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Israel, a place for your heart

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One thing I do not understand about babies is that they need constant rocking motion in order to go to sleep, yet on an airplane where the rocking is quite constant they vomit instead.

As a family we travelled up and down the Holy Land for over a week. Near the end of our trip we find ourselves in the famous Mahane Yehuda Market at an Italian restaurant (one can only eat hummus, falafel and shawarma for so long). The place is the size of our living room and about fifty people are jammed in there in various degrees of discomfort. Two large families are situated by the wall waiting for their food. One family is slightly larger so they take up more room along the bench. The smaller family lets them. But when the high chair of their baby is bumped the parents gets annoyed and regrets letting the larger family in in the first place.

Old City Jerusalem is very much like this small restaurant. Only the head chefs left; the average waiting time is approximately 2000 years; the families belong to different blood feuding clans; and the kids all have assault rifles. It is not hard to imagine the conflicts exist today in this contentious centre of origins for all Western religions.

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Old Jerusalem is painfully beautiful. A person can spend a lifetime in the intertwining mazes carved out of granite and marble. Jerusalem is also overwhelmingly disappointing. Millions of years of existences and learning brought humans to pray at the same location but only through separate entrances guarded by machine guns and metal detectors. Threats of violence rather than pursuit of harmony keeps the peace. Advancement of knowledge divides people instead of gifting them with the desire for unity. We humans are hard to figure out.

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In northern Israel, Jews, Muslims and Christians intermingle with much less conflict. They live in the same buildings, their kids go to the same schools and they celebrate each other’s good fortunes together. Neighbours may annoy one another with loud music but they also share dessert at each other’s weddings. People may snicker at another person for leaving garbage around but they give them the benefit of the doubt instead of applying racial stereotypes. Indeed we found the sky to be much bigger and the ocean much grander in the north. One can breath in the vitality of life and share the wonders of living with sisters and brothers.

Jews, Muslims and Christians are all ordinary people, people who want to be left alone to figure out what they want from this complex menu called LIFE. The head chefs are gone leaving the people hungry and frustrated. In this crowded, noisy, busy, uncomfortably warm place called earth it is easy to turn against one another and unleash our fury and insults. It is hard to take a deep breath and feel the other person’s plight and pain. When we turn the page we see that compassion, sympathy and brotherly love are the chef’s recommendations. Once we figure this out we don’t need the restaurant any more.

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As it turns out, babies like the rocking from their caretakers’ loving arms but when the motion is mechanically forced upon them, they throw up. The key difference is choice. The main distinction is love.

Back in our Italian joint, our food finally arrive. We enjoy the delicious dishes while our daughter enjoys the people around her. She giggles and points to other babies. A young girl huddles around her and plays with her. Women, men, even very old and serious looking men all smile and laugh at the interactions of the children. Their tiny faces fill up the tiny space with the painfully beautiful harmony of life.

This is Jerusalem. This is Israel. This is Earth.

We are humans. We are strong.  We can choose to be LOVE.

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