What does return mean to us?
Elijah Interfaith Summer school Jerusalem 2022, day 1
I don’t think I heard previously so many people give their views on what ‘return’ meant to them. Yet while I was listening my brain was trying to comprehend being in Jerusalem, meeting people from many countries in person and on Zoom.
We had walked from just beyond the old city to the Synagogue where the summer school was occurring. It was a tour as we walked. Our attention was drawn to ‘Public poetry’ in the predominantly Jewish area.
I can say that I am returning to Jerusalem as I was here 3 years ago. I suppose we can only return to where we have once been. Often we return to places, as I have done to Jerusalem because it has connected to us in a way that has enlivened us.
I have lived with Jerusalem, it seems all my conscious life. Like many others, my people, the Northern Irish Protestants borrowed from Biblical texts to write their story. We were God’s chosen people, Northern Ireland had become our promised land and Belfast our Jerusalem. (Curiously the 6th President of Israel Chaim Herzog was born in Belfast.)
Jesus was our saviour and we did what people do we made him one of us. His stories may well have been set in Palestine 2000 years ago but we identified with them and in our minds exchanged far away place names with the ones we knew. We made him local so local that generations almost forgot that he never did speak English with a Northern Irish accent.
If you like I knew what we had constructed on the northern part of the last island of Europe on the Atlantic ocean was a shadow of the real Jerusalem. One day I would get there to our earthly version of heaven.
That one day came three years ago. What I connected with most in perhaps a way I can’t explain is the original Jesus, not our homegrown version. Did I experience something different by being in the place where the man who has most shaped my life lived, died and was resurrected?
He is universal as we adapt him to our own ways yet to get a sense of that universal Jesus for me was to come to the place that he first adapted himself and that was as a Jew in Palestine.
PS My excited self yesterday if you are interested