In the photograph I am in the Church of the Holy Sepulcher. If you look carefully you can see my hand is in a hole; the hole which, according to legend, held the cross on which Christ was crucified. I am in the heart of Jerusalem, steps from the Western (“Wailing”) Wall. We sprinted through it all much too quickly—we met one couple from Georgia who had been there for a month, which is not too much time to really get to know things.
Jerusalem is indeed a Holy Land, even to Muslims: Mohammed ascended to heaven, according to legend, on his horse from there. Much of what you see on tours, like the crucifixion hole, has to be referred to as “according to legend,” because the historical accuracy of many places is questioned due to the length of time and checkered history of the Temple; indeed of Israel itself, which wasn’t formed in the modern world until 1948.
One thing that is definitely not “according to legend” is the Western Wall; the original stones from the original Temple. The Ark of the Covenant once leaned against that wall. I found a visit to the wall to be an unexpectedly spiritual experience, my sense of awe increasing as I came close and touched it.
We also took the long funicular up to Masada, the tall rock outcropping next to the Dead Sea, where King Herod built a fortress palace around 30 BC. When Jerusalem was overrun by the Romans, hundreds of Hebrews escaped to Masada. When they realized the Romans were using their own Israeli brethren, slaves to the Roman army, to scale the ramp up to them, they stopped throwing stones down upon them, sealing the Israeli defeat. Not long after, rather than be taken as Roman slaves, these ancient heroes committed mass suicide.
Causes Kevin Arnold Supports
Poetry Center San Jose, East Palo Alto Police Activities League (EPA PAL), Squaw Valley Community of Writers, Yale Writing Conference, Gold Rush Writers