Faith in Old Jerusalem

When I was a child, my father asked me not to buy the song Imagine. He didn’t want to give money to something which, in his mind, promoted the abolition of religion. This seemed odd to me; my father was a “C&E” Christian at best.

Now, this song has become synonymous with peace, a salve to heal a divided world. In the aftermath of Paris, a video has gone viral of a man playing it on a grand piano pulled out onto the street. Many of my friends have liked this video on Facebook; I think I have probably liked it myself. After all, I love that song. (And yes, I snuck off and bought it with no regard to my father’s wishes.)

The line most often cited is “Nothing to kill or die for. And no religion too.” People call it out in comments. It’s such an easy breezy statement. What’s not to like?

But is that really the world we want? No Negro spirituals. No belief that if this life is extremely hard, the next one might be better. No life line to my son’s friend’s parents when their daughter died of cancer at the age of 28?

My friend Sue lost her husband after a 15 year struggle with early onset Alzheimer’s. Sue clung to a deep and unwavering faith. Her faith is an integral part of her being; it always has been. I’m not sure she could have coped without it.

I remember Elizabeth Edwards saying she didn’t fear her imminent death because she would be reunited with her son Wade. I thought, how wonderful for her.

At its core, isn’t that what religion is about? Hope?

My father once said, “Religion is about the fear of death.” I might extend that to life is about the fear of death—our books and movies, the thoughts which keep us awake, the pit in our stomach the first time our children drive away in a car, the ringing of the phone at night.

Is that death knocking at our door? Please God, no.

Do we really want to take away a mechanism which allows so many to cope with the tribulations of life? I think not.

Yet there are such deep divisions in the world, and so much of it swirls around religion.

Perhaps we can take a different path. I imagine a world where everyone has a passport and uses it to travel to the most remote and different places. One where we all yearn to understand, discuss, become informed–not through the media or our own political affiliations, but through a first hand knowledge.

How different would the world be if we all sat across a table and shared a meal? Could we then bow our heads, join hands, and each pray to a different God? Would our faith enable us to meet the most needy at the door with an embrace and lead them to a seat at the table?

At Yad VaShem, the Holocaust museum in Jerusalem, the garden path to the entry is a tribute to the righteous—non Jews who saved the lives of Jews at great personal risk and for no compensation.

One such righteous woman was a Bosnian, a Muslim with 3 daughters. At great risk to themselves, they hid—and saved–a Jew. All the girls are old women now: one a Muslim, one a Jew, one a Christian.

Imagine that.

We returned from Israel yesterday. It was one of the most affecting weeks of my life. It’s made me think about the Middle East, the conflict, my painfully poor knowledge of this region’s history, and my media created–and misinformed–view of reality.

I envied the calming traditions of some of the most faithful people I have ever met. A calm which really does exist at the epicenter of the storm. I’ll be writing much much more about Israel. For now, unable to sleep, I am writing this post at 2 AM. It’s late. Shalom.







Categories: The Middle East

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6 replies

  1. Religion is not the problem Julie, it is man’s intolerance of religion. There is where you will find the problem.

    Welcome home. 🙂

  2. My belief is this; It’s not religion, it’s not intolerance, it’s not anything other than our thoughts of what life ‘should’ be. When we awaken to the truth that we create everything in our lives by our thoughts, we will then choose good, positive thoughts. Fear of death is the lack of awareness; we never die. Energy never dies…it changes form. Thoughts are energy. Fear insights hatred – and this is exactly what ISIS wants you to believe. Fear is the lack of love. The only thing that matters is love. Our worlds problems will silence when we ALL choose empathy, love & kindness towards ourselves and each other. I know this sounds really crazy but I believe it to the depths of my heart.

  3. It will be a simplifying statement of course, but this is my interpretation of the line:
    Faith connects, religion divides. Religions institutionalize faith, create rules, and want to decide who is good and who is not. The greatest teachers like Jesus or Buddha never wrote books of law, they were just talking to people. They never expected their words to be carved in stone. Religions carve them in stone, and divide people to ‘worthy’ and ‘faithless’: Us and Them.
    For me the line says: no problem to believe in any god you wish – the problem is when you divide people to Us and Them.
    Shabbath Shalom! I’m looking forward to read about your adventures in Israel!

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