The Words of the Pople Family
The 10th Day of the Israel Pilgrimage
"We are going to do something today that you can't do when you are back home," Rev. Tom Cutts announced on Sunday morning, September 19. "We will be visiting a Jewish community in Jerusalem."
Our day had begun with morning worship service at St. George's Cathedral, led by Rev. Levy Daugherty. Public activities in Jerusalem had mostly ceased on Thursday and Friday, because of Rosh Hashanah, as well as the following day, because it was the Sabbath. Finally, we had more freedom to explore and meet people.
As the leader of the American participants in the World Peace Pilgrimage, Rev. Cutts explained the vision for the day: "We will have the opportunity to meet some Israeli Jews and get to know them a little bit. You can greet them, 'Shana Tova!' (happy new year!), for it is still the season of the new year. Give your name and say you are a peace ambassador. We want to meet the real Israelis. We are working together as people of three faiths: Christian, Muslim and Jewish. We aren't trying to change anyone's religion. We are just trying to bring together the family of Abraham."
Jerusalem is a fascinating mixture of old and new, holy and secular. We benefited from the advice of the Jewish leaders in our World Peace Pilgrimage. "Eighty percent of Israeli Jews are secular," Dr. Andrew Wilson, professor at Unification Theological Seminary, informed us. "Talk about how we are working together as leaders in all area of society, not just as religious leaders." Our outing began with a special tour of the Old City of Jerusalem, escorted by Dr. Eliezer Glaubach, four-time Jerusalem city council member. "When my wife and I moved to Jerusalem 40 years ago, our lives were transformed," he explained, as he led us through a gate that seemed to take us back through the millennia. "This is the reality of Jerusalem."
Dr. Glaubch grew up in Haifa, and his brothers and sisters still live there. "Haifa was good for partying and dancing," he said, "but spiritually, my wife and I felt something was lacking, so we moved to Jerusalem. Jerusalem has an inexplicable attraction. Every stone has its history. The holy scriptures were formulated here. Whether we are Muslim, Christian, or Jew, we worship the same God."
King David established the city in about 996 BC. The twelve tribes settled this land and engaged in a lot of fighting. David needed to establish a capital as a unifying point for the tribes, so he established this city in a neutral place, in an area not claimed by any tribe, so that all tribes could unite around it. "This is the prophetic vision of Rev. Moon: that all the tribes of the world can come to Jerusalem and be united," Dr. Glaubach added.
Near St. Stephen's (lion's) gate is St. Anne's Church, one of the best-preserved Crusader buildings in the country. Adjacent to the pool of Bethesda, regarded as the home of Mary's parents, St. Anne and Joachim, and where Jesus is said to have healed the sick man of palsy.
Nearby is the Ecce Homo Convent, at the station of the cross commemorating Pilate's statement to Jesus' accusers: "Behold the man." From the terraces that overlook the Temple area with the Dome of the Rock, the Western Wall and the Holy Sepulcher, we gazed at the magnificent panorama of the Old City and the Judean hills.
"David had a political mind, and his son Solomon had a spiritual mind as well," Dr. Glaubach continued. He drew upon his background as a political scientist as well as his grounding in the Hebrew scriptures and traditions to help us understand the city he loves so much. "Solomon incorporated David's citadel with the temple mount, and together this became the Holy City. The Western Wall is what remains of the plateau that King Herod built as the setting for the temple. He filled in the valley and built the temple on it. At various times the Romans interfered and the Jews rebelled. The temple was destroyed in the year 70. In the year 134, the Emperor Hadrian told the Jews: 'You didn't learn your lesson. Therefore, we will demolish Jerusalem and plow it under.' He had a new, Roman-style city built on the ruins."
At lunch in the Philadelphia Hotel in East Jerusalem, an official in the Ministry of Education stopped by to offer us words of welcome: "Nobody chose their religion, their parents, or the nation of origin. We are all assembled here as the children of God. Thank you very much for coming here and for the precious work you are doing. We cannot do this for ourselves. I invite you to visit my village, Ibillin. My village is your home. (The following day, we traveled to Ibillin to visit the Mar Elias school, and the government official spent time with us again.) Whatever you can help in the road of peace is very important for us. I know Father Moon is doing good things for peace. In the future, I hope that many more people can come together in this way."
Hod Ben Zvi, a Family Federation for World Peace leader in Israel, had told us that all people like to meet new friends. "Extend your heart and explain about our world peace activities," he advised. "Tell them you are volunteers for peace."
We learned that during the past year and a half, participants in World Peace Pilgrimages have visited many homes in Jerusalem, and people may recognize our message. However, when Western people come knocking at their doors, the first reaction of an Israeli Jew is that they are missionaries coming to take away people's faith. Rev. Jenkins had been repeating Father Moon's statement that the age of conversion is over and encouraged us to feel that we had come to the Holy Land to embrace the family of Abraham, and indeed, people of all religions.
