A peaceful day in  Jerusalem

Sociolinguistic Series: Part 43

Language is a powerful tool.

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Welcome back! We are continuing on with our trek through the Muslim and Christian quarters of the Old City! Right now, we have come upon the Church of the Holy Sepulchre.

The Church of the Holy Sepulchre contains four of the fourteen stations of the Cross, including the two holiest sites in the world for Christians--the crucifixion and resurrection of Christ.

Upon walking into the church, we turned to the right and walked up a few flights of stairs. We saw a long line of people waiting to have their turn kissing the ground in a small box, and we learned that this was Calvary, or Golgotha. This was where Christians believed Jesus was crucified, and the kissing-of-the-ground-at-Calvary is an important ritual in any Christian pilgrimage.

Down the stairs, we saw the Stone of Anointing, where many other people were kissing the ground and praying. This is where Christians believe that Jesus' body was prepared for burial, so many people who come here to pray bring a token item with them; they believe that if this item touches the Stone of Anointing, it will become holy.

Around the corner, there is the Rotunda. In the center of this area, there seems to be a shrine; this is where Christians believe Jesus was resurrected on the third day. J

ust like up the stairs at Calvary, there was a long line of believers who were waiting to walk into the shrine-like structure to see the empty tomb of Jesus Christ. Again, seeing this tomb where Jesus was believed to have risen and walked out of is an important part of the Christian pilgrimage.

Not only does this church contain many holy sites, it contains six different church denominations and many other groups that share responsibility in using and caring for the church. The six denominations that have laid a claim in the church are the Greek Orthodox, the Armenian Apostolic, the Roman Catholic, the Coptic Orthodox, Ethiopian Orthodox, and Syriac Orthodox.

Muslims also care after the church and help keep it organized and clean. There are literally several different domes within the building for the several different denominations that use this space for worship; we walked by many small "churches" within the larger church.

This type of sharing requires a great deal of mutual tolerance and respect--coexistence at its finest. As Americans, we often hear about violence that happens in the Old City, or just in the Israel and Palestine region in general. It seems to be every news story that comes out of the Church of the Holy Sepulchre is one of violence--a monk getting in a fight with another denomination, for example. There is actually one case of a violent story that came out of the difficult balance between all the denominations.

In 1853, it was decreed that no one shall disrupt the status quo of the church unless all the denominations agreed to do so. In 2002, a Coptic monk moved a chair into the shade on a hot summer day. Because he moved the chair without discussing it with all of the other denominations first, people took this as an act of threat; the Ethiopian Orthodox took offense and about a dozen people were actually hospitalized because of the resulting violence. However, they have learned their mistake and this kind of misunderstanding is very much so prevented today by everyone making efforts to not disturb the status quo again.

In fact, there is a ladder outside the front of the church, and it hasn't been moved in years for this very reason. Unless all denominations agree to move this so-called "Immovable Ladder," no one will move it.

We only seem to be hearing this violent side of the story because 364 days a year, there is no "story" to come out of the Church besides peaceful coexistence. The one day of the year that there is violence and tension, we hear about it. It seems like the only times we hear about this region are times of violence because we DO only hear about it when times are bad.

There are no breaking news stories about a peaceful day in Jerusalem because on most of the days, it is peaceful--and people are living, for the most part, in harmony. We have to be careful of the news we hear for this very reason. Even outside of stories about the Church of the Holy Sepulchre, we have to be mindful of ALL stories we hear in American news. There are infinitely more reporters stationed in Israel and Palestine than there are in regions like Syria, Iran, or Yemen and Saudi Arabia.

We hear about Israel and Palestine a lot more because the people stationed here need stories to write about, so they may, occasionally, exaggerate and inflate an event to come up with a story to tell. We don't hear about the bombings happening in Syria EVERY day because no American reporters are there writing stories about it every day.

There is a lot more to a region and its poeople than the narrow story that comes out of one American source--and I hope y'all know that my story is just one more small, small slice of the pie. I don't have a complete, objective picture of everything that is happening, and everything I say should be taken with a grain of salt.

I hope you've been enjoying reliving my trip just as much as I have. In the next section, I will talk about conversations I had in the Arab Bazaar and the rest of our first Saturday in this region!

