Greening the dessert
Have you heard of the saying: "Peace in Jerusalem, peace in the world?" This words are traveling with me, since a Jew in Rosh Pina told them to me. It was a January weekend in 2015. It did snow the day before. People were happy and smiled in the café. I came to Israel to find inner peace. First, by joining a silent meditation retreat in at the Sea of Galilee. Secondly, by finding forgiveness for the German past and guilt I felt because of the Holocaust. The silence in the Galilee opened my heart. A man, a rabbi's son from Denmark, told me that my generation is too young to be called guilty for what happened during World War II. It was important for me to hear his words. I found what I wanted to find and still had 10 days before flying home.
Despite of my gratefulness, my heart kept traveling with a pain I could not leave behind me. Why war in this area, why all the conflicts around this place on earth? Rosh Pina and its olive trees became a hill to me I wanted to come back. It was snowing again when I walked home from the Tangerine bar. The man I was talking with told me that he had seen Lebanon, it is beautiful, but he only could see the beauty from inside a tank, when he was a soldier. Jim Morrison's music almost over-tuned when we both were listening to the silence after his words. How many roads must a man walk down? I walked home in the rain, wondering what stories this country would hold for me. What is needed to establish honesty and trust? What is needed to green the dessert?
Peace in Jerusalem, peace in the world
The snow greened the desert for a few days. Brought fresh air for a while. "Peace in Jerusalem, peace in the world." The city was not in peace, when I arrived. I felt it more than I could see it. My friend from Rosh Pina told me not to go into the Old City on my own. So I decided to walk for a day around the Old City walls before entering it. It was a difficult walk for me. Not because of the police who stopped me in Mea Shearim, nor because of the group of boys hanging out a street waiting to through stones at cars; it was also not the tree I took a rest under on the shepherds fields. I don't know the reasons, it was not easy to keep walking around the Old City. In my inner eye I needed to protect the city from people who wanted to harm the holy rock. Rumors of extremists eager to blow up the Temple Mount became a reality to me, so my mission was to protect the city. When passing the cemetery on the northern wall, I started walking down into the valley to see a Pharaoh's tomb, but I turned around when too much fear came to me. Too dark and too late and I had not finished my walking around the Old City idea. A man offered me a cigaret and we both went back uphill, deeply listening to our thoughts. He gave me one of his last papers to roll a cigaret, and when I lost one and the wind carried it away, I felt I did a mistake, since even a cigaret paper is of value for someone who has only little and shares. Did I respect him well enough?
There are many stories people bring back from Jerusalem. My story is that this day started with me sitting under a tree in the Jewish neighborhood and an old man passes me. He asked me: "Do you also talk to the big man" pointing in towards the sky above us. I nodded. There wasn't much more to say. When I finished my cycle around the Old City, and when entering Jaffa street I suddenly felt a strong stroke hitting my body and my eye sight changed, it got darker. There was not much I could do but to keep walking and to wait till my eyes would start seeing in full brightness again. It only took maybe a minute till things were okay again. I sat down, ordered some sweets in a bakery and drank water. When sitting on the table the plastic-box with the sweets moved towards my hand. Maybe it was the table that was not even, maybe it wasn't? All this energy and all this love in me and around. I struggled with the balance around me. An old man passed and asked for money. I gave him some coins and he did wish me: "May you always be in good health." I felt grateful for his words. His words keep traveling with me. When entering the Yehuda Market I turned around after a few meters, a load of energy moved towards me again, as if all the fruits in the marked where thrown to me at the same time. I turned around and chose a more quite street to pass the block.
Happiness was filling my heart and my exhausted body, when I returned to the friends' place I was staying at. This night the Arab Jews in the marked played Arabic music. I was too tired to go there. My wish was, that the peace I felt for this city would be felt throughout the world. It is a big wish in me. Too ambitious to become real at that night.
