Chasing the Divine in the Holy Land

Chasing the Divine in the Holy Land by Ruth Everhart

Book: Chasing the Divine in the Holy Land by Ruth Everhart Read Free Book Online
Authors: Ruth Everhart
sealed doors.
    â€œAre there bodies in there?” the woman asks.
    â€œYes,” Kyle says confidently, as if he knows.
    We all shudder. Then we crawl back out. We cross a large, open area to another chapel to see a second original tomb. This one is housed in a structure made of stone and marble that is ornately carved. This tomb is closely supervised. A man who is distinctively dressed in a round fur hat and long black robe lets people into the tomb four at a time. He signals entrance and exit every few minutes by clapping his hands vigorously, which makes his enormous cross necklace swing against his chest. We wait obediently until he claps for us.
    Inside the structure, the tomb itself is all marble. At least it feels clean. The washerwoman part of my DNA is happy. I put my shekel in the box to pay for a candle. When I kneel to light the candle, I am beside Michael, and our knees are on the marble floor. Ashley and Jessica are on Michael’s other side. I feel depleted rather than Spirit-filled. Maybe I’ve used up myallotment of Spirit for the day. Maybe the Spirit can’t penetrate all the marble. Maybe the fur-hatted man clapping his hands drives the Spirit away.
    When we leave, I’m glad that this is the last site on the agenda.

    We find the other members of the documentary group to discuss logistics. Then we all walk slowly back through the Old City of Jerusalem toward the Damascus Gate, shopping as we go. When some of the others buy small silver Jerusalem crosses on necklace chains, I decide this is a good idea. I try to count how many I should buy: two daughters, three sisters, one mother, one secretary, how many friends? I cannot think. I buy only six crosses, knowing it won’t be enough. I cannot bring myself to buy more. I hate to feel like a tourist stocking up on postcards when these are crosses bought on the day I touched the rock of Golgotha and wept at the Stone of Anointing.
    On impulse, I buy figs from a street-seller. I’ve never had fresh figs before. They’re plump and as purple as eggplant, streaked with green. They feel alive, and are delicious.
    By the time we get back to Saint George’s, it’s past five o’clock. We’re supposed to attend a vespers service immediately. But my pilgrim feet hurt. I’m thirsty and hot: I feel like I’ve been thirsty and hot for days. At vespers we will not be allowed even a water bottle. So Kyle and I detour to the cathedral courtyard for a different sort of vespers. Taybeh beer is made in a Christian village near Ramallah. Drinking it will be an act of solidarity — like intercessory prayer. We raise our bottles to the Christians of Palestine.
    I say to Kyle, “I suppose, if it’s possible to get drunk on God, Jerusalem is the place to do it.”
    â€œAmen,” he agrees.
    â€œHonestly, I feel a bit punch-drunk,” I say.
    â€œWould that be the Spirit doing the punching?”
    We laugh at the image. But the truth is that all of us gorgedourselves on spiritual experiences today. We were spiritual gluttons. Does that make us pilgrims or tourists? I want to slow this pilgrimage down and allow room for the Spirit. But I want to drink it all in because I may never be able to come back. I don’t want to miss a thing.

    Dinner is chicken and saffron rice. Then there’s a meeting of the whole group in the lecture room to share the day’s experience.
    â€œWhere did you experience a communion of the saints?” is the question.
    People describe moments of connection with pilgrims past and present. I think about my connections. My experience at the Western Wall would seem an unlikely sort of communion. But weren’t the Jewish mother, the baby, and I all connected by our hope in God? And the Crusader crosses, those strange acts of devotion. I didn’t want to claim my connection to their bloody history, their savagery. But aren’t we connected by folly? Perhaps future

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