Sunday, July 31, 2011

Jerusalem: On the Eve of Ramadan

In order for our students to fully experience the complexity of religion, politics and society in Jerusalem this week, we've divided them into three groups: Jews, Muslims and Christians.  Each group has been asked to research, map and act as tour guides for their set of sites within the Old City, explaining religious doctrine and political history as we proceed.  Today, as the crowded Muslim Quarter prepares for Ramadan and the city is plagued by traffic, our little group of Dragons' explored Jerusalem's Christian Quarter.  We attended morning mass at the Armenian Patriarchate, proceeded along the stations of the Via Dolorosa, where we were guided through the passion of Christ and ended our journey by lighting candles at the Church of the Holy Sepulchre.
Candles by G. Flax

Lamb of God by G. Flax

A visit to Jerusalem offers nearly immediate prompting toward spiritual reflection.  Fur hatted Orthodox Jews share the streets with solemn Greek Orthodox priests.  As I rested at the Church of the Holy Sepulchre, I shared a bench with a local Muslim tour guide, an elderly Hindu tourist and a former Russian atheist.  As I reflected upon spirituality and religious practice, the conflicts between the religions so present in today's media seemingly melted away with the realization that each of the Abrahamic faiths simply offers a different take on the human community: man, woman and their relationships with themselves, their God and the universe.

With love from Jerusalem,

Thursday, July 28, 2011

Preparing for a Ramadan Adventure!

Spending the past month travelling around Jordan with a group of rambunctious, curious Where There Be Dragons students has been an amazing adventure.  We've had a range of experiences from climbing Jebel Um Adaami, Jordan's highest mountain to floating in the Dead Sea, the lowest point on earth.  We've slept alongside nomadic Bedouins and discussed Jordan's political system with a former member of the Israel-Jordan peace negotiating team.  Tomorrow we leave for a five day exploration of Jerusalem's Old City.  As we have traveled, I have had the opportunity to reconnect with many dear friends along our path, often long enough to say a simple hello, share some news and a quick good-bye before moving on to our next destination.  These encounters, though brief, have allowed me to  recognize the wealth of amazing relationships built over five years in Jordan and how much there is still to learn from the vibrant community around me.  A few days ago, I decided to use the upcoming month of Ramadan to travel around Jordan again, taking the time to visit friends and families along the way in celebration of Ramadan, in celebration of five years in Jordan and in celebration of community.

The adventure will begin on July 31 in Jerusalem on the first night of Ramadan and continue for the whole month as the Dragons program comes to a close for the summer and a new itinerary unfolds.  Please join me in this adventure and anticipate daily blog postings from a variety of locations as the month goes by.

Happy Summer and Ramadan Kareem!

By the entrance to Siq Um Al Tawaqi