This text was sent to me by "someone whom I know well"... A man already in his "third age". He evokes some striking moments of the trip he has done in Israel, together with a younger colleague.
This journey was for me a pilgrimage, for a double motive, given my roots: Jewish and Christian. As for the first, four or five years ago I discovered some cousins on my father's side living in Israel, of whom I had never heard, until then. Here is not the place to talk about the moving meeting with them and their offspring.
There is no way, either, to describe all the moments of an incredibly rich and diverse journey. The Old City of Jerusalem, Mount of Olives, Yad Vashem, Masada and Qumran, Bethlehem, Galilee, etc., leave intense memories in the mind and heart of the one who, like me, visits this country "flowing with milk and honey" for the first time. But if I had to remember the moments that marked me the most, the most symbolic moments, I would retain three stones.
The first stone is one of these massive blocks that constitute the Kotel, the Western Wall of the Temple. When we went there, on a Thursday morning, the atmosphere was very joyful; it was the day when many young people celebrate their "Bar Mitzvah". I approached the wall and, like many others, I put my forehead on the stone. A powerful emotion invaded me. It was like a pent up piece of my family history coming back to the surface: my paternal grandparents and their children, all of them annihilated one day in1942. And then, all the generations that preceded them, who had turned – one way or another – towards that place, dreaming: "Next year in Jerusalem"...
wo days later, I put my forehead on another stone, that of the Holy Sepulchre. Despite the onrush of the crowd, the long wait before entering the narrow sanctuary, the pressure of the guards asking the pilgrims to proceed, I was able to fill the tomb left empty by the Risen One with all the situations and all the people that had been referred to me or that I carried in my heart. The human pettiness of this place, where the various Christian denominations barely tolerate each other and jealously guard their territory, could not darken the burning memory of the One who "emptied himself, taking on the form of a slave ..." (Phil 2, 7).
The third stone, with sharp angles, had the size of an apple. I did not put my forehead on it, but my forehead indeed was its target ... With my companion, we walked quietly along the walls of the Old City of Jerusalem between the Damascus Gate and New Gate. It was 4:30 pm. A hundred yards away, I saw four or five boys throwing stones to the ground with great force. Jokingly, I said to my companion: "They are preparing stones to snipe at people." I did not suspect that, a few seconds later, they would, indeed, begin to throw them at us, shouting "Allahu akbar! "... Still, we wore neither kippa nor black hat nor curls, nor pectoral cross ... The rocks of these fellows were thrown powerfully and accurately. We found our salvation in flight.
He who has sent me this testimony did not draw a conclusion. He simply leaves us with a question, something that is never comfortable ...
Anyway, I wish you a Happy Easter. Hag Pessah Sameah.