Israel

The Holy Land

It's a warm cloudy day. Sunlight reflecting off the golden stone chases away the deep shadows. I am bumped by a bread vendor shouting "Bread, Bread for Sale" on his way through the narrow passage. I smell the hearty aroma; My stomach growls reminding me of my hunger. Searching for a small cafe, I quickly move through the crowded street. I feel the stones beneath my feet. Its rough texture is worn smooth by the tread of millions of feet that have passed this way over the years. This is Jerusalem, where I now walk, where Christ once walked.

I see an Orthodox Jew dressed in black with the tale-tale long side-locks, a Muslim woman shrouded from head to toe with only her eyes showing, a group of western tourists with backpacks and cameras hung around their necks. The thoroughfare is nearly blocked as the tour group stops, their guide pointing to a plaque over a doorway. This marker identifies the 4th station of the cross, where Jesus meets his mother. It is one of 14 stations that mark the traditional progression of Christ along the Via Dolorosa (Way of Sorrows) from the place of his condemnation to his tomb.

I duck down a side street to bypass the congestion, turning left and right through the narrow maze and exit into an open area overlooking the Western Wall and Dome of the Rock. I slide into a cafe seat and order a cup of steaming bots (Israeli coffee) and shwarma (sliced mutton). As I dine the sun breaks through the clouds illuminating the gilded dome and spilling over into the courtyard of the Western Wall. Throngs of pilgrims are lined up to touch the wall while others are deep in prayer. As I gaze upon this scene, I think of "The Holy Land", the seat of three great religions: Judaism, Christianity, and Islam. A place of deep emotion, passion, tradition, and legend. A place held dear to the heart of many; a place dear to me.

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