The taxi driver, a Druze man named Nour, careened up the one lane path, honking all the way to scatter the pilgrims descending on foot. We even made one man flattened himself against the stone wall. It was the best entertainment I’d had in a week.
Robin was in another town, teaching a workshop to 50 Israeli therapists. I was with Elly and Felicity on the way from the Western Wall to the Mount of Olives. We stopped at the viewpoint overlooking the Jewish Cemetery, which stretched down the valley. On the other side rose the Temple Mount and the Old City. This is the vantage point from which the iconic photographs of the Jerusalem skyline, with the gold Rock of the Dome in the foreground, are made.
We stopped at the Sanctuary of Gethsemane. The Christian sites in Jerusalem have generally left me cold, but not this one. In a courtyard grew olive trees several millennia old with broad, gnarled bases. The chapel, even though it is modern (1924), felt imbued with the spirit of the ages.
Outside, on a rock under a carving of Jesus praying, two women knelt in prayer. Inside the church a group was seated around the alter and praying the Lord’s Prayer in a common mumble (so unlike the discordant cacophony of a group of Jews praying, where each person proceeds at their own pace). Then the women started singing, and the sanctuary filled with their united voices.
I have generally squirmed in the presence of public piety, particularly the Christian flavor. There’s my history to consider, but lately I think it is because I associate public displays of Christian fervor with politics that I find abhorrent. I’ve been in a lot more synagogues than churches in the last 14 years, but I still feel like an outsider to Judiasm. I didn’t grow up in the tradition, and I know only a few of the prayers. But I feel comfortable around it. Here in Gethsemane, I also felt like I was an outsider, watching this Christian expression of deep spiritual devotion. I was able to accept it for the genuine, meaningful connection with the Divine that it obviously was. Because I could hold my reaction at a distance, I could allow myself to feel deeply moved by the display. It healed something in me.