in the mood for having Holy Thoughts at a site that was highly unlikely to have really been the place of Jesus’ tomb. I stood outside and looked at it, wondering if I would bother to go in.
Some people came out and it was left empty. I decided I may as well take a look and say some kind of a prayer or something. I never expected the power and simplicity of what I found.
The Garden Tomb
The tomb was empty of all but light
And the sunshine blessed the opening in the roof of the tomb
Like a messenger from a brighter world.
And in the absence of everyone else
Both the living and the dead
Whose endless needs and questions had been oppressing me darkly
With the weight of their centuries of irresolvable agonies
They were suddenly present.
They were there
They has blossomed instantaneously into being
As simple as sunflowers
The Five Words
For the feeding of the seven times seventy thousand
And power was in them
And I knew it then
Love is stronger than death
Let’s hear it again!
Love Is Stronger Than Death
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