The picture above is of two of the most important places, the "Dome of the Rock" for Muslims because it recalls the place where the prophet Mohammad was carried to and from heaven in a vision, and for Jews because the wall beneath this plateau is the one remaining part of the original temple complex build by Solomon and restored by Herod. The blue and white flag of the state of Israel announces to all that Israel controls the city now and has for forty years, but allows access by Muslims and Christians to their holy places.
I also visit Bethlehem for a concert by two choirs from Illinois who sang carrols at the Lutheran "Christmas" Church there. The Rev. Julie Rowe was my guide and as we road the bus from the Israeli controlled territory to the west bank area controlled by the Palestinians we were confrounted with a tall concrete wall. On it someone has written: "Ich bin ein Berliner", recalling another wall that divided peoples. Julie had many stories about the building of a wall between territory that Israel seeks to incorporate, land which Palestinian Arabs and Christians own and wish to continue farming. The Israeli argument is that this is for their security. However, by preventing the movement of Arab Palestinians to their means of livelihood and moving settlers on to this land, the effect is to "appropriate" this land. You can learn more about this by searching out Julie's web pages and information about the Evangelical Lutheran Church in Jordan and the Holy Land.
I dined with Pastor Mark Holman and his family following the worship service at the Lutheran Church of the Redeemer, which is located close to the Church of the Holy Sepulchre, which I will discuss in my next blog. The second picture was taken from the grounds of the Augusta Victoria Hospital and looks out toward the Dead Sea. He had taken me there and pointed out that the walls being constructed by the Israelis often separate the places where arabs live from where they work. I have tried to show this by two black arrows. I show this so that you will be aware of some of the dynamics going on. Our Lutheran Church is there to help us to do just that (to help us understand). More later. Happy Epiphany!