A Jew and Moslems talk in Christ's Tomb, Jerusalem
Church of the Holy Sepulcher
Do you think it's true?
The Jerusalem limestone steps are hot in the noon sun, and worn smooth by thousands of feet. They lead tourists and pilgrims off the "Way of the Cross" to the Church of the Holy Sepulcher. Passing through the blinding bright courtyard we enter the cool gloom of the cavernous church. The church seems to stretch out in all directions:upper levels, lower crypts,curving stone staircases. Marie-Belle doesn't have her glasses so I am reading to her from the guidebook.
"Here is the slab where Jesus was laid out. Downstairs on your right is the cave of Mary. Here is the place of the true cross." I comment that all over Jerusalem are tombs of Mary and competing locations of the true cross. Then I notice a group of young women in traditional Palestinian dress, long flowing brown school tunics, soft grey brown headscarves framing bright young faces. Christian Palestinians.
One of the girls approaches me. She has such clear green eyes its hard not to stare. "Excuse me please. My name is Fatima. What is your native country?" "My name is Marsha and we are from Canada. Where are you from?'
"We are University students from Jenin.We are visiting Jerusalem to-day." Jenin is on the occupied West Bank of the Palestinian Territories. I nod. She asks, "What have you heard about Jenin?" I'm speechless since I cant tell her that all I have heard is that Jenin is a center for Palestinian terrorists. "Um um I have heard Jenin is a beautiful town with an excellent university. All the girls smile and nod as Fatima translates.
"We don't have a Jerusalem guide book. Do you think we could follow you and listen to what you read?" We step carefully down the smooth steps to Mary's cave. As I read from the guide book Fatima translates effortlessly. We go up to a marble slab. "Here Jesus's body was washed. Here His body was wrapped in linen. Here his mother Mary prayed."
At the end of our tour we are heading back to the entrance. "I have one more question Fatima says." I nod. "At our college in Jenin we have an excellent teacher. He is an American who teaches us English. He told us a story about this man Jesus. He said this man Jesus died on a cross and was buried here in Jerusalem in a tomb. And then on the third day he rose up from the dead. Have you heard that story?"
I nod yes. I suddenly realise that these girls are probably not Christian. Still how could they not know the story of Jesus? They live just up the road from where the crucifixion happened. "Well," she asks "Do you think it is true?" I choked. They were all looking at me expectantly. They are definitely not Christian.
"Well, um,er...that is the main story of the Christian religion. And lots of people believe it's true. You know like the story of how Muhammad rode his horse up to heaven from the Dome of the Rock?"
Fatima translates and the girls all nod."Well some people think it's true and some think it is a metaphor for spiritual transformation." Fatima translates and suddenly all the girls are wandering off. Have I offended them?
My partner Marie-Belle is chuckling. "You were a great help." I say. She says:"It was just so amusing watching a Jew trying to explain Christianity to a Muslim."