It’s been a couple of weeks since we got back, but Jerusalem is the sort of place that seeps under your skin and doesn’t leave. We had dinner with our friend Jeff the other night, a man who has traveled far and wide, and all of us held a kind of reverie for the holy land.
Being a Christian, and on a pilgrimage, we spent the bulk of our time in churches and at places remembered as where Jesus walked or talked or prayed or scolded us for not clinging to our mother the way we ought to. And, believe me, those places were incredible. So moving that putting it to words feels, well, cheap. But one place that is not Christian – though claims a shared heritage in Mount Moriah – gutted me. The Dome of the Rock.
I remember in Art History class in the 12th grade, studying those elegant loops and vibrant blues and wishing I could see this mosque, knowing I probably never would. So to walk the Temple Mount was a privilege. A real privilege.
The first time I saw the Dome was from a distance on the Mount of Olives. It was Friday, so the haunting call to prayer was echoing over the valley filled with tombs, and I was standing where Jesus likened himself to a mother hen. I wrote to my Dad:
I know you remember me reading the writings of Rachel Corrie (you often refer to her as “the one who got bulldozed”). And there was so much I related to in her back in 2011 – her gumption, her heart, her seeking answers. But being here makes me understand more the pain and complexity in the conflict. It is so bad. And so deep. This land is just so sacred to so many people. I keep thinking about how in Christianity, we call each other “brothers and sisters.” (Or, if you’re at your progressive Baptist church, probably something deliciously gender-inclusive like “siblings in our Creator.”) And the thing is, Islam traces its roots back to Ishamel, the brother of Isaac, and also the son of Abraham. The Dome of the Rock (that big gold-topped building that dominates the Jerusalem skyline) is built over the rock where Jews and Christians believe Abraham went to sacrifice Isaac, and Muslims believe he went to sacrifice Ishamel. And we’re all tracing our roots back to two brothers who couldn’t get along because the father couldn’t decide who was the actual promised one. Families. I keep thinking about that, and the conflict, and how it is always the ones we love the most who can hurt so bad – whether by their doing or their leaving.