Sunrise over Galilee is a haunting sight as a fisherman sets out to work. We celebrated a communion by the lakeside on Sunday morning and heard the call of the first disciples. Two nights earlier there had been a massive thunder and lightning storm, reminding us how quickly the weather there can change, just like the calm and storm of life. The physical and metaphorical layers of the Holy Land means that there is a constant reappraising of one’s own perspective. Jerome called the land the fifth gospel, and like a biblical text, what one takes from a visit here depends a lot on what one brings to it.
The Dead Sea, taken from the top of the fortress of Masada, stretches in a barren terrain. They have a saying here that one should be like Lake Galilee, giving of one’s self (as the lake’s water flows into the Jordan River), unlike the Dead Sea which only receives water and is therefore lifeless. The Israeli and Jordanian governments have ambitious plans to drain the Dead Sea for all its minerals, and then refill it with desalinated water from the Red Sea, to be brought by giant water pipes from the south, in a massive civil engineering project that would transform the desert into a fertile region. One wonders how they might turn out…. it will certainly make the old adage redundant!
The view of the Old City from dominus flevit never tires…. from this angle the barbed wire hints at the conflict that continues to shape the lives of those who live in and near this place. Tears flow easily at this sight, but I am sure that our resolution should not be simply to pray for the peace of Jerusalem, but also to work for real peace in our own communities, and to press our own governments to follow policies that would bring proper justice and dignity to the peoples of this land. Having said that, just as the cross lies at the heart of our salvation, so the injustice one observes here seems an almost permanent feature of the landscape. Our guide Bishara Smeir commented to me, We walk the Via Dolorosa two hundred times a day.