MIDDLE EASTERN PHOTOS/COMMENTARY - VOL. IV
JERUSALEM = CITY OF PEACE
Overlooking Jerusalem from the Hyatt Regency Hotel balcony
Jerusalem – the Old City Wall
Jerusalem … the city to which members of three religions make their pilgrimage to holy sites. Jerusalem … the city that now has a 20 foot cement wall running through it because humanity has not learned to live in peace.
THE JEWISH STATE
The Knesset – or Parliament Building in New Jerusalem
The wrought iron entrance signifies the barbed wire fences surrounding the concentration camps in Germany.
The Menorah – Symbol of the State of Israel – faces the Knesset.
Men’s Section of the Wailing Wall – men dressed in all black are members
of an Orthodox Jewish Sect
Women’s Section of the Wailing Wall – copies of the Hebrew Bible are on the table.
The Wailing Wall (Western Wall) is the only wall left of King Herod’s Temple, built in 20 B.C.E. Here the Jews come to pray. The swaying of the body during prayer is a means of dedicating the body to God while the spirit prays. Hyssop grows in the cracks of the wall.
One entrance to the Wailing Wall
POSTCARD – the Wailing Wall
The Wailing Wall is the holiest shrine of the Jewish World. It is the western retainer wall of the temple mound. Following the destruction of Herod’s Temple by the Romans in 70 A.D., Jews have endured long periods of time in which they were not allowed to visit the temple mound. When allowed to visit, they stood before the western wall and wept … thus the name “Wailing Wall.” Slips of paper on which prayers are written are inserted into the cracks of the stone wall.
King David’s Tomb – located on Mount Zion – outside the city walls of old Jerusalem.
Dome of the Rock – Located on Mount Moriah
Moslem tradition states that Mohammed ascended from the Temple Mound, hundreds of years after the Temple was destroyed in 70 C.E. by the Romans. King Hussein (1935 – 1999), considered the Father of Modern Jordan, donated enough gold to cover the Dome of the Mosque. The Dome of the Rock Mosque rivals Mecca as one of the most sacred shrines for Muslims.
Inside this mosque is the rock thought to be where Abraham was prepared to sacrifice his son Issac and where Jacob had his “ladder into heaven” dream. The wrought iron fence circles a washing fountain where each Moslem must wash his face, hands, and feet before entering the mosque.
The Arabic writing around the top of the Mosque is from the Koran.
The upper walls of the Mosque are inlaid tile mosaic. The gold, white, and blue tiles create a beautiful sight below the sparkling gold dome. In the above photo, the gold donated by King Hussein is being mounted on the Dome—1993.
Mosaic tiles around the upper walls of the Mosque
The craftsmanship required to create this mosque is mind-boggling.
One Entrance to the Temple Mound
During the time of Jesus, Herod the Great’s Temple stood on this same Temple Mound. Thus, all three religions consider the Temple Mound to be a sacred shrine.
Overlooking old Jerusalem from Mount Zion
Note steps going down the mountain to the Kidron Valley toward Jerusalem.
1000 steps going down Mt. Zion to the Kidron Valley.
Jesus very likely used these steps often as Mt. Zion is the thought to be the location for his great uncle’s—Joseph of Arimathea—Jerusalem residence. It was in his uncle’s home that Jesus and his disciples celebrated the Passover Feast on the night he was arrested. This residence is a large stone structure resting on top of Mt. Zion. In it is a magnificent dining hall supported by round stone columns. Jesus disciples also used Joseph of Arimathea’s Jerusalem home as their hiding place following his crucifixion and ascension. It is here that they received the Holy Spirit. Joseph of Arimathea’s home would have been a safe place for the disciples because Joseph was well known in both the Roman courts and among the Jewish religious leaders.
Mount Zion is also the site of King David’s tomb (see photo above).
It is important to remember that Christianity, as a religion, did not exist in Jesus’ time. Jesus did not come to create another religion. He and most of his followers were Jews.
Jesus, John the Baptist, and many of his followers were Essenes—a mystical Jewish group that had pulled away from the traditional Jewish teachings in favor of a much deeper attunement to nature and the kingdom of God within.
