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Thursday, June 1, 2017

Three Narratives...one land, one God.

Looking out to the modern city of Jerusalem.
When I host trips to the Holy Land I prefer to have a Christian guide.  It's just my preference.  Here at Tantur we get to experience folks from Christianity, Judaism and Islam and today we had a Jewish guide to take us around the city of Jerusalem to explore its outer edges before experiencing the center of the city tomorrow.  First of all, what a wonderful opportunity that time allows us this luxury.  Usually you can't "waste" time driving around the outside of the city because your itinerary just doesn't allow for it.   You are reminded of how big Jerusalem is, 850,000 souls and how the modern is just as important part of the city as the ancient streets. 
The western fringe of Jerusalem looking out toward
the valley where the Israelites camped opposite
the Philistines and their champion Goliath.

What struck me was the different narrative that comes from a Jewish perspective.  It's not wrong, it's just different.  The accents and stresses are simply put on a different part of the story.  The question today was "WHY JERUSALEM?"  We struggled with the ancient texts which never give us the name of the city until much later.  We talked about Abraham and Rachel and Moses and Joshua.  We talked about conquest and looked out to see the valley where a yet to be King David went to meet the Philistines in battle and took Goliath's head. We stood atop mount Scopus and where asked to imagine the Jewish pilgrim coming to Jerusalem and how the individual call to piety would be reinforced by his/her fellow pilgrims joined together by a single narrative.  Coming to the Temple to worship the God of Israel.

All wondrous and true....but no need for Jesus!  He was only mentioned in passing as that "other guy from Bethlehem."  What's humbling is to remember that while I can't come to Jerusalem without thinking about Jesus; others have a story to tell that has little if anything to do with him.    Their narrative is also mine, but in some ways I have to respect the fact that it is also self contained and can stand on its own.   And I have to contend with the fact that sometimes the two narratives have different perspectives.  Today we stood on Mount Scopus to look down into the Old city.  The Christian in me so wanted to stand on the Mount of Olives, for a more familiar view.  "Mount Scopus, Mount of Olives, all the same our guideproclaimed."   Indeed much in common, but not the same.  Similar view...but a very different path.
The view from Mt. Scopus with the Mount of Olives on the left and the tower of
Augusta Victoria's Hospital "Ascension Church" on the left and the Dome of
the Rock on the right. Kidron Valley in the middle.  Great view... not my
my mountain!

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