I went to Jerusalem in April. At the time, the region had a palpable tension, but the violence was limited. I received the Hiltz scholarship to attend St George's College in Jerusalem. It was amazing. The team at St George shepherded us throughout the land. In addition to Christian sites, we visited a Palestinian refugee camp, the Dome of the Rock, and the Western Wall. You can find all the traditional pictures on the internet so I won't go on and on (but I could- the trip was wonderful, if you can, sometime in the future, you should go. St George College and all the fabulous programs can be found HERE and the Hiltz scholarship can be found HERE
I came home with my head full of an awareness of the simmering tensions between people and my heart full of the art and the shape of the Holy Lands. I have been integrating this experience into my faith through art. So, instead of the big pictures, let me show you the little details that caught my imagination and share how this trip has inspired me.
In Israel, I saw grapes and images of grape vines everywhere. Carved in wood and stone and pieced in mosaic, grape vines appeared in Christian and Islamic sites. Jesus said, I am the true vine (Jn 15:1), and I whispered these words as I sewed.
I also saw (rather obviously) a lot of crosses. I was captivated by the pilgrims' crosses cut into the walls of the church of the Holy Sepulchre by people like me (but before, there were rules against this practice). Crosses punctuate the Jerusalem roofline, and decorative crosses are everywhere, for example, this iron grill in Nazareth.
And birds. I was surprised by all the birds and the diversity of birds in the holy art of Israel. I might have been paying particular attention to the spirituality of birdwatching after the Rev. Jessica Schaap took the Parish of Holy Cross on a birdwatching trip earlier this year. But I came home with many images of birds. There were mosaics of peacocks, ducks, sparrows, cranes, chickens, and doves. We saw a mural by Banksy (the infamous pseudonymous England-based Street artist, political activist and film director) near the Palestinian wall and doves in Razzouk tattoos.
When I got home, I noticed how many circles there were. A circle is a symbol of unity and promises. We use circular halos to mark saints and rings to mark the promises of bishops. Rings are symbols of union. I feel uncomfortable when I reflect on the conflict in Israel/Palestine and name the many broken promises in this region. The disconnect between the art of promises of peace and the lived reality is obvious.
When I returned home, I processed and prayed my experiences through my own art. I put together grapes, crosses, birds, and circles and made a cope (because a cope is a big beautiful shape). As I added circles, I prayed for unity and peace and kept promises in Israel, Palestine, and here, where I live and worship.
IMAGE in top scroll: Alecia in Jerusalem
Photos: Alecia Greenfield