Friday, April 6, 2007

Jesus Meets the Women of Jerusalem: A Good Friday Meditation for the Way of the Cross

St. Mary's House, Greensboro has a wonderful custom on Good Friday. In the evening, we pray the Way of the Cross (a.k.a. Stations of the Cross) and a different person is responsible for each of the 14 meditations. Most people do something spoken, but there are always a few people who offer a musical meditation, with or without words, and once in a while there is dance or visual art (last year this was in the form of a slide show). There are different views of the death of Jesus and different theologies of suffering and redemption, tied together by the simple service with prayers and silence. At the end we receive communion from the reserved Sacrament.

From the shortest and simplest to the most complex, all the meditations are beautiful and moving and in some cases very, very powerful. Lay people do most of the speaking. All fourteen people put time and care and prayer into composing their meditation. We are a small congregation -- tonight about half the people in attendance were those offering a meditation; they ranged in age from a little over 20 years old to a little under 80. An inspiring, humbling experience that helped focus us all on Jesus, suffering, death, betrayal, justice, human responsibility, and divine accompaniment and presence.

I am among the long-winded -- the curse of the theologically educated. Below is my meditation. It's a little hard to convey the feel of it just in writing, since I sang a portion of it a capella and the melody is really haunting. It's Eastern European Jewish music but it is also reminiscent of some of the tones one hears in both Arab and Israeli music. The words are in Yiddish -- it's a lullaby from the Vilna Ghetto, ca. 1942.

(The congregation didn't receive a translation of course, just the song as sung, but I'll put the translation below for you, since you can't hear the tune or the sound of the words. Also, this blog doesn't indent paragraphs (or if it does, I haven't figured out how) so I am using different colors instead, and space to mark some of the silences. I read this slowly and in some cases dramatically, so you' have to imagine the voice inflections.)

The Gospel passage is from Luke, chapter 23.

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Station VIII:

Jesus Meets the Women of Jerusalem


27A great number of the people followed him, and among them were women who were beating their breasts and wailing for him. 28But Jesus turned to them and said, “Daughters of Jerusalem, do not weep for me, but weep for yourselves and for your children.”

[E]s dremlen feygle oyf di tsvaygn,
Shlof mayn tayer kind.
Bay dayn vigl, oyf dayn nare
Zitst a fremder un zingt:
Bay dayn vigl, oyf dayn nare
Zitst a fremder un zingt:
Lyu-lyu, lyu-lyu, lyu.
*********************
S'iz dayn vigl vu geshtanen
Oysgeflokhtn fun glik.
Un dayn mame, oy dayn mame,
Kumt shoyn keyn mol nit tsurik.
Un dayn mame, oy dayn mame,
Kumt shoyn keyn mol nit tsurik.
Lyu-lyu, lyu-lyu, lyu.

Kh'hob gezen dayn tatn loyfn
Unter hogl fun shteyn,
Iber felder iz gefloygn
Zayn faryosemter geveyn.
Iber felder iz gefloygn
Zayn faryosemter geveyn.
Lyu-lyu, lyu-lyu, lyu.

A great number of the people followed him, and among them were women who were beating their breasts and wailing for him. 28But Jesus turned to them and said, “Daughters of Jerusalem, do not weep for me, but weep for yourselves and for your children. 29For the days are surely coming when they will say, ‘Blessed are the barren, and the wombs that never bore, and the breasts that never nursed.’ 30Then they will begin to say to the mountains, ‘Fall on us’; and to the hills, ‘Cover us.’ 31For if they do this when the wood is green, what will happen when it is dry?”
***********************
I am Aviva, an Israeli Jew. My name, Aviva, means “spring.” My grandparents came here from Europe. On Good Friday, in Lithuania, the mobs would come and kill the Jews. My grandparents escaped, before the Nazis and their camps. They came here. In their lifetime and in my parents’ lifetime, and mine, there have been wars in every generation, on this small slip of land. Three years ago, my son was killed in a bomb attack on a bus in Jerusalem. Since then I have not slept a full night.

A great number of the people followed him, and among them were women who were beating their breasts and wailing for him. But Jesus turned to them and said, “Daughters of Jerusalem, do not weep for me, but weep for yourselves and for your children."

