A little over fifteen years ago, we were in Jerusalem on the day of national elections. At that time, conflict levels were relatively low, and there was real hope for progress toward a solution to the nation’s strife. The elections seemed to provide an opportunity for new directions, for new movement toward resolution and reconciliation.
Today, after horrendous murders of young people and rockets fired on both sides, after weeks of an increasing offensive in Gaza, after a decade of wall-building, surveillance, and increasing hostility, peace seems further away than ever. Pray for peace for the city that is a sacred place to three sister-faiths, and pray for peace and reconciliation among those faiths, within the nation of Israel and throughout the world.
Election Day in Jerusalem, 1999
Under the crowded streets full of tourists and campaign posters,
Under the May sun and the amplified calls to prayer,
The old bones of the city vibrate with their own life,
The scaffold upon which the present is erected.
Everywhere the bones stick out like the rocks in the surrounding fields:
Herod’s walls, the Roman pavement of the Antonia, where Christ was tried,
David’s tomb deep in the rock, the Crusaders’ Cardo,
The place like a skull on Mount Zion,
Byzantine and Catholic Churches and shrines covering over
Suspected holy places, crosses and crescents,
The Dome of the Rock covering the place of the Temple with gold and mosaic,
The crack in the rock of Calvary, guarded and covered,
And that most holy place remaining to the Jews,
The Western Wall of the Temple for which Jesus wept, a wall
Stuffed in every crevice with scraps of hope and passionate prayer.
The Way of the Cross where Christ struggled upward to death
Is lined with shops, full of vendors insisting we buy, insisting we think
Of postcards and belts and bags – anything but his agony.
Outside the old city, the election creates holiday –
A day full of noise and passion and laughter.
The land wrestles like Jacob with the angels of covenant and destiny,
Creating its fruits against the odds of desert and politics.
None of this present could exist – Muslim or Christian or Jew –
Without those old bones, the rocks that support the flesh of the city.
“It’s a beautiful city,” I say to the Palestinian who takes our picture.
“It’s God’s city,” he replies.
Pray for peace in Jerusalem.
Pray for peace for Jerusalem.