Sonntag, 3. Februar 2013

Abraham's Path

Nablus, January 24, 2013

Will you meet Abraham on Abraham's Path? The touristic initiative has among other founders the author of the famous Harvard concept (Getting To Yes), the American professor
William Ury. He would like to build on the spirit of the patriarch, who came from the North ages ago into this beautiful country. Hospitable that is what he was, and this is emphasized by the organizers in Bethlehem, and it is clearly the point of attachment to the best thing that this country has to offer apart from its natural beauty: the open friendliness of its people.

For a person at home in the Christian Bible there are, of course more connections to this particular path. Although the traces of the forefathers are largely obliterated (“Deep is the well of past”, Thomas Mann's Joseph's novel says, “Should one not call it bottomless?”). But you will stand again and again in places where history in one way or another at least could have happened.
The said Joseph died in Egypt, his bones were later transferred to Shechem (Joshua 24:32), the latter Neapolis and today’s Nablus. There his grave is shown in a simple mausoleum, guarded by heavily armed Palestinian police since Israelis and Muslims repeatedly came and tried to get each other in the way in worshipping a patriarch that is revered by both religions. Photography is prohibited.
The grave is located in an area that was, according to the Old Testament, acquired from locals by the patriarch Jacob, Abraham's grandson. Buying this land was a first step away from the life of nomads and towards the life of a sedentary farmer. The New Testament knows of this land, too, and of the fountain there that Jacob dug. This well where Jesus once sat in the midday heat is established over many centuries and invites until today, in the basement of a large Greek Orthodox Church, to linger and drink fresh spring water.
Here in this country, the ways of the patriarchs intersects with the way of Jesus, who shortly after his birth in Bethlehem near Jerusalem moved over Abraham's ways to Nazareth in the northern Galilee, on the arms of his parents. Later he had to walk through the country of Samaria several times, in the end as the last path, to the cross.
Does the path call forth memories of Abraham, of Jesus, of other figures of the Bible? Sometimes it seemed to me that when meeting one of the herds of sheep an image came to my mind, as of Abraham and his shepherds walking by or of Jesus sitting on one of the patches of grass, using terms from the agricultural surrounding for his speeches to explain his gentle gospel and clarify his own testimony as the Good Shepherd.
Sometimes I have meant to find traces, at a step over a scarred rock, which were engravings from the hooves of sheep that walked there over the centuries. And in the faces of brown shepherd boys I saw something that looked like the sons of Jacob, or later like the Shepherd King David.
It is worth the while to revive the memory of Abraham again and again. He is the point in history to which all three religions of the book bring back the mutual part of their memory. For all of them the way of God with humanity begins with his revelation to Abraham.
God gave Abraham a short work instruction* that is easily understandable for people who speak Hebrew, Arabic or, incidentally, also Turkish: be tamam, be complete, “be thou perfect” in the translation of the King James. (1 Genesis 17:1)
Tamam! says the dealer in Istanbul when the goods have completely changed their owner and are fully paid. Perhaps the walk on Abraham’s Path can help to the end that also over me there can be said tamam.

* Ani el-shaddai, hit-halech pani-le ve hejeh tamim,
I (am) El Shaddai, walk before me and be complete.


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