Our radio station broadcast “Silent Night” sung in German the other day while I was driving around doing errands. I was taken back to October 1990 when Israel was threatened by the impending war with Iraq (the first time). We were visiting friends in both Germany and Israel for a month in total. We had just stumbled into Unification Day at Mödlareuth, Germany on October 3rd where history was being celebrated on both sides of the Iron Curtain that had once divided this village. That is another story to tell. Yet, it applied here because the Wall was coming down here and the fences were up in Israel. We passed through a roadblock on our way from Jerusalem to Bethlehem where we were heading to visit Christ’s alleged birthplace.
We noted the armed soldiers on the rooftops surrounding the square in front of the church. They added dimension to this event. Ducking through the entrance to the church controlled by Eastern Orthodox priests, we paid our shekels onto the outstretched hand. Once our fees were in the proper places, we were guided down the steps into the cave where Christ was allegedly born. Once we were all in that cavern, the group of Germans who were on this side trip gathered around the icon and immediately broke into song sung in their native tongue. Tears were flowing down our cheeks. While I am the atheist who ran a Catholic Hospital, the moment was dear to us both.
When we got back to Jerusalem, we visited the Church of the Holy Sepulchre. The Tomb was chiseled out from the earth entirely. What was left was a hollow rock with a hole in the center and peep holes surrounding it. Years of people touching the stone has smoothed it down. Adjacent to the Tomb was the holy slab upon which Christ was allegedly placed in State. That would be Easter. The Wall, The Mosque, and The Holy Sepulchre are the Icons of the native religions all located within meters of each other. The cynic can have a field day with these symbols where each religion celebrates death more than Life and Love.
The beginning and the end.