After an afternoon catching up on some rest, a smaller, ‘intrepid’ group set out to walk down to the City of David and, from there, walk back up to the Old Town, through the Dung Gate, meet the rest of the group and then find a vantage point to view the gathering at the Western Wall as the Sabbath approached.
It was a lengthy walk and we took a wrong turn which extended our wander. the City of David is an Arab part of the city and can be an area for trouble. Our word of warning was to answer only in English so as not to be mistaken for Jews, getting caught out with an incorrect reply to a greeting. It was an uncomfortable walk, with an ever-present sense of tension. I’m sure we were probably quite safe, but we were definitely under scrutiny. We were of particular interest to an Israeli Police patrol driving through, getting hard looks from the police officers. I guess we were a potential source of discontent from the locals. It was a definite sense of relief that we arrived back at the main walls and went through.
Earlier in the day we had found a good vantage point to view the Western Wall from and we made our way there. It was occupied by a group of American Jews on a trip ‘home’. We did manage to squeeze past to get to the part overlooking the Western Wall,but it was fascinating to listen to the various speakers addressing the large, all-age group of Jewish Americans. One of our group observed that it was in the best tradition of a more evangelical CU or SU group. It’s fascinating to observe, and slowly begin to get to grips with, the whole issue of identity being so bound up in faith and culture. Western culture has largely compartmentalised many of these things.
Observing the Sabbath gathering was also an experience. Perhaps a little irreverently I couldn’t help but think of a good-natured football crowd, with the different groups and clothes and chants. Again, there’s that whole issue of identity – faith, and its expression, is not simply something you ‘do’, but who you are. An interesting lesson for Western Christianity which still seems very tied to the ‘do’ model.