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Tears in Jerusalem

I couldn’t help the tears as they fell without my knowing it. Fragments of a song still floated in my mind: “No room for the baby at Bethlehem’s inn/ Only cattle shed/ No home on this earth for the dear Son of God…” Yes, there was no more room at the inn. There was only the barn and a manger.

Picture the Babe laid in the manger. The opulence, the stunning magnificence of the temples and churches in the Holy City of Jerusalem provided a stark contrast to the dark, gloomy, dilapidated shack where Jesus was born. I teared up at the awesome  humility of it all.

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As the Bible tells it, with the Bethlehem star for guide, Three Wise Men found their way to the cattle shed, bringing their gifts of gold, incense and myrrh. What baby needs the glitter of gold, the aromatic smell of frankincense, or the gummy myrrh? This we got from the e-mail, a question about Three Wise Women: “Do you know what would have happened if there had been three wise WOMEN instead of three wise MEN? They would have asked for directions, arrived on time, helped deliver the Baby, cleaned the stable, made a casserole, and given practical gifts.” In this particular case, womankind is wiser than mankind, agree or disagree.

As Christmas approached, the scene vividly came to life—remembered in my tour of Jerusalem in 2015. My daughter Raileen, who went on a pilgrimage tour with her husband Nixon four years ago, prevailed upon her Mom to join some 20 other oldies because, “Mommy, you won’t be able to make it any year later.” Well, this octogenarian came up hale and hearty after a nine-day expedition in the choice land of Christian pilgrims.

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In the piousness of my Jerusalem journey, humor was a propeller.

I’ve always believed that feelings of empathy and compassion are balanced, or even heightened by a sense of humor. Laughter that spices up tears is good for the physical and the spiritual—i.e., for both the body and the soul. I concur with The Reader’s Digest that laughter is the best medicine. Take this tête-à-tête after our baptism at the Jordan River. I said to the group: “Your friend Julie was rebaptized. From now on, call me Julie Andrews.” Sing! was the command. “Do re mi”—the “Sound of Silence” ensued.

In the waveless Dead Sea—its salt-laden waters known for therapeutic powers—this swimming aficionado could not display her free-style prowess. A bathing suit was absent in my wardrobe. Gosh, who needs a bathing suit in this anticipated religious sojourn? No way to show my capability, like in the UP swimming pool of long ago.

“Anong isinulat mo? What was your petition?” asked Fr. George Snyder, who saw me coming out ahead of the throng that gathered at the iconic Wailing Wall. “I’ll tell the group in our meeting,” I said, crisply smiling. Father Snyder, our pilgrimage adviser, was then our parish priest at St. Joseph Church in Redding, California. It is to this Fil-Am priest’s credit that he can speak Tagalog more fluently than this Ilongga ever could.

Indeed, what did I write? The group was insistent at our meeting.

“Well, you’re all included in my prayer: Peace for all of humankind.” Applause followed. No wailing, I said. No tears. No long sheet of paper for the petition and prayers. Just a tiny piece of paper which I neatly rolled and inserted in the tiniest crevice I could find. Hope fluttered that, perchance, I would be back at the Wailing Wall, in another pilgrimage tour, and I would find the very same tiny piece of paper where I inserted it—instead of being swept away along with the rest of individual pledges and pleadings. And even to find how right I am in my prognosis: Peace has really reigned in the entire world!

The long series of steps notwithstanding, I managed to reach the top of Mount Precipice—from which, I surmised, must have sprung the adjective “precipitous.” Two tablets were juxtaposed: one carved in English, the other in Jewish. Hannah, our Jewish tour guide who speaks excellent English, asked if we’ve found an error on the tablet. I raised my hand instantly. The English tablet ends with the words “ancient piriod.” A word was wrongly spelled; of course, it should be “period.”

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The error is in the narrative, Hannah explained. “Jesus did not jump from the top of Mount Precipice to evade the soldiers about to capture him. Rather, he faced the soldiers, who were the ones who ran away.” No tears. No untoward incident. Just a typographical error, you bet. Finding typo errors goes with the territory after years of my writing and editing job to earn a living.

Now my tip for priceless souvenirs: a leaf, a flower, a stone gathered along the way—priceless because no dollar was expended. Petals of variegated flowers to make a potpourri sprayed with perfume to exude a sweet scent in any room. A Pentel pen with which to write the date and place where the stone was picked up and the petals gathered. Did the priceless souvenirs come from the Mount of Olives, Mount Zion, Church of the Holy Sepulchre, the Via Dolorosa pathway, etc.?

And now for the seething headline: “US vetoes UN resolution rejecting Trump’s Jerusalem decision.” The report said the United States vetoed a draft UN resolution rejecting President Donald Trump’s decision to recognize Jerusalem as Israel’s capital after all 14 UN Security Council members backed the measure.

“The veto cast by US Ambassador Nikki Haley highlighted Washington’s isolation over Trump’s announcement that the US embassy will be moved from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem, effectively ignoring Palestinian claims on the city.

“The shift by the Republican president, announced earlier (Dec. 6, 2017), broke with international consensus, triggering protests across the Muslim world and strong condemnation.”

Among the 14 countries in the 15-member council that voted in favor of the proposed measure were key US allies Britain, France, Italy, Japan and Ukraine.

The draft resolution put forward by Egypt reaffirmed that Jerusalem is an issue “to be resolved through negotiations” between Israel and the Palestinians. It stated that any decisions on the status of Jerusalem “have no legal effect, are null and void and must be rescinded.”

At this writing, at least eight Palestinians have been killed in violence or airstrikes since Trump’s Jerusalem move.

Israel’s army said around 2,500 people were involved in riots in the West Bank and about 3,500 in Gaza, while in Jordan, thousands of people also joined protests called by the Muslim Brotherhood, burning Israeli and American flags.

Did what I wrote at the Wailing Wall come to naught? Peace for all of humankind. As of this moment, the littlest I can say on the debacle: Hope springs eternal in the human heart.

* * *

Julia Carreon-Lagoc is retired as editor of Aqua Farm News, newsletter of the Aquaculture Department of Seafdec (Southeast Asian Fisheries Development Center).

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TAGS: Birth of Jesus, Christmas, High Blood, Jerusalem, Julia Carreon-Lagoc
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