From Old City Inspiration to New Ventures: A day in Jerusalem

April 16, 2008 in Israel, It is what it is - opinion column | Comments (0)


The last 24 hours have been somewhat strange for me. There’s been a sizable amount of meshugass on this trip – misfired communications, sardine-like conditions of our “bus” (which was actually a late model Ford van that the Israeli Consulate very graciously replaced today with a proper tour bus… YAY!), and the TG gang consensus that our goals for the trip and the itinerary were a bit off kilter.
Fellow TravelingGeek, Sarah Lacy, wrote a bit about our rebellion on Monday – an act that set into motion quite a few interesting activities and experiences.
As a result I have several half-finished posts sitting in my draft folder that I’ve just not been able to complete. (Confession: I’m a relatively newly minted blogger in terms of style. My writing has always tended to be a bit more in-depth analytical second day story type of stuff, so this whole rapid-fire writing thing is a new challenge).
In any case, that mini-backlog of items is going to have to wait a bit longer because after today’s adventures I’m focused on something deeply important to me.
More specifically the way in which faith inspires.
It’s funny to think that on my first trip to Jerusalem in the summer of 1995, I found myself nearly paralyzed at my first approach to the Western Wall.. While I’ve only returned to the spot twice since that time, I’ve had exactly the opposite experience on each return. Rather than feeling repelled by the energy that comes off of this majestic edifice, it’s as though a tractor beam grabs me, pulling me in.
But I’m getting ahead of myself… the story begins when we began the most enjoyable forced march you can imagine.
The TravelingGeek squad arrived in Jerusalem this morning and was met immediately by the warmly intense visage of Tikva Levine – the woman who was to be equal parts tour guide, historian and drill sergeant for our marathon morning. We had two hours to conquer a pretty substantial amount of territory in the Old City.
With Tikva charging in the lead, conquer it we would.
We began on the sun-drenched perch that is the Walter and Elise Haas Promenade. Tikva gave a superb overview, explaining the physical geography of the City, the history behind it, and the outlined where we’d go. Then it was back to the bus and off for the walled City.
Unlike my first Old City walking tour, which focused wholly on the Jewish aspect of this place, our tour encompassed the Christian Quarter and part of the Arab Quarter as well. We entered through Zion Gate, one of seven open gates into Old Jerusalem. With little time to spare, we proceeded in a near sprint from spot to spot – David’s Tomb, the room in which The Last Supper is said to have taken place, the Church of the Holy Sepulchre.
(Note: I took quite a few pictures, as did Renee Blodgett, JD Lasica and Susan Mernit. When those get posted I’ll add in the links here)
Out of deference for the personal experiences of my colleagues, I won’t share what specifically occurred for some as we made our way along. If they wish to share what they felt, then they will do so in their own time in their own way.
These are personal experiences and not everyone writes with their heart stapled to their sleeve as I do.
Suffice to say that for more than a couple TGs there were tears accompanied by statements about feeling connected, overwhelmed with a sense of belonging, and ultimately a sensation that whatever feelings or beliefs they may have held before, their lives were now changed.
For me, the wave of emotion hit upon emerging from the Arab Quarter into the bright light of the plaza by the Western Wall. My body went into autopilot and I made a beeline for the spot where I have gone in the past. My forehead against the warm, silken stone I got that feeling – the one the draws me back again and again.
It’s an incredible sensation that I’ve plugged in directly to a spiritual mainframe, with energy pulsing and throbbing through thousands of years of prayer into my body, racing through my limbs and back again. The tears began before I could even form a thought in my head, and welled up thickly behind my closed eyes. It’s not until I briefly blinked a few minutes later that the flood streams down my face.
My time at the Wall was only about 10 minutes, but in that time I felt an eternity of energy and peaceful power seep into me. As is customary, I placed a note between the stones of the wall. I’d taken several minutes at lunch to write down some thoughts and wishes – both for myself and for friends. Backing away (you don’t turn your back on the Wall, instead you’re supposed to stay facing it and back up to the end of the plaza out of respect for the Holiness of the place).
We bade farewell to Tikva at this point and headed for a meeting with Jerusalem Venture Partners. Needless to say, at the time it was the last thing I really wanted to do. As we all rode on the bus towards the offices, we opened our computers and began to silently check email.
And then the Twitter frenzy began.
I’m not sure where it started, but unless you’re subscribed to @cathybrooks, @sarahcuda, @renee27, @susanmernit, @jdlasica, and @scobleizer … Well, let’s just say that you missed a ridiculously hysterial (and yes, rather juvenile) stream of shenanigans.
(And by the way if you’re NOT subscribed to all of those folks, I’d highly recommend you change that … While we’re going our separate ways at week’s end and won’t be cloistered in a bus any more, I get a sense the Twittering antics will continue … but I digress…)
So we pulled up to the JVP offices still recuperating from our hysterics – the kind of deep, belly laughter (that for Sarah and me ended in massive coughing fits as we’ve both been sick on this trip).
Frankly I was worried about my ability to focus during the meeting. I didn’t think that after such a deeply spiritual experience, capped by a near exhausting session of laughter that I would find anything else of interest.
I was wrong.
As this post is already rather lengthy, and since Robert Scoble captured quite a bit via his ever-present Nokia N95 and Qik. I’ll wrap up by saying this…
Not only was I not bored, I found myself deeply engaged and wishing we had more time.
Perhaps it has something to do with the energy and power of this place that helps energize and propel the superb level of innovation I’ve seen this week.
After my experience at the Wall today, I tend to think that’s the case.


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