Jesus’ Essene teachings may be found in a series of books translated by Edmond Bordeaux Szekely. The story of Szekely’s discovery of these ancient books in the Secret Archives of the Vatican is entitled: The Discovery of The Essene Gospel of Peace. Additional books on the Essenes include: The Essene Jesus, and four volumes of The Essene Gospel of Peace.
Jesus’ membership within the Essene community explains why he was critical of the Jewish religious authorities, as evidenced throughout the four gospels. Relations between the traditional Jewish religious authorities and the Essenes were strained, if not actually dangerous—as evidenced in Jesus’ arrest and crucifixion.
The Garden of Gethsemane in January—a cold month in Israel.
The trees in the Garden are olive trees, which never die. Jesus very likely knew these same trees. Instead of dying, the truck opens and allows new growth to come forth.
Garden of Gethsemane
Ancient olive tree trunk with several new growth trunks emerging from it.
The Via Dolorosa – The Way of the Cross
A 20 foot tall cement wall now runs near this street.
Jesus is believed to have carried his cross down this street … through the Damascus Gate in the city wall … and to the Place of the Skull.
The Damascus Gate into old Jerusalem
The Place of the Skull
This site is thought to be the Place of the Skull. I found the skull hard to distinguish.
Garden at the Place of the Skull
Tomb in the Place of the Skull Garden
Jesus was likely laid in this tomb or one like it. The tomb consists of two chambers carved out of the stone … the first chamber is large enough to allow the mourners to gather and weep. The second chamber contains the burial stone.
We can easily understand why each of the three religions claim Jerusalem as their Holy City. The lessons we still have to learn are: We are all children of the One Creator God. The kingdom of God abides within each of us, whether or not we recognize that fact. We are all Earth humans with a responsibility to create the “best possible living conditions” for all of creation. Contrary to the way we behave, Creator God did not create us to tear our world apart. As long as we continue to do so, none of us—regardless of our chosen religion—are following the commandments of God.
JUDAISM, CHRISTIANITY, & ISLAM
KINDNESS TOWARD ONE ANOTHER!
“The world stands upon three things: upon the Law, upon worship, and upon showing kindness.” Mishnah, Abot 1.2
“Be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another.” Ephesians 4:32
“Those who act kindly in this world will have kindness.” Qur’an 39.10
JUDAISM, CHRISTIANITY, & ISLAM
TO OBEY THE COMMANDMENTS!
In January 1993, our seminary tour group arrived in Jerusalem. We spent one week in a Jewish hotel, one week in a Palestinian hotel. We listened to the stories of each side.
Sunday morning worship service at St. George’s Cathedral
One of the most memorable experiences of our visit among Christian Palestinians was a Sunday morning worship service at St. George’s Cathedral. Canon Ateek preached his sermon twice—once in Arabic and once in English. We were astounded that Palestinian Christians sat through both sermons … we wondered what Americans would have done had Palestinians been visiting us in the states. The most inspiring moment was when we prayed the Lord’s Prayer in unison—some speaking English, most speaking Arabic. For those few moments, all barriers fell away … we were One.
Canon Naim Stifan Ateek
Canon Ateek is the author of several books, the most recent one being A Palestinian Christian Cry for Reconciliation. Others are: Justice, And Only Justice: A Palestinian Theology of Liberation, Holy Land, Hollow Jubilee: God, Justice, & the Palestinians, and Faith & the Intifada: Palestinian Christian Voices.
Following the worship service, we met with Canon Ateek in the educational building to be assigned in small groups to visit the homes of Palestinian Christians. That afternoon we visited our assigned homes and listened to the individual stories of Palestinian Christians. They told of seized homes, bank accounts, and lands. They shared their stories in the hopes that we would return to the states and give Palestinians a voice in the political and religious arenas.
As we listened to their stories, we were struck by their honesty and their sincere desire to have us not react with anger at the Palestinian plight, but to respond with positive efforts to bring about a peaceful solution.
My 1993 seminary group visiting in the Jerusalem home of Mrs. Habiby.
