Just recently, I watched a 1959 movie, “Ben-Hur” on video, which is definitely one of my favorite movies, if not the best. Once again, I was overwhelmed by the spectacle of sea battle and four-horse chariot races, which were brilliantly performed by Charlton Heston as Ben-Hur. I was also impressed with the way Jesus Christ was implicitly depicted from his birth to the resurrection (his face was never shown to the audience).
Most of the movie centered around Jerusalem, the place I had longed to visit for a long time. My dream was realized in 1980, when I was stationed in Amman, capital of the neighboring country, Jordan for a telecommunications project there. I managed to get a few days off and went to Jerusalem overland, crossing the River Jordan.
My first impression of the city was that I felt very much at home as if I hadn't left Amman: most of the shops and houses in the residential areas looked alike having whitish stone outer walls.
Once you enter into the walled old city, you instantly feel that Jerusalem is the holy city of three religions: first, the Wailing Wall or West Wall, a remnant of the revered Jewish temple, second, the Church of Holy Sepulcher, said to be standing on Golgotha, the site of the crucifixion, and third, the Dome of the Rock, where Mohammed was said to have ascended to the heaven. These three holy sites are all standing side by side, reminding one that the three religions’ followers believe in the same god.
My honest feeling was “why is there such a serious divide, be it social, political or historical, between the Arabs and Israelis? Based upon my experience, I would like to see religion take the roll of assisting and uniting rather than distracting and aggravating any process towards reconciliation in the regional conflict, however complex and deeply rooted it is. Am I too naive or too optimistic?
Church of Holy Sepulcher,
by Berthold Werner