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 Holy Land experience :

          The old city of Jerusalem, and the via dolorosa


                 "I boarded a three day ferry for Israel- that land where the spirit had dwelt in matter for perhaps it’s most intimate and arduous episode. Upon arrival I immediately headed to Jerusalem, specifically Old Jerusalem, seat of the Father, the holy land.

                There is no more fantastic, mundane, ironic, worldly, otherworldly, harmonious, inharmonious, and otherwise completely contradictory place on earth than Old Jerusalem. It is an impressive conglomeration of ancient Roman walls, early Christian churches, Islamic mosques, Jewish holy sites, Arab markets, cobbled alleyways, and trinket shops, all packed into a few square kilometers of humanity, history, and hunger. Hunger for salvation, hunger for power, hunger for money, and hunger for peace. The entire occidental drama, with all its passion and angst, collides here in the throbbing epicenter of Old Jerusalem, where a neverending parade of Orthodox Jews, Muslim merchants, Christian pilgrims, and an eclectic array of travelers from all over the world come seeking God, redemption, inebriation, or truth. Whether any of them find any of these whatsoever is a mystery to me. If I found anything it was inebriation: two parts ethanol, one part ethereal, which is a proper human martini.

                The first thing I did upon arriving in the Old city- after checking in and setting up a mattress on the rooftop of the Petra hostel- was to walk the via dolorosa …in reverse. This was a stroll partly intended, and partly not, for I had read about the via dolorosa a number of times, and had imagined it as a sacred path leading through a bucolic landscape, which would make for a pleasant walk and a unique historical pilgrimage as well. But in searching for the route, through the chaotic tangle of the labyrinthine Old city- which is not bucolic at all- I came upon the last station, Golgotha, first, and then, out of sheer pragmatism, retraced the entire pathway in reverse, to its origin, the first station of the cross, the betrayal. This act of heading up-stream, as it were, against the grain of history, was, as I said, unintended, though when I realized what I was doing, I was pleased. For though it is impossible to walk the world’s most famous pathway in the opposite of the normal direction, without knowing it, I did not do this as an affront to Christ and his ardors along this way, but was yet glad to symbolically scorn the agonizing, parroting, plagiaristic herd which walks this path now and every day. Enough, I say, of the crucifixion. Enough of the sorrow, loneliness, betrayal, and blood. The path Christ took ended two-thousand years ago, and He is no longer a dying God, not in my experience anyway.

                I suppose that walk I took on my first day in the holy city was somewhat symbolic of my trip, which had very little to do with piety and alms, though I was certainly interested in the actual land the Man had once roamed free upon. I say free because, to me, Christ was the first libertarian man, for he was the most wild, most unkempt, most recalcitrant and most human being to have ever set foot upon this earth. And I wonder if it was the unrelenting freedom within him which terrified the others, who lived in cages of their own devising, and therefore they had to either destroy him or face themselves."


Excerpted from ROOTS AND WINGS : adventures of a spirit on earth, by Jack Haas           



Books by Jack Haas

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