I am Habiba, a Palestinian Muslim. My name, Habiba, means “beloved.” My niece in Gaza has a heart defect. She must get to the doctor, but there are checkpoints, and travel restrictions, and she and her mother cannot get through. Her father has no work. What will happen to her? She is only ten. Her older brother is in prison. My son, their cousin, seethes with anger. I fear for him, for what he might do, for what might befall him. And now there is a wall separating us from friends and family, right here, in Jerusalem.

For the days are surely coming when they will say, ‘Blessed are the barren, and the wombs that never bore, and the breasts that never nursed.’ Then they will begin to say to the mountains, ‘Fall on us’; and to the hills, ‘Cover us.’ For if they do this when the wood is green, what will happen when it is dry?”

I am Sahar. I am a Greek Orthodox Christian and a Palestinian. My name, Sahar, means “awakening” or “dawn.” Not long ago, the army bulldozers uprooted my family’s olive groves to clear land for the Separation wall. The people weep. The land weeps. Some of my relatives are educated people, scholars and merchants; most of them have emigrated. I am thinking of leaving too, but my family has lived on this land for generations. Will we ever all return to Jerusalem?

‘s dremlen feygle oyf di tsvaygn,
Shlof mayn tayer kind.
Bay dayn vigl, oyf dayn nare
Zitst a fremder un zingt:
Bay dayn vigl, oyf dayn nare
Zitst a fremder un zingt:
Lyu-lyu, lyu-lyu, lyu.


I am Aviva. With other women, I monitor the behavior of my country’s soldiers at checkpoints. I will not forget the other mothers. I work as I weep.

I am Habiba. I teach young children. I will not let hate claim a victory. I work as I weep.

I am Sahar. I am a physician. I divide my time between the hospital and speaking tours. I work as I weep.

We work as we weep.
****************
We know each other.
*******************
Some people call us traitors and whores.
******************
We are not going away.
*********************
Our eyes ache and sting from tears.
*******************
Still we stand here.
*****************
Daughters of Jerusalem, do not weep for me, but weep for yourselves and for your children.
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What follows wasn't part of the meditation, but I thought you might be interested.

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The women above are composites, but their circumstances are real. I based their words on research and first-hand accounts, some of them from the organizations listed below.

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Women's Organizations working for peace in Jerusalem and in Israel/Palestine:

The Jerusalem Link
http://www.batshalom.org/jlink_about.php
(Linking Bat Shalom in West Jerusalem and the Jerusalem Center for Women in East Jerusalem)

Bat Shalom:
http://www.batshalom.org/

The Jerusalem Center for Women:
http://www.j-c-w.org/

Partners for Peace – Jerusalem Women Speak:
http://www.partnersforpeace.org/jerusalem.shtml

Building Bridges for Peace:
(Bringing together young women ages 16-19 from Israel, Palestine, and the United States.)
http://www.s-c-g.org/buildingbridges/

Machsom Watch (Checkpoint Watch):
http://www.machsomwatch.org/

Women in Black:
http://www.womeninblack.org/
and
http://www.womeninblack.org/history.html

And there are others.

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Translation of lullaby:

Birds sit sleeping on the branches,
Sleep, my precious child.
At your cradle, at your little nest,
Sits a stranger and sings,
Lyu-lyu, lyu-lyu, lyu.
*******************
Here your cradle had its dwelling,
Surrounded with happiness,
And your mama, oy, your mama,
Will never return again.
Lyu-lyu, lyu-lyu, lyu.
**********************
I have seen your father running,
Under a hail of stones,
And across the fields there drifted
His melancholy groans.
Lyu-lyu, lyu-lyu, lyu.
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“S’Dremlen Feygle oyf di Tsvaygn,” lullaby from the Vilna Ghetto, words by Leah Rudnicki (1916- 1943), music by Leyb Yampolski.
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2 comments:

Weiwen Ng said...

for everyone's info, Zeitouna (Arabic: olive tree) should be added to the list. they were founded in Ann Arbor, MI, by six Arab and six Jewish women.

http://www.zeitouna.org/

Jane R said...

Thanks! My list was meant to be women who are working IN Israel/Palestine (especially in and around Jerusalem) and not in the U.S. (though of course Women in Black now works all over the world) -- so I didn't include groups like Jewish Voice for Peace, for instance. But thank you very much for this reference -- it's good to have the name and the web info (I'd vaguely heard of this group but never known much about it) and the more border-crossing the better.