A very early morning departure for the Temple Mount in Jerusalem to avoid long security lines.
We passed security (Israeli), we passed the ‘Modesty Police’ (Muslim), and entered this lovely, peaceful plaza with the Al Aqsa mosque at one end, the golden Dome of the Rock at the other end and the Golden Gate in the eastern wall where Jesus entered on Palm Sunday – which has been blocked, I believe by the Romans.
This sacred place is much more tense now than when I was here in 2011. We were told firmly by Nahum, our guide, to stay in the group, not to wander off on our own, not to engage the Muslim ‘police’ in conversation and most definitely not be seen praying, nor doing eurythmy or singing.
We were followed wherever we went and, when talking about the history of the place – the Jewish temple, the crusaders, the Templars – Nahum was reprimanded and told he must only speak of facts and was not allowed to tell his ‘stories’. Facts, that is, according to fundamental Muslims who deny anything that happened there that had nothing to do with Islam. Nahum knew they had no legal right to dictate what he could say and what he could not but he wisely declined to complain to the Israeli police and cause a ruckus. One of our group, who was always off doing her own thing, was standing still in one place with her hands beside her but for some reason was deemed to be praying and did cause a ruckus, especially when she tried to explain what she was doing – a German with limited English speaking to zealous Muslims with limited English. It was not successful 🙁
This was the first time we encountered any hostility from the Arab (sometimes Palestinian) population and it was obvious that, since we were not Muslims, we were not welcome. Everyone else has been warm and friendly and a delight to be with.
This is almost the end of our pilgrimage – we’re ready to go home …