The following are thoughts on Jerusalem from my travel journal.
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Jerusalem is an interesting place.  The Arab bazaar is as packed,
confusing, and chaotic as can be imagined.  The only difference is
the one we went through is clearly geared toward tourist, especially
western Christians.  The fact that so many make their livelihood
on western visitors may be one of the only things that keeps the
average person in the street from letting it become a war zone.

The most interesting thing about Jerusalem is the conflict and the
amount of time this conflict has gone on.  In that context, the latest
summit is not even a chapter in the story of the fight over the holy places
of 3 major religions.  In that context and considering the past failed
attempts, it seems no solution to this conflict will ever exist.  And
who are we to think we have any power to effect change.

But when you listen to the history a deeper question comes up, the one
no one likes because it threatens the very power hold the organized
religions have over their people.  If all these temples, mosques and
churches are symbols of much more powerful ideas and not just pagan
worship of things, shouldn't the ideas always prevail over the symbols?

If all three religions are a higher level of understanding of god than
the pagan worship of statues, then the symbols themselves do not
motivate changes in the fundamental ideas.  Yet examples to the
contrary exist everywhere.  One great example of this was this guy
from one Christian religion who was pushed off a ladder by someone
from another Christian religion for mistakenly cleaning the window of
the second guy's part of the same church.  It is very appropriate that this
ladder has been left in place, it is a true symbol of how values get
twisted around.

The fact that Moslems had been dumping garbage to cover the holy walls
of Judaism's temple for generations shows how deep this goes.   So who
are we[the U.S.A.] to get involved?  Maybe this does require a fresh face.
Maybe the guidance of a country whose convictions of fairness for the
individual are stronger than any symbol is just the sort of teacher
this region needs.  That is not to say we aren't immune from symbols
polluting our ideas.  One could say a constitutional restriction on flag
burning is exactly that.

1400 years of conflict doesn't make it right.  Nor has it always been that
way as the groups in conflict and in coexistence have changed over the
centuries.  The nice thing about being human is we can reinvent ourselves.
300 years ago almost nobody lived under democracy, now half the world
does.  We are not condemned to forever be controlled by our past.

One thing for sure, god is no more in Jerusalem than he is anywhere
else and maybe less so.  To know god's work is to know god.  You can
find him is the beautiful green valleys, towering mountains, and blue
waters around the world.  Where humans create new symbols to god, humans
can deviate from the wisdom of god.  Maybe in Jerusalem where 3 major
religions share the history of a place, the real test for all is
is the power of your ideas stronger than its symbols?
 

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Copyright 1998 James P. Ellis

May not be distributed for commercial purposes without permission from James P. Ellis

Free to distribute for non-commercial purposes if properly credited and includes this notice

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