This 4 volume pictorial series on the Middle East is dedicated to
To quote from Canon Ateek’s book Justice & Only Justice: “For most Palestinian Christians, as for many other Arab Christians, their view of the Bible, especially the Hebrew Scriptures, or the Old Testament, has been adversely affected by the creation of the State of Israel. Many previously hidden problems suddenly surfaced. The God of the Bible, hitherto the God who saves and liberates, has come to be viewed by Palestinians as partial and discriminating. Before the creation of the State, the Old Testament was considered to be an essential part of Christian Scripture, pointing and witnessing to Jesus. Since the creation of the State, some Jewish and Christian interpreters have read the Old Testament largely as a Zionist text to such an extent that it has become almost repugnant to Palestinian Christians. As a result, the Old Testament has generally fallen into disuse among both clergy and laity, and the Church has been unable to come to terms with its ambiguities, questions, and paradoxes—especially with its direct application of the twentieth-century events in Palestine. The fundamental question of many Christians … is: ‘How can the Old Testament be the Word of God in light of the Palestinian Christian’s experience with its use to support Zionism? …. What has been seriously questioned is the nature and character of God. What is God really like? What is God’s relation to the new State of Israel? Is God partial only to the Jews? Is this a God of justice and peace? …. The focus of these questions is the very person of God. God’s character is at stake. God’s integrity has been questioned.” (pages 77-78)
An American Jewish friend of mine, Heidi Aycock, writes: “It is the tribalism in the Bible that convinces me that the text is the work of humanity. I don’t believe that God would have written a story that justifies such cruelty, arrogance, and xenophobia. That said, I sense much of the same divinity in the Bible as I sense in Great Expectations and The Life of Pi, and the poetry of T.S. Eliot, and the paintings of Casper David Friedrich. I just think the Bible is no more authoritative or divine than other great works that call us to compassion and courage.
It is this very fact—the fact that the divinity of the human striving for God is so evident in the Bible despite the text’s wildly contradictory world views—that convinces me of the existence of a loving and compassionate God. It’s just like the ordinary world which sparkles with a sacredness everywhere you turn, just begging us to join in the sparkling and let the darkness die away.
But that doesn’t make religion bad. When religion is used to speak coherently to a group that has chosen to cling to each other because of their common mode of understanding or common history, that’s not necessarily bad. Not everyone can get the message the same way. God made us all different. However, when religion is used to gather power and resources for one group at the expense of another, that is the danger: anyone can be tempted to believe the thing that gives them and those they love an advantage regardless of the cost to anyone else. It’s too hard to resist.
Regarding religion, too, it’s hard to talk about the inherent value of religion without regarding the way that different religions see themselves. For Jews, religion and national identity are woven together like a sturdy fabric. Is there another modern religion—I’m sure there is, but I can’t think of one—that says to its converts ‘when you choose to practice our faith, you choose to throw your fortunes in with the fortunes of our people even though you have been protected from those fortunes until now? I wasn’t raised this way. I was raised in the Reform Jewish Movement which tried desperately and futilely to shake off its attachment to a national identity until it found that it was too hard for most people to ‘be Jewish’ without one. My father fought with this paradox all the years I knew him. I think he craved a stake in the comfort that God might offer, but hated the idea that he might not be able to have that without a national identity that denied him a plain vanilla North American identity.”
These questions are questions all of us need to ask. How can God be partial to a particular race or ethnic group? How can God sanction the seizure of property, the destruction of cities, and the killing of every man, woman, and child—as is depicted in the Old Testament and as an example that humankind follows to this day?
The unequivocal answer is: GOD IS NOT PARTIAL. The only reason we could even ask the question is that we do not know the Truth—WE ARE ALL ONE WITH GOD. There dwells within each human being a divine spark—the I AM PRESENCE.
A literal interpretation of the Bible has been used to excuse and wreak havoc all over our planet. Metaphysically, all battles depicted in the Bible are symbolic of our inner battles between the lower ego and the Soul/Higher Self. Each race mentioned within the Bible possesses a symbolic meaning. Let’s consider a few by using Unity’s Metaphysical Bible Dictionary.
Israelites represent “the thoughts in us … that typify that in us which is always endeavoring to follow the inner leading of the divine law. The Israelites are “our spiritual thoughts, the thoughts that pertain to the real and enduring ideas upon which man and the universe are founded.”
The Israelite Army represents “an aggregation of thoughts in the mind of every individual—thoughts that know Truth and strive to follow it. The army of Truth is made up spiritual, invisible forces.”
