I write this on a cool Jerusalem morning in my apartment on Naomi Street. It’s hard to believe I have been here almost a week, because the intense experiences of sights, sounds, encounters, lectures make it seem much longer. As we work together I try also to connect with the group of students, 12 from Lund and 5 from Karlstad University, who came with their teacher, bishop to be, Sören Dalevi. Among the group we count one Norwegian, one Dutch, and one Italian student. Last night we went to Beit Jala, a mostly Christian Palestinian town near Bethlehem, all of us in a bus through the checkpoint and were hosted by a Palestinian Christian who fed us and spoke to us. Today we will listen to the story of Abraham in the Qur’an and a feminist perspective on Qur’anic Hermeneutics. Tension is high everywhere, in this city and around it, not only between Israelis and Palestinians but also Christians and Muslims.
On Saturday Dr. Tina Blomquist of the Jerusalem Center for Jewish-Christian relations led us through the Armenian, Jewish and Christian Quarters of the Old City, about half an hour’s walk from my apartment. We began on top of the Tower of David, the museum of the history of Jerusalem, looking west toward Al Aqsa Mosque and beyond it the hills. As we looked out on the buildings and churches jam-packed together, the crowds of people, I noticed a flash of bright blue down below, so much in the distance that my camera barely caught it.
We walked for hours, first in the Armenian, then the Jewish Quarter, ending near the Church of the Holy Sepulcher. On the way there we came upon the blue vision we had seen earlier, which turned out to be a huge Jacaranda Tree. There were many impressive sights we encountered that day: remains of Roman times far below the current street level, the convent and community of the Armenians, with its hushed courtyard, Helena ‘s Cistern at the Church of the Holy Sepulcher, where I sang Hava Nashira into the echoing space, the Western Wall where we prayed. Yet in my mind shines the Jacaranda tree in all its incongruous beauty, serene and tall amid the cacophony of human presence.