Wednesday, May 13, 2009

Getting there is half the fun

My post of yesterday wanted to throw you right into the arena with the Christians.
 No no no, not with lions!
I mean, straight into the Pontifical Mass in Jerusalem.
But today it might be fun for you to come along and share the travails of just getting there, and getting in.
You know, like they say, "God is in the details."

So our first hurdle en route was a roadblock in central West Jerusalem.
 Pope Benedict was at a meeting nearby in the Great Synagogue with the two Chief Rabbis of Israel.
Everyone stood for 20 minutes until the Pope moved on and the police opened the road.

Please click and enlarge any photo to see those DETAILS.
The way they block traffic is by parking the buses of the Pope's delegation in the middle of the street. Clever, eh?
This is Paris Square (with a gift fountain from France) at the intersection of Rambam (=Maimonides) and Ramban (=Nachmanides) Streets.
A good sign for us when the men in black who had been at the Pope's meeting emerged from Heichal Shlomo and waited for their bus driver to take them to the Pope's next stop (the Upper Room in the Old City).
We walked the several blocks to the Old City's New Gate.
It too was semi-closed by then.
I think the police let me through because I was with a nun bearing Mass tickets.
 We crossed the whole Old City and came out via St. Stephen's Gate on the east side.
This sign is probably from the Jerusalem Municipality.
 "In the Spirit of Unity and Peace" it proclaims, and "Jerusalem--something special for everyone!"

Here we are looking down at the "stage" that was built especially for the Mass.
The lovely setting among the olive trees [don't mind the graves] is the Kidron Valley, also known as the Valley of Josaphat (Yehoshafat).
To its right, the old wall of the Old City; to the left, the Mount of Olives and the Garden of Gethsemane.
What could be better?!

The gates opened at 1:00.
The privileged Franciscans had an entrance all to themselves.
 After all, they are the Custodian of the Holy Land.
 But they were not spared the security check.

We, the hoi polloi, had to line up for a long time in the hot sun to wait our turn to put our bags through the X-ray machine and to walk through the metal detector.

Mercifully, hats like this beauty were passed out before any of us really passed out.
A line of ambulances was parked just behind, just in case.

As we reached the bottleneck where police officers and young security guards stood, the press of humanity was felt.
And how!
 Foreign pilgrims, local Arab Christians, men and women religious, and a very few Israeli Jews like me were all squished together.

This is "the holy grail," the limited edition (less than 6,000 available) invitation to the Solemn Pontifical Mass in the Holy City. Each one numbered.
Really, enlarge this photo.
See the round hologram sticker?
It is the papal emblem within a star of David!
Can you believe that??
The stamped Hebrew says "Israel Police" and the date.
The police checked our Identity Card and/or passport and carefully scanned the barcode sticker into their database.
As we used to say, half-laughing at the early German-Jewish immigrants to Israel, the Yekkes, "Ordnung muss sein."
One must have order.
Then, suddenly we were inside and free, free to stand around or sit on the earth for three and a half hours until His Holiness the (German) Pope arrived and Mass began.
More about the fun we had while waiting in tomorrow's post, God willing.
 Hope to see you!


Anonymous said...

I am happy for both peoples and both religions. It is a kind of reunion of the originals.

Cloudia said...

Papal Seal & Star of David. Amazing!

Such a great post, Dina. You saved us the heat and the press of humanity - yet brought us the sights and excitement.....Aloha

Erin said...

i have been following this on line and how lucky you are/were to attend the event.

Glennis said...

Doesn't sound like lots of fun,it sounds like lots of waiting around. But in the end there was the Pope. Amazing in its self, that he was in Israel.

Mediterranean kiwi said...

i love the idea of olive trees among graves - it lightens up the atmosphere of a cemetery
we also use the phrase hoi polloi, but we pronounce it thus: "i poLI", meaning the masses

Pietro said...

Very nice post, Dina. It has been quite arduous indeed. It's interesting and make me smile the fact of the "Mass tickets"! As for a movie or a theatre!!! :-)

Kay said...

Wow! I felt like I was right with you. I can feel the excitement and hustle and bustle. I can also imagine the heat. I'd be wilting. Thanks for taking us with you, Dina.

JM said...

Great coverage, Dina!