Jews “in their highest aspect symbolize divine ideas, or spiritual consciousness. However, in the New Testament, Jews symbolize our established religious thoughts and systems of worship…. Our religious convictions frequently stand in the way of our accepting the new revelations of Truth that come to us.” Most often Jews represent our religious thoughts in contrast to an open revelation of Truth.
Remember the Bible tells the story of the Jews—those who in their highest aspect symbolize divine ideas or spiritual consciousness.
The story is NOT A RACIAL ONE, it is the story of all humanity attempting to maintain a spiritual consciousness and failing to do so—thereby becoming Jews who are dependent upon religious laws barren of Spirit – or - Gentiles, possessing a worldly consciousness.
In the Bible
We are all to be Jews
Regardless of our race or ethnicity!
Gentiles - in the Bible, Gentiles include all nations and races not of Israelite origin and faith. The Gentile symbolizes our unregenerate state of mind—our worldly thoughts … thoughts derived from our sense perception.
The Bible is the story of our soul’s journey to oneness with God. It is a soul level story. Sacred Scripture is not written to be a historical account.
From a metaphysical point of view, the Promised Land is that spiritual state of higher consciousness in which we ascend from our physical plane consciousness and unite with our I AM PRESENCE. Elizabeth Claire Prophet’s illustration of the Divine Self depicts this ascension into the Promised Land.
The lower figure represents the Gentile self … the self that is focused on the senses and securing a comfortable position within the physical world. The lower figure also represents the Jewish self that adheres only to the orthodox religious teachings and fails to seek Truth.
The middle figure symbolizes the Intuitive or Higher Mind that attempts to guide our Gentile/Jewish self to the Promised Land.
The Promised Land is signified by the top figure---our I AM PRESENCE. The Bible is the story of our soul’s journey through our worldly (Gentile) and strictly religious (Jewish) thoughts to union with our I AM PRESENCE, i.e. the Promised Land.
We become Israelites once we are focused entirely through our I AM PRESENCE. Jesus described his Israelite self: “The Father and I are One.”
Reading the Old and New Testament through metaphysical lens removes the racism, prejudices, discriminations, and merciless killing of men, women, and children.
GOD IS LOVE!
Because humanity fails to understand
That we are all to become Jews
And possess a spiritual consciousness,
A sad story unfolds in modern
We are all Gentiles, instead.
Bir Zeit University – A Palestinian University
With both Christian and Moslem
Bir Zeit University is located on a mountain top. Looking down, our seminary group could see Israeli soldiers parked on the roadside with binoculars—observing all that took place on the campus. Students are frequently detained at the Israeli check points until they have missed their classes. For this reason, few university students manage to graduate within the standard four years college period. Often Israelis halt the classes and suspend them for indefinite spans of time. Classes were suspended the day our seminary group visited.
Public Relations Team at Bir Zeit University
The Public Relations Team at Bir Zeit University spoke to our group and allowed us to ask questions. Afterwards, they took us on a tour of the university. Bir Zeit University welcomed our group, in contrast to both university and mosque in Cairo, Egypt, where Americans are not welcome. As the Patriarch of Antioch & All the East told us in Damascus, “Americans have alienated the people of the Middle East by their arrogance and political policies.” He warned us of grave consequences if we did not change our ways.
Two professors at Bir Zeit University are especially active in the peace process with Israel: Hanan Ashrawi, a Palestinian Christian and Sari Nusseibeh, a Moslem. There may be more of which I am unaware. Both have written very insightful books, which I highly recommend to all who desire to understand the plight of the Palestinians.
Once Upon A Country: A Palestinian Life, Sari Nusseibeh with Anthony David
This Side of Peace, Hanan Ashrawi
Palestinian Christian Women
YWCA in Jerusalem
These Palestinian women provided a panel discussion for our seminary group. We heard their stories and were allowed to ask questions. Hanan Ashrawi is second from the left. As mentioned above, Dr. Ashwari is a professor at Bir Zeit University. At one time, she was frequently seen on PBS’s NEWSHOUR, speaking for the peace process and representing the Arab League. She has served on the Palestinian Legislative Council, was spokeswoman for the Arab League, and founder of the Palestinian Initiative for the Promotion of Global Dialogue & Democracy. Her book This Side of Peace is excellent for understanding the inner workings of the peace process.
