Sunday, 13 June 2010

Oh ! Jerusalem

Of all the places in the world, there’s none so unique and none so disturbing as Jerusalem. This Sunday its a sport free post – while sport is indeed a passion of mine, I appreciate that many fair ladies who visit this space are not exactly enamoured by macho displays of tribalism (which, in one sense, is what sport is). So I turn to the another of my interests, travel, to provide food for this morning’s ramblings.

Yet another of my passions instigated this post. I am a self confessed ardent admirer of BBC Radio. In that hallowed place, one of the most enjoyable of broadcasts is “From Your Own Correspondent”, where BBC correspondents around the world take a break from chronicling the world’s miseries and instead talk about life as they see it. Wonderful wonderful series that I heartily recommend. Two days ago I listened to Matt Fry talk about Jewishness and Jerusalem in a brilliant piece that is ringing in my ears; hence this post.

I have been there and Jerusalem is like no other place on earth. There is something in the air, that even the most devout of atheists will find it hard to ignore. The air is thick with prayer. Three of the world’s greatest religions – Judaism, Christianity and Islam, consider it one of the most holiest of places. In the one square kilometer of the walled city, there is the Western Wall, Judaism’s most holy place, The Church of the Holy Sepulchre where Jesus is said to have been crucified and buried and the Al Aqsa mosque, the third holiest shrine in Islam after Mecca and Medina.

Not being from any of these three religions, I can have some objectivity in viewing Jerusalem. From extremely pious and devout people to outright nutters, Jerusalem attracts every kind of religious belief. It is truly the religious capital of the world. It should represent the very height on human compassion, of greatness, of moral enlightenment, of everything that is good about man.

Instead it is soaked in blood ; and has been so for two thousand years. Throughout history Jerusalem has seen no peace. Every base instinct of man has been in full and ample display in Jersualem. Forget compassion ; Jersualem has only seen war. Forget tolerance; Jerusalem has only seen extreme bigotry. Forget morality ; Jersualem has only seen killing. It should have been the summit of man’s achievement; instead it’s the very symbol of everything base about man.

Its exactly the same even today. Prayer and violence rule side by side. Every individual there betrays his faith by acting against every principle his faith has stood for. Emboldened by prayer, he is ready to kill. If not physically; in mind. The great glories of humanity; what makes us human, alas, are completely absent in Jerusalem.

Perhaps the world would have been a better place, had there been no Jerusalem. But then, that’s a naïve thought. If there was no Jersualem, man would have invented one. Perhaps that’s exactly what he did; for who is to say that the religious beliefs that millions bestow on Jerusalem are actually true.

Perhaps that’s what humanity is all about. Of the glorious and the wretched; side by side. Ah ! the follies of man …. Maybe Jerusalem IS the centre of the world.


Anonymous said...

if god appears and claims that he has nothing to do with jerusalem..even his most devout follower wouldnt believe in it. Every man needs his jerusalem. people say history is a boring if anyone can find out who first set foot on jerusalem..he wud be the most wanted man on the planet :)

Durga said...

I can perfectly understand the intention behind this post. I've never been to that part of the world, but I've read quite a bit of the history surrounding Jerusalem/Palestine/Israel. And it was certainly not a good read vis-a-vis the ethos of the region. In fact, I'm currently reading a book which is fiction, but set on the backdrop of incidents that transpired in the history of that region, and I can only say it is appalling. Like it or hate it, but you can't ignore that region!

Ramesh said...

@Anon - Totally agree. Such is human nature.

@Durga - Yes, the history of that region makes a very sorry reading . The evil that organised religion has unleashed is probably greater than the good that it has done. What a tragedy.

Vishal said...

Very intriguing thoughts, Ramesh. Set me pondering why do one need to engage in any violent acitivity for whatsoever reason. Such is human nature. Very true.

I have not read and understood much on religious beliefs and notions, though I have noticed a special kind of serenity and holiness at such places exactly the way you put it. And I can see Jerusalem through your eyes that contains most pious values and virtues.

Godliness is superior to humanity and I guess that makes a difference. On a second thought, God is in every noble deed of a normal human being. I am sure that no religion would talk about violence, greed, misery and jealousy. Every little act of compassion, enlightenment and greatness makes the journey to "the pious Jesusalem" shorter.

RS said...

That was an awesome writing, Ramesh. Loved the way you took those turns....Definitely a 'to be published' article ..

Coming to think of it, of all the wars/fights of present day world, the war to 'preserve' one's religion is in all gory! Everywhere...If Jerusalem is an international issue, Ayodhya is a local issue. But what are we trying to claim and prove? Does our deed go with our beliefs? I really don't understand, perhaps, the tamil language has been prophetic in using the same word for religion and madness....

ambulisamma said...

Very well written post.We are planning for a long time to visit Jerusalem,your words on 'No jerusalem' is pretty true,we invent everything for trouble.

