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Surprises

Today’s blog post comes from traveler Stephanie Deutsch and photographs by traveler David Deutsch…

A pilgrimage such as ours is full of surprises. I knew we would go to the Temple Mount, the most famous site in Jerusalem but I didn’t know exactly how much we would be able to visit there. I had surprises on two different days.
Thanks to careful planning, we emerged from a security tunnel into brilliant, mid-afternoon sunshine onto the plaza around El-Aqsa Mosque and the Dome of the Rock to find ourselves almost alone there. The two buildings are very different – El-Aqsa austere and dark, elegant against the sky, and the Dome of the Rock – an explosion of gold and blue. I couldn’t take my eyes off it. It is simply one of the most amazing human-made things I have ever seen.   Our guides were hurrying us along as we contemplated it.

DSC01211Then, off to the side, another surprise that David managed to capture in this picture: Two small mosques, with two women hurrying across the square, a moment not of grandeur but of everyday busyness. A surprise!

DSC01423At the Western Wall I expected to be moved but I didn’t expect to hear both church bells and the sound of the shofar as I walked to the wall on the women’s side. I looked around for a place and as someone backed away, I stepped forward.  On each side of me, a woman was quietly weeping. I couldn’t find the prayer I had written on a piece of paper but I put my hand on the wall and bowed my head, praying the 23rd Psalm. And then I was weeping too.

DSC01523And the final surprise of the day? We ended our Compline service in the chapel at St. George’s cathedral with a hymn that seemed just right – Lift Every Voice and Sing, the African American national anthem. It’s a challenging one to sing but there in the chapel sixteen weary pilgrims sounded just right.