Jerusalem Journal # 173
“Are you safe?” “Wondering if you are OK…can you let us know?” “We’ve been watching the news and praying for you.” Such were the emails and Facebook posts from friends around the world who were viewing an escalation of the Israeli/Hamas conflict through the media’s eyes.
We’re living life in the crosshairs, but that isn’t anything new for residents at this crossroads of faith since time immemorial. During the barrage of rockets from Gaza, even reaching the fringes of Jerusalem for the first time, a recent headline read, “Forecast: Partly cloudy with a chance of rockets.” That is a temperature gauge of the climate here these days.
It is eight o’clock in the morning tucked inside Jerusalem’s Old City walls. Gary and I are out on our rooftop terrace enjoying some morning devotional time in the sunrise shadow of The Dome of the Rock, the Muslim shrine built in 690 A.D. that occupies real estate deemed holy by all three monotheistic faiths. It is ground zero for the Middle East, no, for the world…and that is palpable.
The pastoral rhythm of cocks crowing echoes from stone wall to stone wall as doves, freed from their shanty dovecotes, circle overhead to join the dawn’s symphony with an angelic-like tinkling of bells adorning their legs. The sounds of giggling uniformed children scuffling across cobblestones of the Via Dolorosa on their way to school bestows an aura of innocence amid personal memories from childhood walks to school in another time, another place.
From a nearby Muslim boys’ school, morning announcements are barked out over “speakers on steriods,” blasting through stained glass windows into Sunday morning liturgies throughout the Armenian and Christian Quarters, reverberating through synagogues of the Jewish Quarter where Orthodox Jews are reciting prayers, and for some of us in the Muslim Quarter…well, let’s just say there is a greater measure of realization that time is accelerating us into the veil of prophecy.
We have, for years, gone to sleep with the lullaby of boisterous Friday night shabbat songs from the Jewish Yeshiva below us and have awakened before dawn to the piercing cries of the muezzin from six minarets around us, but noticeable incremental changes signal a seismic shift.
There are more loudspeakers with a decibel magnitude that drowns conversation, more neon green lights, more mosques, more Arabic banners on shops in the Muslim Quarter calling for the protection of Al Aqsa Mosque, prayer calls not just five times a day, but ten. Acceleration!
Oor-ree! Oor-ree! Wake up! Wake up! These words were not only a wake-up call, but a call to arms in an ancient 12th Century B.C. battle between Israelites and their adversaries fought in the Jezreel Valley under the shadow of Mount Tabor, whose distinctive crown we can see from our Galilee rooftop. It was a battle not only for the land, but between opposing belief systems. Has anything really changed here for over 3,000 years?
Our most recent kri-yat hit-oor-root or wake-up call began on a Sunday morning in early November. Not only was November the month when Hamas rained rockets on Ashdod, Tel Aviv and even Jerusalem, the month when Mahmoud Abbas won non-member observer status for a Palestinian state, but it was a month in which we began, for the first time ever, to hear an unfamiliar melody trumpeted from the boys’ school loudspeakers after morning announcements.
Strangely, we only hear the music on Sunday mornings when church bells are ringing from steeples on the western hill. During last week’s celebration in Ramallah, Abbas told supporters the Palestinians would “continue their struggle until the Palestinian flag is raised over Jerusalem’s Old City and churches, because Jerusalem is the eternal capital of the State of Palestine.” Since 1967, Israel has banned use of the flag in “East Jerusalem,” together with all other symbols of Palestinian sovereignty in the city. Confrontation is coming.
I finally decided to quench my suspicions and look on the internet for the music and lyrics of a Palestinian national anthem. Bingo! There it was on YouTube. Although there were two different songs listed, the one which was blasting out from our local boys’ school was Fida’i, “My Homeland,” which was adopted as the national anthem of the Palestine Liberation Organization in 1996 under Yasser Arafat.
Yes, God is accelerating His story in this place where camouflaged fighter jets scream overhead in the Galilee toward a troubled Israeli/Syrian border, Hamas refuses to recognize Israel, and Egypt boils. It is a time of remembering to whom we belong. He alone is our security.
Subscribe to our Jerusalem Journal email here!