The look and the happy smile on the face of the Angolan ambassador's wife filled me with a lot of satisfaction. His Excellency, the Angolan ambassador to Israel, told me at our last meeting that his wife wanted to visit the Via Dolorosa and to walk thru all the stations where Jesus walked and was crucified. I thought that it was an opportunity to invite them to visit first the Western Wall Tunnels and then to finish our tour at the Via Dolorosa and the Holy Sepulchre Church. His Excellency agreed gladly.
Admiral Feliciano Antonio dos Santos was in charge of the naval forces of Angola. Now, on his new mission as the Angolan ambassador to Israel, he welcomed me in his office and accepted my invitation to visit the Old City of Jerusalem as my guest in order to become familiar with the city, its history and inhabitants from close up. I suggested that we start our tour at the Western Wall, the most famous visible remains of the Jewish Temple, allegedly its south corner.
Even though I don't have any official role in Israel, I felt, because of my close relations with the Angolan Embassy in Tel Aviv, that it was important to bring the ambassador of one of the most powerful countries on the African continent for an informal visit to the Old City of Jerusalem, so that he would be able to gain his own impression thru his eyes and not thru official briefs. I already expressed here my opinion that Africa is also an important player in the global order even if people don't tend to give it sufficient credit. "Come dressed casually," I recommended to Mr. Pedro Manual, the dedicated press attaché, and they accepted my offer.
On a sunny day we met at the entrance to the Western Wall, the ambassador and his wife and a few embassy staff members, for whom this was also their first visit to the Western Wall Tunnels. We went to pray in front of the Wall, each one with his own prayer, and then we put a note to God between the heavy stones, a Jewish tradition which anyone can adopt.
Then we entered the Tunnels and I could see and feel how much my guests where excited as they listened to the guide who told them about the history of the Jewish Temple and revealed before them the layers upon layers of stones which had been brought by ordinary men who lifted and positioned them without the modern means which we use today.
During our journey on foot thru the narrow corridor, we came upon the largest stone upon which the rest of the stones of the Western Wall rest. This stone, weighing about 570 tons, is 13.6 meters long, 3.5 meters high, and 4 meters deep. We stopped to take a photo, a kind of a memory.
Then I stopped to think about the Crusades. They were Christians like my guests and now in our time they accept us and our religion, not like some of our Muslim neighbors who still don't recognize our rights. Today, there are no more Crusades but there are still some other religious fanatics who wish to destabilize the delicate situation in that holy place, unfortunately among them Jews and Arab Muslims as well. I shared my thoughts with His Excellency, and told him that I think that instead of all the fighting in this holy place we could all live together in peace and pray to the one God we all believe in.
Later, when we walked thru the Muslim Quarter alleyways and looked at the empty shops and the bored merchants, I thought I could see in their eyes that they also agreed with me. I told that to His Excellency and he agreed with me that we human beings share the same ambitions and we all want to live in peace instead of fighting.
After seeing the place which is called "across from the Holy of Holies," we emerged from the Tunnels into the open air of the Via Dolorosa, into a totally different atmosphere where everything was mixed together. The cry of the Muslim muezzin, the churches bells, the Orthodox Jews who rushed on their way to the Jewish Quarter next to and over all - the Israeli flag. At the Via Dolorosa the ambassador's wife stood excited and touched the place at the wall where it is believed that Jesus touched and I could see her excitement and her big smile. Deep in my heart I was happy that I maybe had something to do with that smile.
A few days later, when a courier brought a letter to my home, I read and I quote: "I reiterate that it was an unforgettable experience that gave us the opportunity to keep a closer contact with the reality of the Old City of Jerusalem in its various aspects in a more human and informal way. The tour helped us to understand even more about the spiritual potential that Jerusalem and especially its Old City radiate throughout the world".
For me these words, the ambassador's letter to me, represented a closure, and then it was my turn to smile and recall the song of a dear friend of mine, David Ben Reuven, Jerusalem of Old - Jerusalem of New.