It’s Easter Monday, it’s the last day of Passover, and the “sharav” — that hot desert wind from the Arabian peninsula — is blowing.
I took a drive around the city, which is basically a white-out with this desert wind. You can hardly see anything. Everything’s closed for Passover too. Still.
The streets are full of ultra-Orthodox men dressed in their fur Shabbat hats and shiny black coats out for a walk with the family (wife in a wig) or heading to the Western Wall in the Old City.
Easter, on the other hand, doesn’t mean much around here, even though Catholics believe it’s the site of Jesus’ birth, his crucifixion, his death and then resurrection. Although a lot of Christian pilgrims come here to see these sites (Christian tourism is the biggest source of tourism to Israel), Christianity is not something that’s lived here, at least from what I can see.
Bethlehem, where Jesus was born, is a majority Palestinian Muslim town that’s behind Israel’s security wall. It’s not easy to figure out how to get there, even though it’s only about three miles away. I can’t tell you the number of people who have stopped me on the street and asked me how to get to Bethlehem.
Uh, take a bus or a taxi to the checkpoint. Walk through the checkpoint (that looks like something out of the Berlin Wall) with your passport, then get another Palestinian taxi on the other side to take you to Manger Square. Got that? Right.
In the Old City, of course, there’s the Church of the Holy Sepulchre, where Jesus is believed to have been brought after his crucifixion. If you took away the Filipina maids who work in Israel, and the Christian tourists visiting on those big tour buses, there wasn’t much of a crowd there on Easter.
On Easter, which is all about the crucifixion and resurrection, right?
The whole Christian thing here is odd. There are some mammoth places here in Jerusalem that belong to Christian churches. There’s a French monastery right by my apartment, for example, that is about the size of a Manhattan city block. Behind huge stone walls and gates that are never open. What goes on in that huge space — or who’s actually in there — is anybody’s guess.
The Muslims are around, of course, in East Jerusalem, with their revered Al-Aqsa mosque, but you wonder how many Muslims really can — and do — make the pilgrimage here. Several Arab leaders have called on Muslims to visit Al-Aqsa here in Jerusalem, to preserve it’s revered identity. Most Palestinians who live in the Holy Land wouldn’t have permission to come to Jerusalem.
Nah, driving around today, there was no mistaking it. No matter what they say about Jerusalem being the cradle of three religions, it’s really mostly about the one religion these days — Judaism.
And that’s just how they want it, I would think.