Echoes of the PastThursday, May 29
Silent screaming streets of Jerusalem violently echoed the past of the Star, Cross and the Crescent. This is the first time I ever stepped on these holy lands of the Prophets and their people. Accompanying me, are young and old, men and women, and the followers of human conscience and of Abrahamic faiths. We are an Interfaith group visiting the Holy Lands for self discovery and learning of the past in the present.
1099 was the year Crusaders reigned.
1187 Saladin (Salah al-Din) reclaimed.
1948 the Jewish State came into being.
Empires are generally rooted in religion. Dominions can only be secured by victory. And victory is always on the side of those who are committed to the unity of purpose.
Self-proclaimed atheists, Moshe Dayan and Ben Gurion had ample unity of purpose in the creation of a Jewish State. After all, they knew of the sufferings of European Jewry, the pogroms in Tsarist Russia and the slaughter houses of Auschwitz. Their hearts were united and coordinated, with the help of God of David and Solomon, Jacob and Isaac.
A thousand years of religio-secular cycle of death, displacement and despair, I thought, as I walked the streets of Jerusalem.
A T-Shirt slogan stared me in the eye. “Don’t worry America, Israel is behind you.” Yes, it was displayed in a shop in the Muslim quarters of Jerusalem.
Ah, the great Untouchable! A nascent country that regularly invades neighboring States, routinely defies UN resolutions, occupies land, treats its people inhumanely and possesses an arsenal of nuclear weapons, enough to light up the entire region, once and for all.
A twenty plus year old bright Irish lady volunteering at a women’s empowerment center summed up well. “North Ireland and South Africa combined is Palestine, with no hope.”
An Arab restaurant owner after catering lunch to our Interfaith group offering baklawa said it differently, “sweets on-house, although we live in bitterness.”
“Abir was barely ten when she was killed by a teenage IDF soldier (January 16, 2007), who perhaps saw her as a terrorist target.” These were the words of her father, Bassam Aramin, co-founder of Combatants for Peace. Kids killing kids!
From Ben Gurion to Yasser Arafat, from Ehud Olmert to Mahmoud Abbas, the Priests, the Rabbis and the Muftis – all need to lend a moment to the Taoist scripture.
“How did the great rivers and seas get their kingship over the hundred lesser streams?
Through the merit of being lower than they: that was how they got their kingship.
Therefore the sage (the leaders and the politicians) in order to be above the people,
must speak as though he were lower than they.
In order to guide them, he must put himself behind them.
Thus when he is above, the people have no burden, when he is ahead, they feel no hurt.”
The silent cries of the ancient Jerusalem are just as loud in the alleys of Ramallah, the corners of Hebron and the circles of Nablus, as it is in the malls of New York, the cafes of Rio de Janeiro and the streets of Mozambique.
Choice is ours – either we can be deafeningly loud or screamingly silent, merely calling for or fiercely working for peace. Else, the echoes of the past will continue to haunt us in the future as it is the case in the present in the silent screaming streets of ancient Jerusalem.