Dangerously Daydreaming

"All men dream, but not equally. Those who dream by night in the dusty recesses of their minds, wake in the day to find that it was vanity: but the dreamers of the day are dangerous men, for they may act on their dreams with open eyes, to make them possible." ~ T. E. Lawrence

Conflict and Peace: The Mount of Olives

As promised, here’s my post on visiting the Garden of Gethsemane during my recent humanitarian aid trip to Israel in November. There will be a follow-up post later to share about exploring the Old City of Jerusalem!

Nestled in the forested mountains near Jerusalem, Bethlehem was held in a chill drizzle. The houses built of stone were perfect for keeping the heat of the sun at bay but when cold swept the hilly landscape there was no escaping it’s frigid grasp. We tugged on our jeans, jackets, and runners instead of the usual flip flops and sun dresses, waved goodbye to our Palestinian host families, and hopped in the rented van for the short drive to Jerusalem.

Valley

The sun had forced it’s way through the clouds by the time we parked on the Mount of Olives, though the wind has risen and we slipped frozen hands into pockets and pulled our hoods up. The view was spectacular anyway. Across the Kidron Valley the Old City of Jerusalem stood inside it’s ancient walls. The golden dome of the Temple Mount glittered in the sunlight like a caliph’s palace. And a crackling speaker system suddenly came to life, droning out the Moslem call to prayer. And the ruins of the Jewish Temple steps reminded me of my last visit to the city. We slowly walked down the Mount spotting a camel and donkey on our way.

Cameldonkey

The Mount of Olives had been named for the many olive groves that once grew on it’s slopes but much of the mount was now Jewish cemetary. The landscape was dotted with cathedrals, churches, and mosques that marked holy sites to various denominations and religions.

Temple MountThousands of graves covered the mountainside and just across the Kidron Valley was another cemetary, this one for Moslems. The Jews, standing firm in their faith that their Messiah will come from Heaven to the Mount of Olives, have spent hundreds of thousands of shekels to be buried there in hopes that they will arise from the grave and be the first to meet him. The Moslems just across the Kidron Valley believe that their Prophet Mohammed will return to this earth one day at the site of the Dome of the Rock, and they pay highly to be buried where they can be the first to rise from the dead and see him. The conflict in Israel suddenly made perfect sense as we looked at this “standoff” of cemetaries. In faith, each group feels the need to maintain a hold on this land that has belonged to their forefathers, the ground that bears the bones of their ancestors. And as they struggle to keep their hold on this hallowed ground, the Christians and Armenians and so many other groups also try to stake a claim. I could commiserate with all of them given the significance of this place.

Jerusalem

olive treesOur path led us to the foot of the Mount of Olives and into the Garden of Gethsemane. I’ve always found God in nature, divinity in simplicity. Walking through the Garden was my moment of serenity, to meditate with the One I’ve placed my hope in, to revel in knowing He once walked that ground and wandered between those ancient trees. Despite the crowd that normally lined the walkway, the masses dispersed for a short time and it was peaceful. Gethsemane is my favorite place in all of Jerusalem because it feels untouched by time in a city where shrines, mosques, and memorials crowd each holy site. The gnarled and thick trunks of the olive trees gave way to spreading bows and flowered vines clung to the garden walls. It was still and beautiful.

Garden

ceilingBuilt beside the Garden was the Church of All Nations. Constructed with the funds and efforts of many nations and people groups, I liked this church best of the many we visited in Israel. There were plenty of beautifully constructed churches and mosques in the area, but knowing that this one was built out of partnership between so many cultures, backgrounds, and denominations was refreshing. Some of the denominations in Israel compete for their piece of the holy sites, for their foothold on this land that is already embroiled in an age-old conflict. In some of the churches and mosques we were told that prayer and worship was forbidden. But the Church of All Nations gives me a hope for the region, hope that all people may worship freely wherever they choose one day and won’t have to fight over land rights.

church of all nations

In all of this, Gethsemane was a perfect way to start our day in Jerusalem. Even though the signs of conflict within Jerusalem are still prevalent, going into the Old City after spending peaceful time in the Garden gave me a sense of hope for the country and the people.

