No rest for the wicked, it seems. Carrying on in the religious spirit initiated by Shavuot, on Thursday morning I took the number 13 bus from outside my friend's home in Katamon and made for Jaffa St.
There I got off and walked down towards East Jerusalem and the Old City, passing the
and then arriving at
The Damascus Gate, known in Hebrew as
where I was to meet
who is in charge of Communications at
St. George's Anglican Cathedral.
Here is what George Carey said in this place, when he was Archbishop of Canterbury
Who would have thought that five years later, in February 2006, George would have rang me to express solidarity with the Jewish community over the recent decision taken by Anglican Synod in Britain to vote to divest from businesses in Israel.
And then he asked me to join the
Foundation for Reconciliation in the Middle East.
All this was two months after I had decided to emigrate here.
And now I was a guest inside the Anglican Church's main centre in Israel.
Janina had invited me to give her a Hebrew lesson.
She met me near the Damascus Gate and then walked me down Nablus St., past a Palestinian pottery shop, the
Once inside the Cathedral, I was introduced to some of the staff and was received very warmly. The weather was also very warm, so we sat in the shade, and I began to teach Janina the Hebrew alphabet.
I explained that the Bible begins with the second letter
because 'aleph' is silent and represents the silence before creation (I wonder what Richard Dawkins would make of that!).
I also explained that the word translated in Latin as 'dominus' and English as 'Lord' actually consists of the three Hebrew letters which acted as vowels before the vowel system was invented, and can probably best be translated as
So 'I am what I am' is actually
I will be what I will be'
I also told her that
Torah means teaching or direction, and derives from the stem yarah, signifying arrow.
I then showed her the Shavuot prayer book with the book of Ruth and also explained that the Bible transcends time, so that in phrases such as and God said, and he made, the past becomes future, just as future becomes past.
After the lesson, we had a frank chat about the political situation in the area and Janina told me what she felt. I listened, as I actually felt privileged in the face of such honesty - and, let's face it, she's had much more experience than I have of the facts on the ground.
On the other hand, context is also everything, but at least this is a start.
Then I met assistant priest, Nael, from near Nazareth, who told me how he feels as a member of a minority group in the country. And I told him about censorship in Britain and that my rabbi had been beaten up in the streets of Salford.
I also told him that as a result of the increase of anti-semitism in Britain, the number of immigrants from Britain to Israel had been greater than ever last year, and he told me that he had studied Proverbs (he used the Hebrew term), the Book of Ruth and Genesis at school.
He also said that he wanted to study Midrash and Tamud at the Hebrew University and I said that was a great idea.
Of course if the British university union boycott motion is passed, it will be difficult for anyone who has studied at Israeli universities, but still!
We discussed various matters on which we didn't exactly see eye to eye, but that's OK, because it is at least a start. And then - quite impish of him, I thought - he introduced me to a member of
Talk about feeling like
Daniel in the Lion's Den
who sounded American or Canadian. He pointed out to the guy that I was Jewish and I just smiled sweetly and said 'Pleased to meet you'.
I hope that this is the first of many meetings with Janina and Nael, and I look forward to meeting the new
Bishop of Jerusalem
soon as well.
He says he would like 'bridges of peace' and not 'walls of separation'.
And ultimately, so would we all.
But it sometimes takes three to tango!!