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This photo of the Tour guide turned out-touch wood!(Note where the expression Touch Wood comes from)
Photo by Rhonda Spivak


Photo by Rhonda Spivak


A tractor in the Old City.(If you want to play Where's Haskel-instead of Where's Waldo, see if you can spot the backside of Dr Haskel Greenfield and son Boaz in this photo
Photo by Rhonda Spivak


Station #15-The Orange Juice Bar
Photo by Rhonda Spivak

 
A BEJESUS TRAFFIC JAM: HOW I GOT CAUGHT IN A CHRISTIAN PASSION PLAY IN JERUSALEM

by Rhonda Spivak, Jan 06, 2013

I was in the Old City of Jerusalem in the Arab quarter meandering through the winding narrow alleyways when all of a sudden I spotted a man driving a tractor down the alley. I immediately tried to get out of the way, because only days earlier the newspapers were awash with the story of an East Jerusalem Arab who had purposely killed a Jew by driving over them with a tractor. My immediate thought was "What if this guy is a copy-cat killer?”

 

I darted out of the alley way, and ran until I could find what looked to be a more main street of the Old City. It was hot and by then I had worked up a sweat such that I decided to try to find a place to get a drink.

 

Up ahead I could see a man with a huge wooden cross. I figured he was a tour guide and he was holding up the cross so his tour participants could see him. What did I know? I was just a dumb Jew. Albeit it did dawn on me at the time that the cross he was holding was rather huge for the purpose to which I attributed to it.

 

In any event, I figured I would just meander my way past this tour group as I knew there was a restaurant where I could quench my thirst nearby. But that proved to be a more difficult task than I had surmised.

 

Next thing I knew there were a number of people carrying this huge wooden cross (and I kept thinking to myself that it would make more sense for them to put the cross aside somewhere and travel without it through the Old City as it was weighing them down and slowing down their pace!) The members of this Christian  tour kept on stopping  for no apparent reason that I could make out and I was frustrated by the fact that I couldn't get past them. "Excuse me. I am just a Jew looking to buy a glass of orange juice. Would you mind letting me through?" Alas, I didn't get anywhere--they were way too involved in their own thing. With nothing else to do, I pulled out my camera and started to photograph them.

 

It is only now in retrospect after telling this story to Dr. Catherine Chatterley, a scholar on the History of Antisemitism with knowledge on the origins of Christianity, that I fully understand what I had witnessed.

 

Sure enough, unbeknownst to me, I had ended up on the Via Dolorosa, which is Latin for "way of suffering." This is the route that Christians believe Jesus traveled carrying the cross from his trial (where the Roman governor Pontius Pilote condemned Jesus to death) to the place of his crucifixion and burial.  When Christian pilgrims go down this route they essentially re-enact Jesus's travels and crucifixion, and the wooden cross they use is meant to be a replica of the cross on which Jesus was crucified (not a means by which the tour guide enables his group to find him!) On the Via Dolorosa Christian pilgrims stop at 14 stations which commemorate incidents Jesus encountered along the way (apparently none of which involve stopping for orange juice, I am sad to say) . The first seven stations wind through the Muslim Quarter (I had probably sped by most of them), and the last five are inside the Church of the Holy Sepulcher, which is where Orthodox and Catholic Christians mark the crucifixion and burial of Jesus. The tradition of  this re-enactment of Christ's travels down the Via Dolorosa dates to the Byzantine period (albeit I am quite sure that the Jewish tradition of searching for orange juice predates the Byzantine period, probably dating as far back as the Yom Kippur Breakfast meal ).

 

Here is  a listing of the 14 stations (It's "insider information" you'll need to know as a Jew if you ever get stuck in a pilgrim's traffic jam and want to know where you may be able to exit easily).

 

Station I — The place where Pontius Pilate’s judgment hall once stood and Jesus was condemned to death.

Station II — The Monastery of the Flagellation where Jesus was given the cross.

Station III — The spot where Jesus fell under the weight of the cross for the first time.

Station IV — Where Mary came out of the crowd to see her son.

Station V — Simon the Cyrene was taken out of the crowd by the Romans to help Jesus carry the cross.

Station VI — Recalls the tradition of Veronica stepping up to Jesus and wiping his face.

Station VII — Where Jesus fell for the second time.

Station VIII — The place where Jesus consoled the women of Jerusalem.

Station IX — Where Jesus fell for the third time.

Station X — Jesus is stripped of his garments.

Station XI — Jesus is nailed to the cross.

Station XII — The place where Jesus died on the cross.

Station XIII — The spot where Jesus’ body was taken down.

Station XIV — The tomb of Jesus.

 

As for me, I'm not quite sure which station I was at when I  bumped into the pilgrims but once I got my orange juice I fell out of sync with them and eventually made my way to the Jewish quarter of the Old City before dark.

 
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Rhonda Spivak, Editor

Publisher: Spivak's Jewish Review Ltd.


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