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What Easter Is Like As A Wiccan

For the majority of people, Easter is the celebration of Christ rising from the dead. But for witches, it's about something very different.
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One thing that can be quite irksome about being a part of the American school/college system is the fact that, for the most part, we are only given time off for holidays recognized by one religion, that being Christianity. I'm not saying these holidays are bad or that Christianity is overrated; far from it. But when you think about the holidays celebrated by Jews, Muslims, Hindus, Buddhists or, in this case, Pagans, it makes you wonder how everyone else chooses to celebrate their own holidays in the midst of the all-mighty Hallmark-centric holidays.

Before I converted to Wicca, I never quite understood why the majority of Americans chose to celebrate the gory death and alleged resurrection of someone during the spring, much like how we choose to celebrate Christmas in December even though many historians believe Jesus Christ was born around June. Although anyone can celebrate their own holidays for their own reasons, I think its also important to understand where these holidays may have really come from and how other religious holidays can be represented during this Easter weekend.

Instead of celebrating Easter, myself and millions of other people who identify as Pagans celebrate the holiday Ostara. This holiday is mostly celebrated around March 21, but fell on March 20 this year. During this time, Pagans celebrate the Spring Equinox, when winter ends and the bright colors of spring are allowed to come forward for the year -- when "Night and day stand equal, The Sun grows in power and the land begins to bloom and the powers of the gathering year are equal to the darkness of winter and death."

Ostara is one of the eight Pagan Sabbats marked by the Wheel of the Year. Each Sabbat marks a new season, equinox or solstice, which are used to signify the cycle of life, love, death and rebirth between the Mother Goddess (Gaia) and the Father God (also known as the Horned God). With Ostara in particular, it represents a new age of fertility, as the cycle of life and death of the Horned God starts up again.

There are many ways witches and warlocks from the multiple branches of Paganism choose to celebrate Ostara, but the majority of them choose to celebrate the Sabbat of rebirth by basking in the fresh spring flowers. For many, they can choose to have a ritual in their hard garden or simply enjoy the world around them.

You may be wondering, well what does some holiday about spring have to do with Easter? I'm glad you asked! As it turns out, like many other pagan traditions, the Christian religion got a few inspirations from the Pagans, one of them being the beloved Easter Egg.

What the rabbit represents for Ostara is fertility, magic and sexual energy, seeing as the main theme in the Spring Equinox is fertility and sowing seeds. Many believe that both of the holidays' names come from the goddess Eostre, who is sometimes associated with fertility and is loosely connected to both eggs and rabbits. There are also many sources, such as Jacob Grimm (one half of the Brothers Grimm), who believe that the egg is one of the symbols of early Paganism.

So how exactly do Pagans celebrate Easter, considering it's usually a week after Ostara? Well, for many, they just use the holiday to reconnect with family and celebrate some much-needed time off. For me, I just celebrate with food.

Lots and lots of food.

Happy Easter and Merry Ostara everyone!

Cover Image Credit: Lucid Source

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The Notre Dame Cathedral–Such A Loss Of History And Beauty, But What A Gift It Was To Experience It

Reid shares her story as she is saddened for Paris and the church.

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After the massive fire that devastated large parts of the Notre Dame Cathedral in Paris, the 850-year-old cathedral's spire fell. French President Emmanuel Macron addressed the nation to share in the nation's sorrow but gave hope for the future. This includes the rebuilding of the cathedral together and making it more beautiful than ever. "The fire of Notre Dame reminds us that our story never ends. And that we will always have challenges to overcome. What we believe to be indestructible can also be touched," Macron said.

Tyler Reid

Among many others, Tyler Reid is saddened for Paris and the church. Although, she counts herself blessed to have seen it such a short time before it was destroyed. Reid, who was lucky enough to visit the amazing structure this past spring break, remarked:

My trip was filled with so many wonderful sites. Although, because Notre Dame carries the title of most-visited monument in Europe, my expectations were high. When I first walked up, there isn't one specific feeling I got; instead, it was more of a million thoughts running though my head. Once inside, looking at the massive stained glass windows combined with all the details in every crevice, it was hard for me to imagine people actually building this without the technology we have today. This hand crafted masterpiece really is so influential considering people still went there to worship, even after so much time has past and so many other cathedrals had been built. This proves how special the Notre Dame Cathedral really is. Due to my experience here, hearing about the fire hurt my heart, especially thinking about how some of the irreplaceable artworks and all of this history may be gone. This place truly influenced people, including me, and for it to be gone is a true tragedy.

Like Macron, Reid shares in the sorrow; although, for her, it was just from one visit. This proves the amazing impact the Notre Dame Cathedral had and hopefully will continue to have even after this devastation.

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