Thursday, November 14, 2013

Sounds of the Holy Land

Men play drums and saxophones at the coming-of-age festival in Jerusalem's Old City for a
13-year-old Jewish boy (right). (Photo: Agnieszka Krawczynski / The B.C. Catholic)
Bold and joyous melodies bounced off Jerusalem walls as Jewish families entered the Holy City celebrating the bar mitzvahs of their 13-year-old sons, something our tri-lingual tour guide tells us is typical of Thursdays.

Our group of four journalists watched them play saxophones, clarinets, and drums as they danced deeper into the city, past security checkpoints far less nerve-wracking than those at airports, to the Western Wall. This, the holiest site for Jews, is the remaining structure of the wall surrounding the temple, the cracks of which are stuffed with countless prayers written on slips of paper.

The Israeli festivities were not the only sounds echoing through Jerusalem. The Muslim call to prayer, daily at 2:20 since we arrived, reverberates through the beige architecture.

Deep, solemn voices, accompanied by rams’ horns, call their members to look toward the Temple Mount, where the Dome of the Rock stands. Our guide calls it Muslim’s third holiest site, thanks to a legend involving Muhammad riding a horse into heaven from that place.
The golden dome of the Dome of the Rock, seen from a steep road on the
Mount of Olives. (Photo: Agnieszka Krawczynski / the B.C. Catholic)
That hilltop has other claims to fame, like the place Abraham almost sacrificed Isaac, and where the Jewish temple, including the Holy of Holies, stood until its destruction by the Romans in 70 AD.
Christian voices make their mark in a more soft-spoken way. We found the majority of them on the Via Dolorosa, the route Catholic tradition claims Jesus took on His way to the crucifixion. Groups from Russia, Brazil, Nigeria, and other countries often carried a large wooden cross to the 12 stations while they prayed the rosary aloud in their mother tongues.

Winding down narrow roads, they hoped to get a look into what life was like here 2,000 years ago, complete with its beggars, vendors, carts, stray cats, and locals.

More to come in upcoming posts.

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