I can see him standing there, talking to us as we listen appreciatively. He brought life to what might otherwise look like a pile of old stones.
His name is Yehuda, and he was our personal guide for the two weeks we spent as a family in Israel. Yes, it was hot, very hot, but even the heat was a reminder of the way life was lived a few thousand years ago, when they were piling those stones together building the two Temples and the cities, before air-conditioning, before power tools.
On July 3 we celebrated Lory’s father’s birthday at a Kibbutz near the Syrian border. Marshall Nurenberg turned 75 and he did that birthday just the way he wanted, with his family and his roots.
We stood together on a hill overlooking a Kibbutz beside the Jordan River. Yehuda, who had a distinguished military career, took us into a bunker built by the Syrians who fired from that fortified position onto the vulnerable Israelis, below.
We were aware that at that very moment Arafat was meeting with Barak at Camp David. In that bunker I quietly remembered that Arafat and Rabin shared the Nobel Peace Prize six years ago, and how peace is still the illusive prize. Yehuda was emphatic as he reminded us that there can be no peace without security, and there can be no security without the land they now occupy and control. “The land has the blood of our martyrs. To give an inch of that sacred land is betrayal. It can’t be done!”
Yehuda carried a Bible in his glove compartment—the one containing both Jewish and Christian Scriptures, which we call the Old and New Testaments. He read appropriate portions at many of the places we visited, connecting us to the places we were standing and the familiar Biblical passages. Several times he said, “Here is the archeological proof of the Biblical narratives.”
It all comes together in Jerusalem, at the Wailing Wall and the Dome of the Rock, the place where the Jews say Abraham prepared to sacrifice his son Isaac, and the Muslims say Abraham prepared to sacrifice his first-born son, Ishmael. Here’s the rub, as they say; the friction—the ancient irritant at the essence of both religions.
While I appreciated feeling a closer connection to my Jewish and Christian roots, I was sharply reminded why I am a Unitarian Universalist: I’m a Universalist because I cannot conceive of a God who would choose one people and not another—we’re all God’s children, in that metaphorical sense; and I’m a Unitarian because I believe in the Natural Laws we call Science. We’re One. We obey the laws of gravity and atomic physics—not because Newton and Einstein said so, but because that’s the way it is.
The trip to Israel, including a side-trip to Jordan, was work for me, as well as a wonderful opportunity to continue to weave my life with the Nurenbergs. See you soon.