A Trip to Israel with my Father - My Family Travels

 A glow creeps into Jerusalem. The sun behind the Mount of Olives paints black outlines of the rocks and olive trees. The purity of the rocks intertwines with the golden brilliance of the spires of the Russian Orthodox Church of Mary Magdalene. The church’s walls compliment the marble house that sleeps before me. My mind rests in the peace and quiet of the Arabic Quarter, a departure from the resonant adhan emanating from the mosque minarets calling the faithful to prayer, of the chugging taxis, of the tumultuous soul of the life in Jerusalem. There are no people in sight at 6:30 in the morning as I walk with my father into the sun’s waking radiance to a summer Sunday mass.

We mind a vendor as he sets up his juice stand within Damascus Gate, its gray cobblestones barren of the crowds. The uneven rocks slowly give way to neater, cleaner roads and an Orthodox Jew marches by us. His eyes focus intently on the path before him; his payot bounces in anticipation of prayer and his black habit whispers a tale of premonition as it slides along the stones. One golden ray casts a blinding glare from his Torah.

A secluded path leads us to our salvation. We enter the Church of the Holy Sepulchre, its body adorned with the scent of history, of centuries of worship, of chants of prayers of all the Christian denominations. As a Syriac Orthodox monk chants, his deep-throated hymns reverberate in the dark crevices of my soul, purging it of its secular doubts; when a Greek Orthodox priest lights a blood-red candle, my heart ignites with an understanding of my Christian professions; while an Ethiopian Orthodox nun cleans a jewel-cover alter, so she clears the  biases tarnishing my mind.

At the heart of the church our Roman Catholic priest administers the bread of life; as it touches my tongue, my being is caressed by the Holy Spirit, infused with the magnificence of the unity living in this golden crossing of faiths. I taste the promise and the seemingly innocent bliss of the sun.

The mass ends and we walk outside inspired, replenished, and renewed. I see the sun shining overhead. We have walked into a world now wide awake. The softening sense of symmetry vanishes because the night has turned into day… A soldier stands ten feet before us.

 His left hand grips a dirty black Uzi.

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