Our bus pulled to a stop in a lovely middle-class section of Jerusalem. There were apartment buildings, parks, single-family homes, and shops. The Unificationist bishop from Chicago was particularly impressed with Dr. Glaubach's wife, Rachel. "She was eager to not waste any time in organizing groups for outreach," he reported. "We went knocking on doors of an apartment building and met a couple who had moved from Canada to Jerusalem. We met many couples who were struggling with terrorism. We learned how the Jewish people have been struggling their entire life. I learned so many things, and I felt that we can bring the answer centering on True Parents."
My team walked down a street with small shops in the company of Dr. Glaubach. On the sidewalk he met his former professor, a renowned political scientist in Israel. He was dressed in casual clothes and wearing sandals; with a twinkle in his eye, Dr. Glaubach explained to us that a professor of his stature in a place such as Oxford, England, would be dressed much more formally. I told the professor he must be proud of his former student for inheriting his vision and courage. The professor smiled. Forty years ago he was promoting reconciliation among Israelis and Arabs.
Behind us, a shopkeeper was studying us. He told us that his family had been living in this land for 2000 years, he had told us. People of different faiths lived together peacefully in the past, and he believed they could learn to do it again.
One group came back carrying a bouquet of red roses they were given at a flower shop. The florist gave them the bouquet as an expression of her hopes for peace and best wishes for our mission. The group reported meeting an elderly couple who could not recognize anything good in the Palestinians. In contrast, a younger couple who invited them into their home was more open minded about people being able to live together despite their differences.
A woman was walking down the sidewalk, carrying a baby in a cloth carrier on her chest. We approached her and showed her our booklet with photos of rabbis, imams and priests embracing. The promise of peace appealed to her. After 1967, when she was a baby, her father had promised her a future without wars. But still she had to go and do her military service. Now she wants peace for her baby, and would like to promise her a world without peace.
In an apartment complex, a mother who was returning home from work, her husband, and their son invited the group who knocked on their to come in. The husband's ancestors were from Yemen and the wife's ancestors were from Germany. This couple felt that the problem did not originate with the people on the street but rather was a matter of leadership. Their son played some music on the piano for the visiting ambassadors for peace. The husband gave the group copies of a book of photos that his father had taken of daily life in Palestine, beginning in the 1930's and continuing through the 1950's. As in all art, the juxtapositions of images stimulated the viewer to take a fresh look at the surroundings. There were photos of children playing among piles of stones, and one striking photo showed a line of camels crossing an aqueduct.
"If you are here for peace, please come in my house," a lady greeted another group. "Let me call my husband." The wife's family had settled in Palestine in 1906. They were both retired by now, but they told how a common sense of humanity helped them penetrate some of the barriers. After the 1967 war, the wife described how various people were trying to get through a barbed wire fence. One Palestinian mother could not pass through the opening while carrying her baby. The two women locked eyes with each other, and the Palestinian woman handed her baby to the Jewish woman to hold while she got through the fence.
A young man followed the people he met as they returned to the bus, and he boarded the bus and took the microphone to address us. Wearing the characteristic black pants and white shirt of an Orthodox Jewish man, he spoke earnestly and thanked us for coming and expressing the hope that he could meet future groups of the World Peace Pilgrimage and speak to them.
"Most of the people we met professed a desire for peace," a Mormon elder said in summary. "However, most of them think the problems lie on the other side. We need to learn how to lower the fences that separate us. We need to learn to be brothers and sisters to everyone."
A Christian minister from Los Angeles was amazed to find many people who openly state that they feel no animosity to the other side. "They are so grateful that we are here praying for peace," he reported. "One woman, however, said she couldn't understand why we are here working for peace when she knows that in America there is so much unrest. I told her that our Bible teaches us that we should pray for the peace of Jerusalem and that those who love Jerusalem will prosper. She responded, 'I hope you have success.' Another young man said, 'I am not a believer, but I do want peace,' and he extended his hands to join ours as we prayed together."
Repeatedly, people asked us why we had come. Some answered that we had come to listen and learn, others that we were volunteers for peace, and still others that we were working to bring together the family of Abraham. We had also come for the sake of those who came before us, as well as for the sake of those who will come after us.
One Unificationist woman from Acadia, California described the challenges she had faced before deciding to participate in the pilgrimage: "I wavered and wondered whether my children would go to school and my flowers would survive in my garden. But then I thought of those Jewish people who were taken out of their homes, put on freight trains and shipped to concentration camps, never to return, and I knew I had to come. About two days before I left, Jesus gave me a spiritual hug in my car on the freeway. He was so happy I was coming to his country. Personally after being blessed to a Muslim man for 14 years, I feel I have achieved some breakthroughs and I feel quite comfortable to relate to them now. But when it came to doing outreach in the Jewish community I suddenly felt this tremendous fear and anxiety. But I thought about the ceremony we did at Yad Vashem. It's one thing to repent for the Holocaust, but it was shocking to me to actually be forgiven for these unforgivable things. But with this forgiveness comes responsibility to not betray the people again. I wondered why I kept feeling fear. Then I realized actually this was the fear of my ancestors--the fear to get involved, even though they knew something was wrong. They decided to look the other way and do nothing. And once I realized this, this feeling went away."
In conversing with the people who knocked on her door, one elderly lady wondered aloud why she was still here on earth. Maybe the question never totally goes away, but the answers become more profound as our understanding deepens and our heart opens.
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