I don't always write about my travel experiences mostly because I don't want this to turn into a travel blog but with that being said here are some thoughts that I had while on vacation in Israel.
This past month we visited Jerusalem which really just felt like a giant tourist trap. Nothing there is set in stone (pun intended). What I mean by that is none of the historical sites are really verified. Apparently, the story goes that Emperor Constantine's mother was a devout Christian before it was cool. This lady didn't need to post random Bible versus on social media, qualify every statement with #blessed or sit in the front row at church on Sunday mornings with hands held high during a canned Christian power ballad complete with electric guitar solo. Ok, maybe she didn't do these things because she lived like a thousand years ago but don't worry she was still pretty full of herself and her new found #faith.
Constantine's mother took a trip to the holy land and because she was both a powerful and pious Roman woman people came to her with their spiritual questions. Other Romans asked her things like, "Hey, you were in the holy land, so like did you see where they crucified Jesus? Where was He buried? Where did that last supper thing take place? Did you go to temple while there?" So naturally, unable to admit defeat, this woman just started naming random landmarks and claiming that this was where the Christ was buried or killed or ate or caught Pokemon and furthermore, who would challenge her word? She was the Emperor's mother?! Do you wanna get killed bro? Cuz that's how you get killed.
So, in short, that was Jerusalem. Didn't feel particularly spiritual or special but fascinating nonetheless.
While still in this holy city we also learned about the Ethiopian Jews. This is a sect of people who claim to be descendants of the Queen of Sheba. Back in the day the Queen of Sheba was real tight with King Solomon of Israel and they exchanged all kinds of gifts and Solomon even named Sheba an honorary Jew! Who are these people today? Well, they are a group of African Jews who base their heritage on a pretty shaky narrative, at best. They come to Israel to pray and some stay and look for work on the economy. These are the black minority in Israel. They are the people who turn down your hotel room, wash the dishes at restaurants and do other such menial labor that the rest of us don't want to do. They work in silence and most tourists don't make eye contact with them because it makes us feel bad. (myself included)
At the end of our 2 day excursion to Jerusalem our tour guide took us to the National Holocaust Museum. My husband and I weren't looking forward to this part of the trip. I have already visited former concentration camps Buchenwald and Dachau in Germany so I wasn't keen to end my day on another sour note. But this is where my point will start to take shape and the real meaning behind this blog post.
We were incredibly impressed with this memorial/museum. I distinctly remember being in Germany amidst a perfectly manicured lawn with former smoke stacks in the background thinking that I would feel something but I honestly didn't. I remember having a sense of wonder at theses devices that were created for one purpose only, to incinerate human cadavers. We learn about the holocaust in school, on TV, in books and thru media from such a young age that we start to become somewhat desensitized to it. But at this museum I couldn't hold back my tears. We were brought to a children's memorial which consisted of a black room, full of tiny flickering lights all around you and one by one they each burnt out, representing every child who died during "the final solution". Leading up to this area you discover all the people, historical figures, politicians, religious leaders and every day folk of Germany and around the world who said, 'This will never happen! No one REALLY hates these people. These are just common annoyances.' Again and again it was those who didn't speak up or didn't DO anything to fight unchecked racism and hatred or just believed that the impossible couldn't happen.
This emotional experience made me realize something. We can't be the same generation of naysayers or those who choose to remain silent. Oh sure, I don't hate anyone, heaven forbid! I just don't make eye-contact with the Ethiopian maid who takes the towels out of my hotel room. Who have we silently become? History has shown us the error of remaining quiet and we are truly foolish to think this could never happen again. Or has it already? Do we cry out for Africa on a daily basis? Do we really understand the genocides that have taken place amongst those nations? Black people in Israel are dish washers and servants. Black people in America are shot for 'looking like thugs'.
Black lives matter. We give special attention to those of us who are underappreciated in life. No, I don't need to say that all lives matter or blue lives matter. That is understood. Think about it another way. In America we celebrate Mother's Day and Father's Day because so often we under appreciate our parents and the sacrifices they made for us. Society doesn't need a Son's Day or Daughter's Day because children are typically over-appreciated. I wonder what would have happend, in the days leading up to WWII, if the world had stood in solidarity and proclaimed, Jewish Lives Matter. I wonder if the modern day Ethiopian identifies with the Jewish narrative and that gives them more reason to be a practicing Jew than a far fetched lineage to the Queen of Sheba? Perhaps they see something of themselves in another group who has been disenfranchised for millennia? Enslaved? Cursed? Murdered?
At the end of the day it doesn't really matter where Jesus was crucified. We don't know, we will probably never know and it is immaterial. What do we know? We know about the holocaust. It is fact. It is vitally important to our understanding of human relations and culture clashes. We know that black people are the subjugates throughout time and place. So let's work with what we know. Be the person who won't remain silent. Be the person who looks a man in the eyes. I will do these things with you. I don't know where the last supper took place but I do know that Christ was a prophet/Messiah/man who spoke up for those that society had bound.