...I mentioned that I’d be traveling to Jerusalem soon. “We should get together right away,” he joked, “before you come down with Messiah syndrome.”...A committed but fearful agnostic, I’d never intended to tempt fate by visiting the Holy Land...P.S.
...We walked on to the Western Wall, where I stopped, spellbound, despite that same feeling of separateness from someone else’s passion. Max pointed out that the men had about three times more room than the women to pray. We decided against writing prayers to tuck into the cracks and left the Old City on foot. Above us roiling tufts of gray clouds swept across the pallid sky, out over the wall of separation.
Inside the gates of the Temple Mount, not far from the gleaming golden Dome of the Rock, stood a group of column capitals, some chiseled in intricate florals, some in delicate curlicues, others in a sturdy basket weave, all jumbled together, like rubble, at the mercy of the weather. Throughout the city, walls rested on other older walls, often of disputed provenance. Among these ruins of failed occupiers and kings, I kept thinking of the stories of my childhood: Moses leading the Israelites out of Egypt, Esther supplicating herself before the Persian king, Daniel interpreting the dreams of Babylon’s Nebuchadnezzar, the Roman prefect Pontius Pilate declaring Jesus the King of the Jews and then washing his hands of the matter. At times the past seemed so immediate, I could hardly breathe.
...I’d been warned that visiting the Holy Land intensifies your deepest religious beliefs. That was unexpectedly true for even this ardent doubter. Seeing the remains of all the regimes and the people who had tried to infuse their faiths and customs and architecture into the place and then receded across the millenniums, I couldn’t understand how anyone could feel sure of any belief, any way of being, in a place that is so constantly shifting. Like Jerusalem, I remained my own stubbornly uncertain self.
I left this reply to another comment:
Yisrael MedadShiloh, Israel
Nancy, how did you feel knowing that not only females but Jewish males are restricted in prayer, expressing spiritual respect or simply appearing as ann identifiable Jew, rather than a simple tourist, on the Temple Mount? No space at all. Is it fair that one religion practice dominance rather than serving as an agent for coexistence and tolerance, just like the text of Article 9 of the Israel-Jordan Peace Treaty: "The Parties will act together to promote interfaith relations among the three monotheistic religions, with the aim of working towards religious understanding, moral commitment, freedom of religious worship, and tolerance and peace." In the meantime, Jordan is engaged in incitement and historical revisionism as regards Jewish heritage in Jerusalem. Is that nay way to behave?