I’ve been brooding a bit on Deacon’s post that linked to an article by Emmett Tyrell on the Holy Land and the Arabs’ increasing brutalization of Christians and others living there. My wife and I spent ten days in Israel seven years ago, before the second intifada, and it was truly a life-altering experience, well beyond what can be encapsulated in a post. Even then, when things were relatively peaceful, there was an astonishing contrast between Israel–normal and very, very fun–and the West Bank–completely bizarre and often threatening. This was during the halcyon days when most Israelis thought that the Labor government had found the key to peace–i.e., give the Arabs what they want. But, to give myself a bit of credit, I was highly doubtful even then. Our ventures into the West Bank–the heart of the Biblical Promised Land–were often scary, even in the company of our guide, a recently-retired IDF intelligence officer, who was both well-armed and fluent in Arabic. The hour or two we spent in Jericho, I still remember with a shudder. In East Jerusalem, I recall gauging the distance between us and our van, and estimating whether we could get to the vehicle before a gang of Arab youths on a nearby hill, and wondering whether they were armed. This was at the very spot that Tyrell describes in his article.
One afternoon we visited Temple Mount, and toured the Dome of the Rock and al Aqsa Mosque. (Does anyone remember when the Arabs claimed that the second intifada was all due to Ariel Sharon’s visit to Temple Mount? It is a tourist attraction, open to the public. I’ve been there, and I can’t imagine why Sharon or anyone else wouldn’t visit. But this is a theory we haven’t heard for a while.) Anyway, we had emerged from the Dome of the Rock, and my wife and I were walking across Temple Mount when I casually put my arm around her waist. A moment later I heard a shout in Arabic, and, fortunately I guess, thought it might be directed at me. I looked around and saw an Arab in a watchtower, with a sub-machine gun pointed at us. I caught on and dropped my arm. Whether he actually would have shot us, I don’t know. But I had been in the region long enough not to take any chances.
We went to the Mount of Olives, where Jesus spent the last night before his arrest, one of the holiest Christian sites on earth. It is beautifully kept; the grotto where Jesus and his disciples slept is open to the public, and the adjacent garden, in which olive trees that were there two thousand years ago are still growing, is a beautiful and well-tended spot. This is due to the fact that the Israelis now control the area. When the Arabs controlled the Mount of Olives, it was used as a garbage dump and Christian and Jewish graves were systematically defiled.
On our last day in Israel, our guide took us to a recently-constructed monument to the “three great monotheistic religions.” Despite everything, the Israelis were willing to give equal billing to Islam. By that time, I thought they were crazy.
As regular readers have no doubt noticed, this is an ecumenical site. With our readers, we are celebrating the holiday season. I’m the techno-guy of the group, and the only one who knows how to post pictures. One day next week I’ll post Christmas and Hanukkah images and wish our readers a happy holiday season. But–speaking only for myself–I’m not celebrating Ramadan.
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“Arise and take our stand for freedom as in the olden time.” Winston Churchill