Monday, April 28, 2014

Fantasyland for the Faithful

Jesus Birthplace
JERUSALEM, ISRAEL: This is my final stop on this my fourth trip around the world and what a better place to be than Jerusalem, the fantasyland for the faithful of the three major western religions and their various offshoots. At the Jaffa Gate Tour Information office, I am told I can choose between a Christian or Jewish tour of the Old City. I ask, “What about a secular tour?” The response is a puzzled look. I decide to go it alone, at least for the Old City. From the Tower of David I have a 360 degree view of the Old City, from where I see where Jesus’ last supper was held, where he was crucified, where he was buried, where he preached the sermon on the mount, and where he ascended into heaven. I see also where Abraham went to sacrifice Isaac and, to my surprise, where Adam was buried (hint: the same place Jesus was crucified). Less than an hour’s drive into Bethlehem I see the caves where the shepherds lived, where Jesus was born, and where the Virgin Mary shed some milk while breastfeeding the Christ Child on their return from Egypt. On my way to Jericho, I see where the Good Samaritan helped the injured traveler and in Jericho the tree that Zacchaeus climbed to catch a view of Jesus. When and wherever I have the opportunity, I ask, “Who decided that this is where such and such happened and when was this decision made?” The responses I get are all over the board: “Why are you asking that? It’s in the Bible.” “Are you an agnostic?” “It’s tradition.” Sometimes the answers are more thoughtful; “Empress Helena, mother of King Constantine, in 325 CE determined where Jesus was crucified.” “The Crusaders decided where Mary’s milk was spilt.” But sometimes the responses can also be surprisingly candid: “The tree is only 1,000 years old, so Zacchaeus could never have sat in it,” or “The archeological record shows that Jericho wasn’t occupied during Biblical times, so maybe the story of Jericho in the Bible isn’t even true.”