The section identified as the Via Dolorosa is in a market area in the Muslim quarter of Jerusalem’s Old City. Shopkeepers are earning their day to day living selling souvenirs, sweets, and everything in between – including lingerie, and a wide variety of T-shirts such as the Toronto Maple Leafs (with a Hebrew passage) and “Guns’n’Moses” (think the band Guns’n’Roses from the late 80s and early 90s).
It’s a chaotic stretch. The merchants intermix with pilgrims snapping photos, carrying wooden crosses, and stopping in prayer.
“Imagine what it would have been like in Jesus’ time.” remarked our guide. “Imagine how packed these streets would be on that Friday.” Claustrophobic.
I also suspect it was a market area in Jesus’ time too – a very public area, to maximize his humiliation.
Following along the Via offers an interesting contrast – the material, worldly goods, and the ways of the Spirit… the great struggle of sacrifice, of giving oneself for others, rather than giving more to oneself. Both collide in this market… the third station, Jesus falls for the first time, across from the guy selling T-shirts.
It’s odd, but appropriate – how easily am I distracted from my crosses, how ready and am I to plunge into things of this world.
As I watch the worn stones under my feet I understand that these shops cannot offer what I am looking for.
I’ll stick with the narrow path, along these narrow streets.
No souvenirs necessary.