Prayers for God
Walking the Old City of Jerusalem is easy, especially when somebody knowing the place takes you for a walk. A German friend offered to walk with me, so I could see the Jewish quarter, the Muslim quarter, the Christian places and the Armenian part of the city. We walked together to see the famous holy places for all three religions. We started in the market eating some sweets. The city as such is a temple, as I told a Jewish friend a few days later, when watching the city from the top of an old synagogue. I was impressed by the dignity of prayers. There is so much truth in it and many people dedicate their lives to pray to God -- an entity of mercy and compassion, peace and love, truth and tolerance we gave so many names to. With the Christian faith, my parents gave me, I was able to enter all holy places with the dignity of respect and tolerance. I remembered also my friends words from Rosh Pina, who said that we share common roots. Maybe seeing these roots is a cornerstone for friendship and peace. In becoming aware of our forefather's thoughts, we will learn what we share and have in common. Without trying to be judging, my travels took me back to our prophets and fathers Mohammed, Jesus, Moses, Abraham, Noah.
Lion and lamb
Abraham's and his wife's tomb is in Hebron. A city that felt in a certain way familiar to me, since huge football advertisement are making me feel welcomed and back in normality. Though the political reality is dense in the city. The old building with the tomb, is split in a Jewish and an Muslim part. The police man at the entrance did ask me if I have any sharp things with me. My reply was that I only have a sharp mind. I think I was not lying. When visiting Bethlehem the same afternoon, my taxi driver Nasser took me to a souvenir shop: Without really knowing what I did, I decided to get an olive wood carving with a lion and a lamb, symbolizing the soft and the strong in one. I also picked a dark stone with some green and blue Elat stone inside, as a symbol that all darkness and pain carries new life in it. There is always hope. I was satisfied when I found an old painted tile in Jericho in the evening with a motive of two birds sitting on some leaves and a clear rectangular blue edge. For me this is the symbol of two nations living within clear boarders.
Hearing Stones be thrown
The atmosphere in Jerusalem was not in order in early 2015. Young people where provoking each other on their way to school. Teenager, with machine guns did guard tramway stations. Anarchic style security. I was wondering why this is happening. Young people I talked to had no friends on the other side of their culture. Old people I talked to still knew friends from either the Jewish or the Palestinian world around them. Why did it end? When I passed a group of young Palestinian school boys and in my naive way I told them to leave me a little bit of space with my luggage, I heard little stones and a glass bottle being thrown behind me on the cobble stones. When turning around I could see hate in a young boy's eyes. Why? I wondered. And I also realized that it is so important for me to not express my feelings but to do all to keep the dignity of the kids high and respect their way of being. It was also time for me to leave Jerusalem, wondering when to be back again. Nasser drove me to the Death Sea and I found a place to relax for a few days.
Leaving with mixed feelings
I left Israel with the impression of having been in a wonderful country. A place I need to learn more to see and to understand. The love I felt and the relieve was immense and badly needed for my soul. The visit to Yad Vashem, the Holocaust memorial side, so clearly showed me that the Holocaust was an attempt to eliminate all Jewish communities from Europe. The pain of countless victims made me cry there. Seeing a photograph of Adolf Hitler and a few of his fellows wearing Bavarian traditional cloth, back in the early 1920s, made me feel sad and so ashamed. Visiting Israel, meeting Jewish friends, saying shalom to the man next to me after the silent retreat, made me feel happy from inside. Also seeing the political institutions, the parliament, the courthouse and the museums that reminds us of our duties and our obligations, made me feel proud. And still, the energy and the aggression I felt in many parts during my travels made me feel concerned. What if our children's future is at stake because of internal extremism and misuse of political and social power? I didn't like what I heard when Jewish voices told me that is our land and I didn't like to hear when a Palestinian man told me, that his forefathers have been living here for 4000 years and that he just will wait till the Jewish people will be gone again. Both views did not seem right to me.
Mother Nature's voice
I left the country with the wish that one day there will be a natural reserve in the Galilee around Mount Hermon comprising parts of Israel, Syria, and Lebanon. It is possible that at the end it is also Mother Nature who decides about the future of a country for all children of Israel and Palestine. Water management is an issue for all people in the borders of the state of Israel. Water will remain the source of life also there. Taking care of Mother Nature is a duty we can manage more efficiently if we speak in one voice and if we decide to make decisions together.
Taking care of an old tree needs many good souls and a lot of wisdom.