The World’s Great Cultural Mosh Pit

  Like undoubtedly most who return from their first visit to Israel and “The Holy Land,” my mind is still swirling from the pure assault to the senses it engenders. We were there a mere six days— time enough to create the world, perhaps, but not nearly enough to fully absorb this amazing corner of it.   A visit to Israel has long been on the bucket list of course; it’s one of those places everyone who’s been insists is a “must-see” destination. Intellectually this certainly makes sense— one of the planet’s oldest continuously inhabited cities, the spiritual heart of three of its most influential religions, an archeologist’s dream, architect’s fantasy, a transformative environmental and agricultural success story and, more recently, a gourmand’s delight. Throw in its persistent status as a geopolitical vortex and this ancient land remains as timely and relevant as the morning headlines.   So for us it was never really a question of whether, but when, to go. As it happened, our designated travel dates, committed to months in advance, coincided with Pope Francis’ much heralded visit as well as Jerusalem Day, the national holiday celebrating the reunification of the city after the 6 Day War—and when Jews young and old flood the town. For visitors seeking to avoid other tourists, it was the worst possible timing.   But, crowded and noisy as every site and feature of Jerusalem was during this highly charged week, we ultimately concluded it exposed the city at its most exhilarating and emotional best and we ended up embracing the cacophony and excitement of it all. With hordes of pilgrims and proud locals parading and singing their way through the narrow streets, swarming into ancient shrines, trekking through archeological sites and generally overwhelming anything and everything, the energy, passion and exuberance that vibrated throughout was truly extraordinary.   It was, in fact, what this city has been about for thousands of years—a cultural mosh pit that invites mankind from around the globe to come and walk its streets, touch is sacred talismans and try to grasp the breadth and depth of human history that echoes from its walls and still influences as it intrigues. For all the strife and trauma this city has endured over the centuries and which remains all too present yet today, the sheer joy of those who make their own particular spiritual and personal journey here is equally palpable and inspiring.   As an old marketer, I couldn’t help but ponder how all of these different peoples from across the globe could find one small city so incredibly compelling. I would submit that virtually all who visit come seeking their own personal connection to it. The miracle is that so many of us seem to find it, despite our digital distractions and decidedly secular lives back home.   We preach “emotional relationships” in marketing all the time— presuming it’s actually possible to have a personal connection with one’s choice of bank or bubblegum (and believe me, I can—and have– made that case!). But our experience in Israel had, for my family and me anyway, an emotional impact that I think bonded us to one another and to this remarkable human epicenter well beyond our already high expectations.   We left for home in a different mind-set than we arrived. The world may be a very large and challenging place, but the indomitable spirit that connects us all—that compels us to create, build, improve and, yes, even tolerate others and their beliefs—still moves and inspires. Go embrace it for yourself… as I hope to again one day. Hayes Roth – 6.5.14  
From atop the Austrian Christian Hospice, looking towards the Dome of the Rock Muslim temple to Mt. Zion and King David's Tomb.
From atop the Austrian Hospice, looking towards the Dome of the Rock to Mt. Zion and King David’s Tomb– a religious and cultural collective.
Observing Jerusalem Day at the Western Wall of Herod's ancient temple
Observing Jerusalem Day at the Western Wall of Herod’s ancient temple
Outside Mamilla Mall, Jerusalem
A merry minstral greets all who enter Mamilla Mall, Jerusalem
Crowds wait to enter and see where Christ is believed to have died.
Outside the Church of the Holy Sepulchre, where Christ is believed to have died.
The faithful patiently wait to enter the Holy Sepulchre
The faithful patiently wait to enter the Holy Sepulchre
Only the fourth Pope to visit Jerusalem, Francis was celebrated everywhere.
Only the fourth Pope to visit Jerusalem, Francis was celebrated everywhere.

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