On February 15th, producing partner Stephen Fiske and myself traveled to Jerusalem to begin field production work for the ‘Jerusalem Prayer Project’. For Stephen it was his fourth time there as his son and grandchildren live the Gilo settlement just outside of Bethelem. For myself, it was my first time. What is clear to me now three weeks later, is that no one travels Jerusalem and returns home spiritually unaffected.
While the experience remains fresh in our minds, we will be posting video and textual reflections on the rich tapestry of people we encountered all of whom form the basis of an emerging, grassroots peace movement in the Holy Land that is grounded in the ‘idea’ of interfaith reconciliation.
Some may consider the basis of our endeavors as naïve. That the immense challenges and depth of hatred between Jews , Arabs and Christians is beyond any rational resolution. But what is apparent is that the exact opposite is true – that it’s the ‘conflict’ that is irrational, and not the prospect for reconciliation. And the Jerusalem Prayer Project will demonstrate this point, even to the deepest of cynics.
Jerusalem is for all visitors a magnificent view into human history and offers richness of this present time. The heart of the diversity of Middle Eastern culture, in spirit and religion surrounds you and the impression of seeing and being in a very ‘special’ place is undeniable. But it doesn’t take long to see and understand that there is a deep current of tension that runs through the Old City. And one does not have to travel far to witness the direct manifestations of this tension in the form of massive, concrete security perimeters that ring the Palestinian suburbs of Jerusalem. It is a bleak ‘Architecture of Separation’ both physically and psychologically that grips everyone who lives here.
Following a brief survey of the Old City – I had an opportunity to cross the security checkpoint into Bethlehem. The 10 meter tall, winding structures are impressive. They are like roads on their sides. Clean, pristine, horizontal ribbons of concrete divide people from their lands and each other as Jews and Palestinians are forced to maintain these stark divisions. Guard towers every quarter mile also give the impression of an ever-present surveillance state.
Once through the check-point – the art of resistance on the Palestinian side, is loud and clear. The wall grabs you by the throat. It’s presence is deeply troubling to the newcomer and strangely normal to those who live with it every day.