Getting Along With Each Other

The year 1998 was the time that Richard as well as me had an amazing opportunity to travel across the globe as dance instructors on the cruise ship. The places we saw at the time, like Oman, Jordan, Turkey, Morocco, Indonesia and Israel are now in turmoil and are not as secure for tourists. In the year 2000 when Palestinian soldiers hid within Bethlehem’s Church of the Nativity at Bethlehem and were under attack I was amazed at the fact that I was standing where they were and could see the scene when the news stories came in. When I visited, Israel as well as Palestine were fighting, just like they have since Israel was created.

As we arrived the dock in Haifa, Israel, we had only one dayto spend, therefore the two of my Jewish buddies, Murray and Sylvia (who were there previously) and I booked an cab driver to drive us around the entire length of Israel to see all we could in the space of twelve hours. The journey to Bethlehem was an experience in peace around the world, and I would like to give you the lesson from my travel journal:

After the long trip back to across the Dead Sea, we reach the old walls that surround Jerusalem. We then enter the Old City in Jerusalem, and then pass through the city’s historic center in order to reach Bethlehem which is just south. Along the way there are signs of the changing boundaries. A chain link and barbed wire fence lines the border for miles. On both sides of it, there are buildings that bear Hebrew symbols to the Palestinian side as well as Arabic letters to side Israeli side, signalling it has been transferred ownership numerous times. In and out in a back and forth motion the fence is moved due to various battles that alter the boundaries. Bethlehem is currently under Palestinian control since the peace treaty was signed 4 years ago, which is why our driver believes it’s not secure to allow us to ride in an Israeli taxi. He has called over the line and made arrangements with his family members for the use of a Palestinian taxi and driver bring us inside.

The tension that is created by changing cabs of these locations evident. The driver pulls up near the Palestinian border and tells us to cross. We are like characters from an action film walking between the shacks of guards on the Israeli side, which are manned by guards who carry automatic rifles through the no-man’s land in the middle, then between the similarly shabby guard posts and well-armed Palestinian guards. But no one pays any attention to us. They look straight at us. We are greeted by our friendly Palestinian driver, who is in his Arabictaxi that is marked with Arabic, meets us on the opposite side. We are able to breathe again.

Bethlehem and Bethlehem and the Church of the Nativity are just three miles apart We’ll be just a few minutes away. While the driver talks to us in a very friendly English and we start to unwind. The warmth of these two drivers, both citizens of two warring countries, point out that, even when circumstances are uncomfortable individuals can find ways to collaborate. The drivers aren’t antagonistic towards one another and are working together to help each other (and our fellow travelers) out. Then, we discover that most cab drivers do not transport their passengers to Bethlehem. Only ours has arranged the switch.

The Church of the Nativity turns into 3 churches in one. a Palestinian Christian church, a Greek Orthodox, and a Catholic church. The three churches are grouped together in a courtyard, and some walls. We traverse through each in order to reach the next! One of the oldest churches is called the Palestinian Church of the Nativity that was first constructed in 400 AD. It is entered through a door constructed with a low profile, so one must bow respectfully to enter into. The ground we are standing on today was laid in the year 600 AD in the aftermath of the first church was destroyed. However, it also has a trap door inside, where we can peer down and observe an original floor mosaic just 3 feet lower. The priests are awe-inspiring with a calm sense of pride and an appreciation for what they are walking on, and the ground that they take care for.

The church was built in the traditional cross-shaped design and has a tall ceiling, from which chains hang with made of brass lamps on them. It is possible that there are fifty of these gorgeous lamps, all of them lit, and each one unique. The cut-out designs in the metal let the light reflect off the cut-out patterns on the walls- moons, diamonds, stars. What a beautiful sight that the people have cherished for over 2500 years! On one side, you will find the doorway to a staircase that leads to a room that is adorned with silks. The left side when you walk in is an opening which appears to be an old fireplace however, it will turn out to be the place in which Jesus began his life. A beautiful, 13-pointed star is positioned on the floor in the exact location, which is flanked by oil lamps. The 13 points symbolize the generational gap that passed between David and Jesus as well as which is the total number of Jesus’ disciples who were present at the table at the last meal, and the places of the cross.