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13 comments on “Conflict and Peace: The Mount of Olives

  1. Denise Hisey
    January 15, 2013

    Churches forbidding prayer and worship? I reread that sentence several times thinking I must have misunderstood. That is so sad!

    • Audrey
      January 15, 2013

      Oh I know, it was crazy to me too. I understand the issue is that so many factions lay claim to some places and are offended if another religious group should come and use that place for their own worship and prayer. So the requirement is put in place for the sake of keeping the peace.

  2. The Byronic Man
    January 15, 2013

    Fascinating post. Very interesting.

    I think everyone who says a sentence to the effect of “Lemme tell ya how to fix this whole middle-east thing…” should be arrested and sent over there to learn the vast intricacies. To see it first hand.

    • Audrey
      January 15, 2013

      Thank you! It’s hard to put into words such a complex place and people.
      I never could understand the point of fighting over a bit of land until I was there a saw for myself. And ‘understand’ is still a bit of a misnomer since it’s not my ancestors and my people’s history that dates back thousands of years. But seeing it for yourself really does broaden your worldview far beyond what our myopic media portrays.

  3. ethelthedean
    January 15, 2013

    Wonderful post Audrey! Your photos are beautiful and as always your writing is very smart and thought-provoking.

    Thank you so much for continuing to share your travel adventures – I so very much look forward to reading more 🙂

    • Audrey
      January 15, 2013

      Thank you, thank you, mi amiga. I struggled to make sense of it all while I was there and my understanding of the situation in the Middle East still falls woefully short. But if it gets people thinking, talking, and asking more questions – I’m glad for that!
      I’m so so excited to finally sit down with you and talk Russia travels!!

  4. betunada
    January 15, 2013

    like i wrote/commented before on “the garden” — this deeply historical land i think would be so overwhelming that i’d be “weak-kneed.”
    yet … that’s human history. the whole darned planet (nay, yooniverse) is, allegedly, “old”.
    but, still, THE DEPTH and intensity of what has and is transpired of where you’re posting about, someday i’d like to see and experience it. thanx for sharing .

    • Audrey
      January 28, 2013

      You’re so right, it’s downright exhausting trying to understand the significance of these places to so many people throughout history. And after days of seeing places like this I just started “word vomiting” into my cell phone’s voice recorder at the end of the day to mention the things we saw and some of the stories behind them. Otherwise I knew I’d come back and have completely forgotten major highlights of the trip. Everybody finds their own way but it feels a bit like coping when you get so overwhelmed with the poignance of these places. I really hope you get the chance to see for yourself and find your own joy in the overwhelm. 🙂

  5. storiesbywilliams
    January 26, 2013

    Holy crap, you weren’t kidding when you said there was more coming were you?

    • Audrey
      January 28, 2013

      Oh my goodness, I learn more everytime I go there and I still know I’ve only scratched the surface. I can’t stand watching the news about the area now because the media so grossly misrepresents even the basic points of the conflicts there. Sorry, rant over. 🙂 But yes, there’s always more. This week I hope to get into some of the refugee camp stuff that we saw and learned.

      • storiesbywilliams
        January 28, 2013

        Oh you don’t need to apologize to me. I hate hearing about these places only when there’s war and destruction, and the same talking points over and over again! What I want to do is visit myself, and be able to peel back some of the immense layers of history!

  6. Pingback: Exploring Jerusalem’s Old City | Dangerously Daydreaming

  7. Mark klakus
    November 1, 2013

    I visited Jerusalem and Bethlehem last week as part of a Thomson Cruise excursion and like you appreciated the sanctity of the Garden of Gethsemane prior to the hectic but amazing walk through Jaffa Gate, Via dolorosa, the Church of the Holy Sepulchre, Western wall – exiting via Dung Gate for Bethlehem and the Church of Nativity.

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