As I've mentioned before, Friday is Muslim Prayer Day. Many Muslims flock to the Old City to visit the Dome of the Rock.
Friday is also the day we tend to go to the Garden Tomb. It's an exciting day to go because there are lots of Arabs out and about in that neighborhood. Have I mentioned how much I love them? 'Cause I do. They are always so kind to us. Oftentimes when I'm starting to be bugged by the culture here, I somehow always run into just about the friendliest Arab ever, and he/she ooos-and-aaahs over my kids and smiles at me. I love them. They make me feel good.
ANYway, we went on just such a trip to the tomb today, and as we walked in, it was strangely quiet. We looked around and it seemed that virtually no one was there. It was completely still, void of any tourist groups. It felt very peaceful and personal as we approached the tomb. We had some special family time inside.
Jackson of course started to get restless, so I took him out to the landing just outside the tomb. One of the missionary workers came and started up some chit-chat with me. We talked about where we are from and the like.
I mentioned how quiet it was. Then I found out why. Apparently they were told to turn away any and all tourist groups that morning because of the "rising tensions". He said the police seemed to think something was going to happen. Strangely, they were allowed to tell the tourist groups they could come back in the afternoon. The missionary also told me that it was the first time they have EVER been instructed to turn people away. I think in such a place as this, that says a lot.
So that explained the stillness.
I won't complain about the quiet family time we had in such a special place, which just so happens to be our favorite place in all the world. But it upset me to hear of things being restricted and changed, and that people were turned away. It immediately turned my mind to the people in Gaza. Their whole lives have become restricted and changed - and scary. They are witnessing things that no one should ever have to, largely due to decisions their own people have made.
Then I thought of the people in Southern Israel. Although the rockets from Gaza don't necessarily do heavy damage, it still causes people to live in fear. War, hate, fear...these are realities for many people. It makes my heart turn upside down.
It makes me grateful for the knowledge I have of the Savior. He truly is the Prince of Peace. How His heart must ache right now, to see His brothers and sisters finding it impossible to come to a resolution, over so many years.
I heard a testimony born last Shabbat that I'll never forget. An LDS Palestinian who lives in the West Bank shared with us some of her feelings on the current situation. She talked about how sad and scary it all was for her. She pointed out how seemingly safe it is in the West Bank right now, but that she doesn't doubt that there will come a day where war is outside her own door. She admitted it would be terrifying, but that there was one place she knew she could always find peace - in Jesus Christ. Even if war is raging in her front yard, the Savior of mankind was there to offer her comfort and peace, no matter what.
So as I stood there outside the tomb this morning, I couldn't help but feel that peace myself, even amid thoughts that are so upsetting to me. The Lord is mindful of us all, even those who don't recognize Him as their Savior.
And that, for me, will have to be enough. And it is.