On the other part of the space is the manger stone in which infants were laid upon after the birth. There are candles at one end. It’s a stunning sight to see all the years of worship have left their marks in this space. My dad was Catholic and I’ve lit candles to honor him in various churches across the world however lighting the candles at the manger was a memorable occasion for me. As soon as I saw the votive candles that were in this room, I inquired where I could purchase one and the guide replied that the priest could get me one. The priest was as old as the place and, with an almost an audible clacking, he delivered a candle to me, that I lit and placed along with the other candles near the top of the manger. The simple ceremony, practiced by generations, brought me into tears.

As we left the site of the Nativity We walked through The Greek Orthodox and Catholic Churches each of which is stunning, before heading back to the courtyard.

After returning in a taxi to the border and then changing into our Israeli taxis again. We drove towards Jerusalem. The afternoon was rapidly fading. We made our way into Old Jerusalem, and visited the Cardo which was an ancient Roman market, which is now that is surrounded by a modern shopping center.

We are now in The Western Wall (known as the Wailing Wall)-the sole relic of an old temple that the Jews revere and use to pray. This wall can be divided into two parts one for males and one for women. Sylvia and I were on the right side, while Murray moved to the left. Murray’s birthday was on the calendar and also it was the day of his mom’s passing and that was his primary reason for returning to Israel. to pray at the wall. All along the wall were both genders sitting in prayer or moving back and forth praying. A majority of men were wearing the lengthy black jackets as well as black hats worn by their Orthodox Jews, and a large number of women were also wearing long black outfits. It is believed that to write a wish on a piece of paper and then tuck it in a hole in the wall the request can be accepted. As we walked closer, we could hear women murmuring. One was crying. We were again struck at the consistency of time.

The past of these countries and the millennia of human existence as well as the prayers, grieving as well as the hopes, fears and hopes of those who simply want to provide for their families and lead an enlightened life, floats all around us in a mist of human strength and the possibility of survival. Our taxi drivers are equally Palestinian and Israeli are family men, who are as puzzled over why they’re fighting like us in America are about the reasons why there’s no way to be peaceful. They don’t have to fight over land , or oil rights or the supremacy of religion. They must provide for their families, take care of their children and wives and leave a legacy to their children. Therefore, regardless of what their countries do against each other, despite the military and those who represent them, gunmen, suicide bombers, and the borders, they work collectively to pay a salary. These men are proud of their little piece of the globe-the Moslem, Jewish and Christian holy places, and they consider it to be belonging to everyone. Only extremists, both religious and political, would like to own the place. Like us, are looking for only a small portion of it to live comfortably, and keep their families well. There’s enough food to provide for everyone in the world.

The late peace spokesman Danaan Parry wrote: “The energy is used to start war is the energy that we need to create peace.

“That’s the heroic act the warrior must perform-to figure out an avenue to communicate with those on the other side of the valve that is closed and so that we can turn that valve on both sides to allow it to open up once more.

“The newly-formed warrior finds himself in precarious spot as he or she declares, “I am going to expose me and the rest of my family how… the darkness is within us all and I’m going to demand that we be able to face the darkness.” Therefore, the term “warrior” really has some significance because warriors have to be able to take on some very harsh criticism from their own tribe. We’re demanding that our own people develop and not show off.”

This Memorial Day, I pray that all of us learn to live in peace even when we are in wars that we do not understand. I hope that we do not believe that all people are our enemies simply due to their race, nationality or religion. I pray that we are able to be a team regardless of what government insists on telling us. Ich pray that peace will prevail inside of ourselves in our families, throughout the world.

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