Wednesday, October 15, 2008

Jerusalem: A Two-Act Play

Meanwhile, back in America -- looks like the Dow is falling but Britney Spears' popularity is rising. Has the world turned upside-down?

We're in Egypt now, but before I tell stories of our trip here, I'll recap Jerusalem: A Two-Act Play.


Bring an engineer to Jerusalem, and he'll be the first to point out that the holiest site in Judiasm is a structural retaining wall.

The "Wailing Wall" is an appropriate name -- hundreds of Jews wail, sob and bow at this otherwise ordinary-looking 2,000-year-old wall at the base of the Temple Mount. A couple milennia ago, Romans destroyed the Jew's holiest temple, and this retaining wall is all that remains.

Three of us -- two girls, one guy -- washed our hands and began walking toward the wall to pay our respects.

On the way, an old woman began yelling at us in Hebrew. We ignored her, figuring she was a beggar, a vendor or just plain crazy. We kept walking. She kept yelling. Walking. Yelling. Walking. Yelling. Finally we figured out what she was trying to tell us -- the Wailing Wall is gender-segregated and the guy was supposed to be on the other side. Oops!

He headed off to the other corner of the wall, where the Hasidic Jews at the enterance handed him what appeared to be a paper take-out cup, like the kind a elementary school cafeteria would serve fries in.

"Put this on your head," they told him. It was, apparently, a McYarmulke. (Pronounced ya-ma-kah .... it's a little cap Jewish men wear over their future bald spot).

It was generous for them to give him one -- they could have required all non-Jewish visitors to buy a Yarmulke at the Yarmulke Stand in the bus station. That's right, the Jerusalem bus station sells every design and size of Yarmulke a man could possibly want.


When Jesus was nailed to the Cross, the scene must have been unglamorous: an angry mob, some wood, and a hammer.

Now, the site where He died is festooned with silver and gold. It looks like a hip-hop video. The site of the crucifixion is some shiny bling-bling.

The angry mob, however, hasn't disappeared. They've just converted into priests.

At the site of the crucifixion, a long line of devout Christians, who are undoubtedly making one of the most important pilgrimages of their lives, wait for their chance to kneel and pray at the location of the Cross. Many of them are elderly and have probably scrimped and saved and waited and prayed for their once-in-a-lifetime chance to see the place of Holy Passion.

But their moment in God's presence is probably ruined by the priests.

These guys have spent too long watching Christian pilgraims, and have lost their patience for crowd-control. They stand next to the worshippers, yelling "hurry up! HURRY UP!," and fly into a tizzy once a worshipper has been at the Cross for longer than a few seconds. Most of the time, the priests begin screaming before a Christian has even had enough time to bow.

One particularly angry priest physically shoved an old lady out of the way. Security rushed him, demanding to know what he was doing. "I asked her to leave!!" he bellowed. Security apologized to the old lady and allowed her to get to the front of the line. "NO!!" the priest yelled, and rushed in for interference. Another priest caught wind of this and ran over, trying to calm the first priest down. Suddenly people are screaming in different languages. Commotion ensues.

Even all the bling-bling in the world can't make the site of the Crucifixion sacrosanct.