On Saturday I spent the day with a Jewish religious peacebuilder friend of mine, Eliyahu Maclean. Because it was Shabbat (the sabbath), and because Eliyahu is an orthodox Jew, that meant I could not operate any technology until the Shabbat ended. For instance I could not use the telephone or a camera (shock!). In the morning we went to a long service at a synagogue, and then in the afternoon we had lunch at a friend of his--a woman who had 14 children before her Rabbi husband left her for a younger woman. Her house was modest and cosy. I have never seen so many books in such a small place.
The sense of community among people who went to the synagogue is strong and vibrant. They loved to sing and swap stories. There was a point where I really wanted to use my camera--after the service, when people were drinking and eating, I noticed a woman in her 60s who was wearing giant platform shoes, a bright yellow dress, a huge blonde wig that made her look like she was 20, and an enormous pair of sunglasses.
Eliyahu was delighted to show me pictures of his trip earlier this year to India with his old friend Haj Ibrahim. They attended a conference on world ethnic religions, whose participants included indigenous sharman's from Latin America and Swedes attempting to recover their pre-Christian religious identity. A huge banner on the stage of the conference had the theme "spirituality without religion" prominently displayed in bold letters. I am sure that is an idea that would excite some people, but what the organisers really meant was religion without Christianity and Islam. Prominent in the conference were the Hindu fascists the RSS. Being India, there were many tens of thousands of participants, most of them men. You can imagine the noise as the massive crowd shouted triumphant Hindu slogans and listened to condemnations of Christianity and Islam. It was remarkable that Haj Ibrahim and Eliyahu were at invited at all. Naturally Haj Ibrahim wore his traditional Palestinian dress and kaffiyeh wherever he went. He charmed everybody, as usual, including even the head of the RSS. When he addressed 2000 students at a local school, he told them what he tells everybody--"you are welcome to my home".
Haj Ibrahim with another religious peacebuilder friend of his, Rabbi Fruman
The local media had a field day with Eliyahu and Haj Ibrahim, putting a photo of them on the front page with the headline "the enemies hug", a rather dramatic announcement given they have been close friends for years.
On Friday morning, I went to Tel Aviv to take photos of my classmate Moon in a meeting, before heading to Ramallah to take photos of Moon attending another meeting. We were taken to Ramallah by the co-chairperson of the organisation I used to intern for, the Israel Palestine Centre for Research and Information. The co-chairperson, Mohammed Dajani, comes from a distinguished family with a long history in Jerusalem. It is his family that owns the abode where Jesus was believed to have had his Last Supper. Moon and I had a brief meal at Mohammed's home. Jesus did not appear for lunch, at least not in a form I was aware of.
Such is life in Jerusalem.