Ibillin High School & Community College – Ibillin, Israel
Father Elias Chacour, a Palestinian Christian
Founder of Ibillin High School & Community College
We met with Father Chacour and toured Ibillin school. The cane Father Chacour is holding was carved by the man standing next to him. Although not visible in the photo, the carving was intricate. This student carved the cane, not knowing to whom he would give it. He carried it throughout our Middle Eastern tour, knowing that he would be led to give it to the right person. Father Chacour was that person. (The man on the right is Dr. Jim Smiley, professor of Church History at Union Theological Seminary.)
Father Chacour is serious about proclaiming love for the Jews as well as Palestinians. He was the first Palestinian to earn a degree from Hebrew University in Jerusalem. He builds schools, community centers, and youth clubs throughout Galilee.
Father Chacour’s autobiography Blood Brothers tells the story of what really happened during the formation of the State of Israel. Quoting Blood Brothers: “Throughout the 1930s, while Hitler’s pogroms thrived, no major western nation increased its quota of Jewish immigrants. Was the tiny land of Palestine really expected to absorb millions of European Jews, its inhabitants giving up land and jobs while the large western nations were comfortably silent? To me, those terrified masses of Jewish immigrants were never to blame for our tragedy. They were dazed by fear, pathetically desperate to escape the heinous death camps. In this, they were to become the pawns of the Zionist leaders. Upon their arrival in Palestine they were quickly indoctrinated against their so-called new enemy—the Palestinians. Here was the second bastion of Zionist
Power: propaganda. Increasingly, they controlled all news emanating from Palestine. With the tongues of our leaders effectively “cut off,” it was easy to mold Western opinion through the press, obscuring the real issues. The protests of 1936-38 were renamed “The Arab Rebellion.” Palestinians, who in any other country being overtaken by a foreign force would have been called freedom fighters, were “terrorists” and “guerillas.” Hence, the widely used term “Palestinian terrorist” was ingrained in the Western mind. (Pages 121-122)
Father Elias Chacour also wrote We Belong to the Land: The Story of A Palestinian Israeli Who Lives For Peace & Reconciliation with Mary E. Jones.
Our group visited the West Bank, which is occupied territory. Here the plight of the Palestinians becomes vividly clear.
Israeli soldiers on the rooftops of Palestinian homes
This West Bank Palestinian neighborhood is surrounded by barbed wire and soldiers are most definitely present.
As Father Chacour states in his book quoted above, the Jewish people appear not to know the truth about the Palestinian plight. Propaganda and media control rules the minds of the Jewish population. For example, while our Jewish tour guide denied that Israeli soldiers penetrate the Palestinian communities, I snapped the above photo of soldiers on the rooftops.
A Jewish settlement on the occupied territory of the West Bank.
This settlement looked like any city in the United States. We had lunch and visited a Jewish Center while there.
Jewish Center on the West Bank
A Jewish immigrant from Los Angeles spoke with us at the Jewish Center. Again, we felt that the immigrants know few facts about the Palestinian plight. When we asked how she would resolve the Israeli/Palestinian conflict, she answered, “Send the Palestinians to Jordan.” Under pressure from the group, she responded, “What would you have me do? Return to Los Angeles?” Sadly, this seems to be the level of understanding within the Jewish immigrant community. The media continues to tell them what to believe. Many Jewish immigrants have never known a Palestinian. The same would be true for Palestinians never having known a Jew. Separation is required in order to perpetuate the fear between Jew and Palestinian.
In contrast to the modern Jewish settlement in the occupied territory of the West Bank, a Palestinian neighborhood located in Palestinian territory is barricaded.
A barricaded Palestinian neighborhood.
Palestinian neighborhoods on the West Bank are encircled with bobbed wire fences. Without the barricades, Palestinians could exit from their neighborhood via several streets. Instead, the Israeli army had all but one exit sealed off. The Palestinians have to start to work around 4:30 AM to allow for hours of sitting in line waiting for approximately 6,000 people to exit their neighborhood via the one open street. Palestinians are required to have blue car license plates while Jews have yellow plates. Nazi Germany required Jews to wear yellow arm bands. We repeatedly witnessed the Israeli state/army treating Palestinians as Jews were treated in Nazi Germany. This behavior perpetuates the cycle of mistreatment, for the irrevocable Universal Law is that “we reap what we sow.” Mistreatment breeds mistreatment, just as violence breeds violence.
