July 17, 2007

By Estelle Nora Harwit Amrani

This past week I watched several special documentaries on television from the Discovery Channel and National Geographic Television on the ancient world of Egypt and Jerusalem. Watching the film on Jerusalem brought back memories of my visits to these holy sites, how I felt there, and what I feel is my own meaning about them. My next visit to Jerusalem will take me to a new level of checking energy. Perhaps I will feel things I hadn't felt before. Of course I'm fully aware that people of different religions consider this place holy, and they have their main dude or God that is above the rest. Well, I have to tell you that I don't have favorites and I'm not religious.

The first thing to take note of when traveling to Israel is how you feel when your plane lands there. There is nothing like it in the world that I've felt, and I've been to many countries. Like all places, Israel has its own vibration. When you land, you feel like you're home - and I don't care where you came from to get there, or what religion you are or are not. You automatically connect with the ancientness and history of the place. Then when you meet the people and experience the cultures in Israel, you feel a deeper richness of the energies.

Jerusalem is one of the areas packed with so many different kinds of energies. It's easy to see how people can become emotional, confused, hypersensitive from picking up the energies of thousands of years of people living there and of conflicts over the area. Some people freak out, some start channeling the energies (please read for more on this). I would never want to live in Old Jersualem because of the energies. It's a very cool place to visit, but not for an extended stay, unless you enjoy chaotic energies and living on the edge (not only from the ancient energies, but current ones - clashes between Islam and Judaism, and terrorism.)

I've been to all three holy sites in Jerusalem (the Western Wall, the Holy Sepulchre, and Al-Aqsa Mosque), and walked throughout the old and new city several times. The first time I went to the Mosque and the Holy Sepulchre was in 1970. The Mosque is the second holiest place for Muslims, Mecca being the first. The Mosque was built 300 years after Jesus' life. So, it is known and accepted that Judaism came first, Christianity second, and Islam third in this location. All three religions accept Abraham as their forefather.

When I went to the Mosque it was not popular, it was fairly empty, the area around it looked neglected, and very few Muslims were around the outside. There is a large fountain outside for Muslims to wash their feet before entering the Mosque barefoot. I was ushered in by one Muslim man who saw I was curious about it. I walked up to Mt. Moriah, the rock where it is believed Abraham nearly sacrificed Isaac. It's a huge rock formation in the center of the building. I stayed in the Mosque for a while and felt the energy. It is said, by Muslims, that one prayer there is worth 5,000. I don't know why they would believe that. Okay, there was the famous rock: speak to me, I thought. Surprisingly, I felt nothing but emptiness, desolation, death, stuff of the past, not of the present. I did not feel angels, or anything particularly special or sacred while there. It was almost devoid of energy. The building and its artwork on the walls are absolutely gorgeous, however. To enter into the Mosque one must cover their head and upper body. I wore a shawl. I think that today the energy in that Mosque would be much more intense since it's been utilized much more in the past 10 years by many Muslims. It is really a crime that Muslims no longer allow non-Muslims into the Mosque, even though Muslims share the same prophets as Jews and Christians. That doesn't say anything positive to me.

There are people who don't know what to call this area of the Wall and the Rock, because if you call it one name or the other, it immediately identifies it with one religion and its history or claim to the place. I just say why not call the area of the Mosque and Temple Mt. Moriah? That way it's neutral and applies to all religions.

The Holy Sepulchre, the holiest place for Christians, is a few blocks away from the Mosque and the Western Wall. You could walk right by it and not think it was anything other than an ordinary church from the outside. But, once inside, it is elaborately decorated. This church was built by Constantine, and all over it is the obvious mosaics and artwork of his time. It is quite packed with religious objects, incense and candles lit, and I found it interesting that the Greek key symbol is in there as decoration above one area. I walked around the inside of the Holy Sepulchre, looked at the art, and found my way into the tomb where it is believed Yeshua Ben-Yosef (who came to be called Jesus) was buried, and then rose. I was alone in the tomb, and I sat there for a half hour, touching the walls, the rocks, all of it, looking for spirits and feeling for something, anything, that would lead me to believe this was the spot as claimed. Frankly, I didn't feel any presence of Yeshua in the tomb - and that means not only that his spirit was not there then, but it felt to me that he was never buried there. However, the energy in the church was very nice, and it felt sacred in how people created it to be a holy place. There was definitely a feeling of peace. I was there at a time that was in-between ceremony or ritual or crowds. I lucked out. I cringed a little at all the statues, the images, that would have been so against Yeshua's beliefs during his lifetime. He was a Jewish man, and yet this church had little in the way of his true heritage within it. The Holy Sepulchre is about what people made of him AFTER his death. Of the three holy places in Jerusalem, this one didn't emit anything that was angry or chaotic or as if it was pushing itself upon anybody. Anyone is welcomed here. You can join in the walk of the Via della Rosa (retracing Yeshua's last walk to his death, called the "Walk of Pain or Sorrow") every Friday that ends at the Holy Sepulchre. (I don't know why it's not just called the "Walk of the Rose.")