Ramesh said...

@Vishal - This is exactly the dichotomy with places like Jersulaem. There's serenity and blood at the same time.

@RS - Thanks for the kind words. You are right; every religious place seems to have war associated with it. Interesting point of the same word in Tamil - there may be some meaning in that !

@ambulisamma - Do visit if you can ; there's no place like Jerusalem in the world. Good and bad.

Deepa said...

//Perhaps that’s what humanity is all about. Of the glorious and the wretched; side by side.//
(My favourite lines in this one.)

Infact it is such an irony that religion that should have motivated more sacramental thoughts in its followers has infact defied its purpose by a shameless massacre of people. My take on it is that God's message still holds the same meaning since time immemorial, and I don't see anything wrong in it too. The self-appointed messengers have placed more importance on themselves than the sacred message. Maybe they don't even understand it for that matter.

Thiru Kung Tsu, this one has to be one of your bests. Definitely a collector's item.

RamMmm said...

The irony of the city Jerusalem, Yeru Shaláyim in Hebrew meaning City of Peace, being a hotbed of discontent.

zeno said...

Is there any place that you havent visited?
By the way nowadays there are posts only on sundays ;)
we have hardly shed very few qualities of our tribal days![somethings havent changed, some have morphed in to other things]
May be i am cynical, but i think that's wat (irony)makes jerusalem special, i.e it should have been an epitome of peace or place only peace exists, but there is no peace!
Jus a small though all religions have had their share of blood on their hands!
enna saar BBC, hear suriyan FM for 24 hours when you come to chennai, then you will know how a radio should be run ;)

kiwibloke said...

Interesting post. Jerusalem reinforces the belief of an agnostic/athiest like me that all organized religions promote bigotry and disharmony

J said...

Great post! The line
//Emboldened by prayer, he is ready to kill.// kept ringing in my ears. I find it hard to reconcile to myself whether humanity has net benefited or been hurt by religion. History is so full of religious wars and we still haven't been able to get rid of them. You probably have an some experience dealing with a generation of Chinese that grew up without religion. Are they any more base or valueless compared with other god-fearing people? My personal belief is that god would prefer an atheist who leads an honest and decent life over a religious fanatic who causes harm in the name of religion.

Ramesh said...

@Deepa - Thanks. Yes the message is true and righteous, but in the hands of the "messengers" is a little bit like a flower garland in the hands of a monkey

@RamMmm - The supreme irony, isn't it ?

@Zeno - Yes, every religion has blood on its hands. Unfortunately so. Been keeping some long hours; hence the pathetic trickle of posts. Will get back to "normal" later this week. And yes; I have to latch on to suriyan to continue in my quest for uber coolness !!

@Kiwi - There's certainly that case to be made against organised religion.

@J - There's something to be said for your thought whether religion has benefitted humanity at all. I see both sides of that arguement in China today. There's zero fanaticism and intolerance that religion has wreaked in other parts of the world. Equally, there's a moral vacuum and I am totally totally convinced that a pure mercantilisit world is a gaping moral vacuuum. On balance, I would rather have both than none.

le embrouille blogueur said...

It is sad that whenever Jerusalem is in the news, it is for its violence and never for the religious ambience that you talk about.It is sad that religion can make or break the peace so easily. Thanks for a great post.

Ramesh said...

Thank you blogueur. Yes, Jerusalem is in the news for all the wrong reasons. But there's of course, much right happening these, but since news of that won't sell newspapers, they aren't written about !

sandhya sriram said...

being a late visitor , i dont deserve to post anything here :-(

and also given the beautiful comments which people have written, all i should say is

ditto ditto

faith is a very strange phenomena. it is not driven by logic, rationale or science. it is driven by something abstract, maybe a reflection on one's insecurity, maybe a reflection of one's yearning to belong, maybe a manifestation of one's internal fears and prejudices. So the outcomes swings in the extreme directions of these emotions as well. the sad part however is that people who own the flag use this emotion to capitalize commercial objectives and that is where the disconnect is.

Deepa said...

Sandhya, I was waiting for your comment on this one! :):) You've said it so simply and beautifully! Worth the wait!

Ramesh said...

@Sandhya - Deepa is absolutely right. Your comments are gems and a post on their own merit. I take your point of faith as being emotional and not rational. I have no quarrels on commercialisation; that's harmless. But bogotry ?? Kill everybody else who doesn't share the same faith. That's inexcusable nendrathal behaviour under any circumstances.

Sandhya Sriram said...

my God Deepa - you are being so kind. Whoever had read your last post on the Don Quixote would know how small anything i write is in comparison. I think you are learning very quickly from Ramesh on how to make someone small feel like a mountain.

i am overwhelmed - thanks a ton.

Deepa said...

Are you accusing Ramesh of flattery? (just kidding :D:D:D)

No Sandhya, I indeed meant it! :)

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