A settlement being constructed on the West Bank – occupied territory.
While the TV news proclaimed no more settlements being built in occupied territories, our tour group witnessed this one on the West Bank.
All have suffered at the hands of leaders who are manipulating and creating facts on the ground in order to achieve their own corrupt goals. It is difficult for the people themselves to discern truth from non-truth.
I would like to quote from an American Jewish friend of mine, Heidi Aycock.
“As for pluralism, while I hope for the day when religion dissolves and the truth of the spirit remains, the issue of pluralism in Israel is about demanding that a Jewish state welcome and support and honor all Jews. There’s really no defense for having a Jewish state if non-Orthodox Jews are discriminated against.
As for pluralism regarding non-Jews in Israel, one would hope that the government would start attending to … safe homes for ALL PEOPLE, reliable care for ALL PEOPLE, and peace radiating from Jerusalem. We can’t have that as long as we keep bulldozing Arab homes and occupying what little land the world has left for the Palestinians. It’s hard to stop doing that though, when we [the Jews] feel so threatened too. What a puzzle.”
Gershom Gorenberg, an American Jew now living in Jerusalem, has written several books that add insights into the Israeli/Palestinian conflict from a Jewish point of view. His most recent book is: The Accidental Empire: Israel & the Birth of the Settlements, 1967-1977. Another is The End of Days: Fundamentalism & the Struggle for the Temple Mound.
Peace organizations exist in both the Jewish and Palestinian sectors. While many of the people work for peace, national leaders of many countries pursue their own agenda of control at all costs. Governments cooperate in maintaining a lack of trust between the Jews and Palestinians by creating facts on the ground that engender that mistrust.
It is up to “we the people” to lift our consciousness to a higher plane … to the plane of recognition that we are all children of One Creator God. We cannot look to the majority of our leaders and expect positive action. We—you and I—must rise above the level of fighting, controlling, killing. We—you and I—must hold the hands of all of our brothers and sisters and work together for a just, loving peace that will spread across this planet.
It behooves us to know that authors like Dr. Michael E. Salla, in his book Exopolitics, recognize that behind the scenes of every major war and policy decision since the 1930s lurks the desire to seize extraterrestrial technology. Dr. Salla “traces actual events, ranging from the Nazi development of flying saucers to the recent US invasion of Iraq, to this unworldly element within government and societal issues.”
Dr. Zecharia Sitchin, in his book The 12th Planet, presents archaeological evidence of the presence of extraterrestrials in the Middle East thousands of years ago.
Control of possible buried extraterrestrial technology and the presence of Star Gates in the region are extremely attractive goals for national leaders motivated by greed and corruption.
It is time for our planet to join the cosmic community. Many of our leaders know that and choose to withhold this information from the people. The people are left to suffer while corrupt leaders continue the bottom-line struggle: Who will control extraterrestrial technology?
Dr. Salla, in Exopolitics, states “understanding this ET presence is essential for the study and practice of international politics, and establishment of peace on our planet…. I believe the extraterrestrial presence represents an opportunity for global humanity to deal quickly and effectively with issues that have affected us for many millennia.”
We the people—Jews, Muslims, and Christians—must work together to learn about and spread the news that our galactic family is here with us and awaits the time when they may come forth to help us heal our planet.
Although the majority of our political and military leaders insist on spreading fear of an alien attack, our galactic family is present with us in love and peace. Were they not here in love and peace, they could have already destroyed this planet.
We the people must henceforth refuse to react in fear and instead, love one another. We the people must work together in and for peace. We the people must lay aside our differences and stand tall as One with our Creator God.
For when we agree to cling to our differences, we play into the hands of those corrupt leaders who strongly desire to segment and separate. Separated we accomplish little. Together we can transform our entire planet!
The Israeli/Palestinian conflict is a perfect example of how corrupt leaders make sure the people remain separated and paralyzed with fear.
Let us break the bonds of slavery to corrupt leaders and all become Jews—those who possess a spiritual consciousness and strive to obey divine Law! In this way, we will all enter into and enjoy the Promised Land of Higher Consciousness!
AMEN & SO IT IS!
PARTING PHOTOS OF JERUSALEM
Minaret in Jerusalem
Street in Old Jerusalem St. Stephen’s Gate into the Old City
The Mount of Olives