There is no religion without love, and people may talk as much as they like about their religion, but if it does not teach them to be good and kind to man and beast it is all a sham. Black Beauty
Well, we braved the crowds and the weather to spend Good Friday in Jerusalem. My friend so graciously allowed me to spend Thursday night in her house in Beit Safafa, so that we could have an easygoing start to the Good Friday celebrations, since it is in Israeli territory – no checkpoints to cross to get to Jerusalem. This is Beit Safafa, an Arab neighborhood in south Jerusalem, on the outskirts of Bethlehem:
Had a chill, relaxing evening on Thursday, and then got up on Friday recharged. There was to be a procession with Franciscan monks through the Stations of the Cross – walking the Via Dolorosa, the path Jesus walked when he was carrying his cross to be crucified at Golgotha (the present-day Church of the Holy Sepulchre) – at 12:15pm. So we had a lazy morning getting ready, and then headed out to meet my friend at the Damascus Gate and then walk to the first station. Of course, it’s also Friday, so there were huge numbers of Muslims walking to the Al-Aqsa Mosque for Friday prayers. The IDF had closed down, with barriers and soldiers blocking the way, the easiest paths to both the Al-Aqsa Mosque and the first station. My friend asked one of the soldiers why they were blocking it off and he answered, “The Crusades.” (Gotta love the aptitude of the IDF). She pushed him a little further, “You mean the Stations of the Cross?” to which he replied, “Yeah, the Crusades.”
When she pushed him a little further, saying that we were here for .. the Crusades (?!), he said no one was allowed through. So we wound our way through the narrow paths and found our way to the first station, with time to spare still. But oh my goodness there were so many people. The ‘streets’ of the Old City are narrow. And the Via Dolorosa winds its way through the heart of the Old City. And there were thousands of people walking along this procession, with shopkeepers and other tourists lining the sides to take pictures of us walking along. It was chaos. It didn’t really feel like much of a religious experience, but it was definitely something.
The priests led the way, with one priest carrying a loudspeaker on his head (the poor guy), and reading the Stations of the Cross in English, Spanish, and Latin (I think?), and then some prayers along the way. It was sometimes difficult to hear, and so many people there speaking so many different languages, some groups were praying and singing along the whole way. It was fascinating. But also stifling at some points.
But maybe the coolest part of the whole day – so when Jesus died, there was supposedly a solar eclipse, and some crazy weather things happening (an earthquake, etc). Well, yesterday, the weather was ridiculous. When we were riding the bus around 11am, it started a downpour – within 5 minutes, it was over. Then it was cloudy and chilly while we were walking to the first station. Then as we waited for the procession to start, it was sunny and hot (as in, I was sweating). Then, we’re maybe halfway through the procession, and it just starts another downpour again! Without warning, just a crack and the rain started. Then it was sunny again. It seemed very fitting for Good Friday in Jerusalem.