I have decided that I am Moses, only instead of miraculously parting water, I am learning to part pilgrims and large, middle-aged women shopping three abreast as we all converge on the small tractor stopped in the middle of the 9-foot wide street with a trailer full of goods packed precariously high that two guys are starting to unload in a dangerously swaying manner as 15 of us try to file through the twelve inches between the tractor/trailer and the shopkeeper’s breakables while stepping over the six-pack of liter water bottles stacked outside. That we and the goods all made it through unscathed seems nearly as miraculous as the parting of the Red Sea.
The Muslim shopkeepers near the Church of the Holy Sepulchre are well-stocked with rosaries of every size, color and material as well as the candle bundles pilgrims buy to light in the Church and then blow out quickly, taking them home to pass out as souvenirs. The police barricades for crowd control are also increasing daily near the city gates and in the streets leading up to the Church of the Holy Sepulchre. Jerusalem under Roman occupation at the time of Jesus probably looked very similar as it prepared for Passover, substituting animals for the Temple sacrifice for today’s rosaries.
Many churches are doing major cleaning. The Russian convent on the Mount of Olives was hard at it while John did his weekly weed pulling today. Yesterday, the Ethiopian church outside the city walls, that has never been open when we were there, was a beehive of vacuuming, scrubbing, and airing out in preparation for this weekend. The drums they use in worship are large and each decorated in a different pattern.
Meanwhile, it is also Passover. Yesterday, the Jaffa road commercial area was like a ghost town. No buses, no trains, a couple of side street cafes open but very few people out. Today, the Jewish quarter was like a carnival with hundreds of Jewish families dressed in their best and/or religious attire, four to six kids in tow, enjoying the day or heading to the Wall. Jaffa Road was 80% open, though all the bakeries were closed. We were able to get well-stocked up for the next several days. We are not sure what to expect but between what we have been told, the heightened police and soldier presence, and the proliferation of crowd control devices, we are trying to be prepared as we anticipate the beginning of Triduum, the Three Days, tomorrow evening.
Shalom and good night!