(My spring break spent in Jerusalem and Galilee provided me with many images that I hope to share through my Peeling Oranges series.)
Outside the walls of Jerusalem’s Old City, I sulk in a mix of frustration and guilt, wanting to participate in the centuries-old traditions and services that originated in this city. On Palm Sunday, why can’t I find the leafy branches that laid across these stone roads two-thousand years ago? Why can’t I find a Catholic Mass in this city of churches?
Momentarily distracted from my anxiety as I pass a group of young Palestinian children climbing on rocks, I wave as they yell, “Photo, photo!”
Discovering that I speak Arabic, they clamber down the ruins to shout out their names and ask mine. The four girls pose for a photo, as the boy, Muhammad, stands shyly to the side. In the clearest, highest Arabic I’ve ever heard, a girl with hair as blonde and eyes as blue as mine asks who my Arabic teacher is, and a girl with freckles on her forehead wonders if I pray. I receive hugs and kisses on my cheek as I leave, waving goodbye to catch up with my friends.
But the blonde girl runs after me, calling, “Are you married?!” I laugh at her question, which to her seems so important and to me so trivial. After another round of embraces from the group, tears nearly slip down my cheek, where the coldness of their kisses lingers on my skin.
Once again, God is reminding me that it’s his people, not simply his traditions and rituals, where he can most easily found. He has answered my prayer in a way I didn’t expect, substituting palms and incense with kisses and laughter.