05 February 2010
The “Israel” Factor
Regardless of whether or not you are a person of faith and even then, regardless of what faith you subscribe to, it is impossible not to be somewhat in awe of the phenomenal historical significance most cities, sites and sounds in Israel. Like it or not, the Judeo-Christian-Muslim faiths have been key drivers of political, cultural, social and economic policy and power for the last 2000 years and for most Americans especially, the story of the Bible is fairly well known.
You step into Old Jerusalem and it’s as if you’ve stepped into the center of the modern World. It begins at the Western Wall, where Jews of all stripes come to pray. Sitting atop the wall is the Dome of the Rock - Islam’s 3rd holiest site, as it is the place where Mohammed is believed to have ascended to heaven. Just steps from this - The Temple Mount - begins the Via Delarosa; the path Jesus walked carrying his own cross on which he would be crucified. The Via Delarosa ends at the Church of the Holy Sepulcher, which houses the rock in which the cross was wedged into as well as the site from which Jesus is believed to have resurrected. It’s like the Holy Grail (in a very literal sense) of the Western Religious World.
It doesn’t stop their either. Every city in Israel and Palestine is somehow significant. It’s like, “Oh, no big deal, this is where the Angel Gabriel appeared to the Virgin Mary and told her she would carry the son of God” and “Oh yeah, and that’s where Jesus was born or whatever.” The only indication is the massive, shiny, glistening millions-of-dollars churches built by the Franciscans, Greeks and Eastern Orthodox in the midst of otherwise poverty-stricken cities and towns. Definitely the most essential buildings, all things considered.
I stood at the shore where Jesus reappeared to St. Peter after his resurrection, where Jesus turned water into wine and multiplied the fishes. I looked out onto the Sea of Galilee where Jesus is believed to have walked on water, walked through the Olive Trees where Jesus realized one of his followers would betray him and floated in the Franciscan “space ship church” under which lies the ancient home of St. Peter. It was a nonstop onslaught of historically significant sites and sounds.
As a matter of fact, the experience can be so intense for some that they actually start to believe they are the second coming of Christ. It is called Jerusalem Syndrome and several dozen people a year become affected, needing hospitalization at a specialized clinic just outside the city for treatment of this mental disorder. Now that’s all fine and good but in all honesty, how do we know one of them isn’t the second coming of Christ? This whole thing is faith-based but seriously, if anyone were to walk up to you and say, “Hi, I’m Jesus The Sequel” we’d most definitely label them “crazy” and put them in a room with padded walls. Is it because they aren’t performing miracles? Is it because they can’t walk on water too? What is the modern-day threshold for Christ? Solving the banking crisis? Buying us all a Porsche? Health care for all? Being able to turn all that extra CO2 into delectable air freshener? I’m curious. What would convince you that someone is actually the second coming of Christ? I’m gonna go with the air freshener one.