The Western Wall is something else. It is the wall of the temple that was destroyed in Jerusalem, and considered the holiest place on earth for Jews. Wherever a Jew is, outside of Jerusalem at the Wall, they must pray towards the direction of the Wall because that is where the Temples and the ark stood. The area at the top of the wall is the platform where the Mosque is built. That is from where Muslims have attacked Jews praying below at the Wall. The Muslims wish they could wipe out the Jewish history of Jerusalem, but some say that it does have a Jewish history, but now it's Muslim. Muslims have tried to halt excavations of the area because they don't want the world to know the Jewish history there. Visitors to the Western Wall can take tours underneath the old city to see the Jewish origins of it all, and how different eras brought changes. Funny, as I'm tying this a commercial for tourism to Israel played on television. "Israel, who knew?!" Those who have been there knew, that's who!

I've been to the Wall many times since Israel got it back in 1967. People go to the Wall to pray, to leave written notes to God, to have rites of passage and other celebrations related to holidays. The Wall wasn't always divided between men and women. I was there before it was divided, too. Today it allows women on the right side, and men on the left side, and it's divided by moveable fencing. You don't go to the Wall unless you're properly attired - usually meaning men and women cover their heads and at least their upper body. If you're a Jewish male, you might be bugged by religious men who want to enforce certain practices upon you - such as wrapping the leather tefilin around your hand, up your arm to your forehead and saying certain prayers. A painful and tiresome ritual that tefilin. If you have the strength, you can try to tell them NO and do it your way, as Judaism is supposed to be up left to personal interpretation. People praying at the Wall get very emotional - most people cry, some people rock back and forth, people kiss the blocks of the Wall. The Wall is almost always busy, and the energy is high and intense here. There are frequently people dancing and singing in celebration, as well as people hoping for God to help them through something devastating, or people praying for peace. Soldiers pray at the wall for their safety before they enter active duty.

I see the power of belief and suggestion at work in Jerusalem. Why all the religious/spiritual hysteria? Because each religion believes that where it has it's "holy" sites in Jersualem is where God lives, where God's energy is the strongest, where people can communicate directly with God. Personally, I have never heard of anything more ridiculous. Why would God favor one spot on Earth over another? If God is omnipresent, isn't it hypocritical to say that It's closest under the Mosque, or in the Holy Sepulchre, or at the Wall? God didn't build those things; people did. People created religions and separation and wars; God did not.

What is the meaning of Jerusalem to me? It is a unique city that is holy to three religions, has several quarters of different cultures (Armenian, Arab, Jewish, Muslim, Christian), it is old and new, it is alive. People go about their business in the Old City, sell their wares on the old cobbled streets, enjoy a sweet glass of tea made by Arabs, smoke a pipe, eat a good meal, go to pray. (Just be warned of the smell of certain places, particularly public restrooms near the Mosque, because one culture there doesn't have healthy bathroom hygiene, and you might not find *ahem* certain necessities there.) It has amazing energies that you can tap into and it is an ideal place for being a people-watcher. The characters that you will see there rival any other nation.

The belief of those fighting for Jerusalem is that whoever has their holy place there controls the most powerful spot on the planet. I think that idea is worn out - it's time to let it go. When it comes down to it, it's just a geographic location that captured the energies of people who have lived, died, warred, loved, and prayed there. It clings to the past, and uses the past to identify the present. While it does give Jerusalem it's special charm, it has charm without the attachment or superiority issues that keep people fighting one another over who's religion is best. I say, let the past stay in the past, learn from the past but don't live there now. My feeling is to do away with all religions and just have a personal connection with God, but I know most of the world isn't ready for that. I think far too much importance is placed on this city. In my view, it is Israel's capital city and should be recognized as such. But, it should also be an open city to all people, and every holy site should be open to all. People should know that here they can be safe - and they are, as long as the Israelis are there. That's a fact, not a bias. Peace must be the main focus of Jerusalem. I have some other ideas of what to do with the future of Jersusalem, and you can read about them here. Visiting these sites in Jerusalem is a must if you go to Israel. Check them out for yourself. What do you perceive? What is your hope for the future of this place? How do you want that to be played out around the world, because it DOES influence so much in the world?

© Copyright 2007, Estelle Nora Harwit Amrani