Sunday, May 31, 2009
My oldest and dearest friend, Amesbooty, arrived in Jerusalem today. Like the best of my fellow life travelers, she arrived with a big smile on her face. I positively had to pinch myself that she was here.
After she settled in a bit, I decided to take her on a long walk through town. We wandered through my usual digs in the German Colony, and then up to the Old City. Along the way, I pointed out various Sunday school biblical sites to her and essential points of interest to give her some baseline understanding of where we were actually walking.
"You know, Jesus walked right here," I said back to her over my shoulder as we mounted the steep incline that leads to the Jewish Quarter in the Old City.
"No way!," she said back in a way that indicated true disbelief.
"Actually, yes--I mean, I'm really not making that up," I laughed and pointed--"Like, right over there is the Garden of Gesthemane...and up there on that hill is where they say that Jesus rose to heaven, so...yeah...seriously...Jesus really walked here."
As we made our way along the southern ramparts of the city wall, I told her the story of Abraham and Isaac, and explained the significance of Mount Moriah to all three monotheistic faiths. By the time we made it to the Western Wall, I had already explained the creation and destruction of both Jewish temples, and how the destruction of the Second Temple is really the "source of all of the Jewish hurt in the world", and so forth.
The breeze was finally cool and the sun was setting as we made our way through the checkpoint into the Western Wall. Everything was abuzz with evening prayer and fast-moving Orthodox people milling in every which way. Far from the language, culture, or religion of her own, my dear friend asked in amazement, "Wow, Namaste! What the heck is this place?"
"Well, this is the place that practically everyone agrees is where Heaven and Earth connect. In particular, this is the place where a lot of people go and pray in order to be as close as possible to G-d. I guess you can say that this is the place on earth that is the repository of much of the world's hopes and dreams."
I watched very carefully as Amesbooty looked around and took it all in. Remembering my own initial encounter with this very spot, I didn't want to say too much or force something on her that would be fragile at best and superficial at worst. It was important to me that her experience would be authentically hers, so I stayed silent for a while and let her marinate in the moment.
After a few minutes, she asked, "Can we go up to the wall and say a prayer?"
With a smile, I showed her the hand washing ritual and explained the gentle mechanics of pushing through a crowd of praying women. Like a pro, Amesbooty blended and wriggled her way through the crowd. She didn't miss a beat, nor did I worry that she would become overwhelmed by the alien experience of being the only woman in jeans in a crowd full of skirted women. When we finally got to a spot very close to the wall, we stood sandwiched in between the bodies of praying ladies, ancient stone, and the stoically setting sun. We didn't speak, and I briefly closed my eyes to get my centering. In silent appreciation for the whirring moment, I thanked the Universe for sending my best friend to be with me here. With one hand on my heart, and the other on Amebooty (so as not to lose her), I gently gave her squeeze. That's when I heard a loud sniffle erupt from her and realized that she was so moved by everything around her that it had brought her to tears. Of course, I never told her that my first experience at the Western Wall was very much the same back in 2006.
"This is so overwhelming and powerful," she said. "I just can't believe how intense this place is!"
With an all-too-knowing smile I whispered, "It's ok to cry. Maybe it just means that your soul recognizes when you've come home."
"You think?," she laughed back with feeling.
"Sure, who knows?," I said with a shrug. "If you think about it, we all come from right here. Why can't we choose to believe that this is the place where Heaven and Earth connect? It certainly feels like something, doesn't it?"
"Yeah, it's really weird," she sniffed.
"I think it's because it's home," I replied. "I'm so happy that you experienced it too. Welcome."
There is a reason why she is my best friend. And even though we are so far from where we began, I also realize that I can be anywhere in the world--anywhere at all-- and she, too, is also my home.