Today I walked on cobble-stones from the Warsaw Ghetto and my heart sank within me. Remembering the atrocities, I did not find cause to rejoice at being a human being.
At the same time I recalled the strength of those who persevered in order that they might tell the stories and keep the remembrances alive. Both are part of me… violence directed at other human beings and strength of character deep within.
I, too, would wall off that which I do not understand and those whom I do not know. But when someone else tries to wall me off, the very fibers of my being resist for all they are worth; and I find deep inner strength that I never knew I had.
The stones are repeated again and again and again! The hugh limestone blocks from Solomon’s time that comprise the Western (Wailing) Wall also speak of violence and deep inner strength. Upon the Temple Mount I trembled in fear as I absorbed the pain and anguish of the violence of succeeding generations and empires that have desecrated the sacredness of this holy spot.
At the Wall I trembled in awe as I touched the cold stone and sensed the prayers of the ages and the sweep of history. Violence and reverence around me and within me.
The stone steps of the Via Dolorosa lead one down and up along winding streets
from Gabbatha (the marble street in front of the Governor’s Palace) to the rocky scarp of Calvary (now hidden under the finery of the Church’s celebrations).
The footing is not as treacherous now but the walk stretches our fiber violence heaped upon violence. In Truth, the harshness of the walk along Execution Alley is tempered by the tears of Pilgrims… touched at some deep spot within as they repeat the journey that Christ made. The tears often come as Pilgrims walk DOWN from Calvary It is as if their own spirits are crying out… “You can’t walk away from Calvary the only way back is through death and resurrection.”
The churches are filled with beautiful mosaics…
and the beauty masks the violence of history
churches built upon the rubble of mosques
mosques erected over destroyed churches …
brothers in Abraham …
to eradicate each other’s holy shrines and
that the other will simply go away if their shrine is destroyed
to face each other as brothers and
let the way of God and of Father Abraham reign.
You can tear down the stones, but you cannot tear down the spirit that strives toward God.
In the Galilee
the cities where Jesus taught
are all gone now
all piles of stone and rubble,
waiting to be excavated and reconstructed.
These cities were destroyed many years ago…
human violence visited upon one’s neighbors.
Even more recently
Galilean cities have seen human violence…
taking land from native Palestinians…
creating more rubble in a rubble-filled land,
dashing hope upon the rock piles.
And out of the rubble
arises one like Elias Chacour
who preaches and teaches…
but love and peace and neighborliness.