A Three-way Handshake Required

As I drove back toward Jerusalem, a sign near a Dead Sea restaurant stop said plenty: Go in Peace.

A thought crossed my mind, however. A sign millions continue to look for calls for another message. It could carry an invitation: Come in Peace.

In anticipation of a three-way handshake which could inaugurate a journey of forgiveness, reconciliation and mutual trust, here are a few photographs from the region of three Big Religions. The images speak their own language.

Here with best wishes for better things to come. Perhaps later this year?

Israeli soldiers praying at the Western Wall

Strolling the streets in Jerusalem

Jerusalem fare: Falafel and news

Jerusalem's Cafe: Meet me at the Hillel (which one?)

Sitting on a Jericho wall: Looking for a brighter future

East Jerusalem market: The art of symbolism

East Jerusalem: A merchant at the gate

Praying in Bethlehem: When will permanent peace come?

Jerusalem holy walk: Orthodox celebrants on the way to church
Below: Candles for peace in the Middle East are lit


Collective Madness

A recent visit to Poland confirmed that no matter where you live, a collective madness is something you wish to escape from, but cannot dismiss its reality and stigma.

A street chat: Two women discussing the latest on Nowy Swiat [New World] street in Warsaw

Take Britain - Tony Blair wants to give five million pounds from his upcoming memoir to British veterans' charity. If all the comments were compiled together, you'd think that no matter what TB does can be accepted, even considered as an option. So you hear: 'blood money,' 'guilty conscience,' 'deeply offensive,' and the story offers a field day for columnists and pundits. Is shutting out any reasonable public discourse about the shadows of TB's pro-Iraq politics the only solution? The guilt can be shared by both the Right and by the Left. Amazing.

Regular madness: London's Harrods offers 'collective madness' not only during Christmas

Now, in America, the Islamic Center saga near New York's Ground Zero. The collective madness includes politicians falling all over each other to designate such an act as being representative of to the vestiges on Nazism, or as a victory monument of terrorism. So, who has the correct reading on the issue? The Republicans, the Democrats, the families of those who perished on that fatal 9/11 morning? What has happened to the American value of religious freedom that made America a safe haven for a couple of centuries for millions of 'new Americans' who fled persecution in what was once their homelands? This current American version of collective madness, in my view, casts a dark shadow on the Land of the Free. For the critics of the Lower Manhattan center, there seems only one solution: nothing doing!

'Stop them,' 'Let them': American diversity - yes, but not in Lower Manhattan

And now Warsaw, Poland. The president, his wife and other 90+ public officials and plane crew were killed in a plane crash on April 10 near Smolensk in Russia. The first couple of weeks after the fatal crash saw relations improve between the once Big Brother neighbor and Poland. The victims were buried - though amongst an avalanche of divided opinions whether the former president was a hero and thus destined to be buried on the Wawel Hill among the country's kings and military icons - and the collective madness took a break for a welcomed period of civil political discourse as the new president was elected.

Mistaken symbolism: The wooden cross is as iconic as is temporary in front of the President's Palace in Warsaw

Then the madness woke up again. Initially well intended, the Poles took out a wooden cross, placed it in front of the President's Palace in the heart of Warsaw, and said that it will stay there (forever if need be) until a monument of sorts gets built. An important reminder: the Polish brand of collective madness has religious overtones. When religion and politics blend, the lunatic fringe does not care if the victims of their intolerance receive a brutal treatment. To some, intolerance is a way of life.

The cross was to be moved to a church, then taken on a pilgrimage to the Black Madonna's Shrine in Czestochowa, and a commemorative monument was to be designed and erected. A politician has changed his mind, declared that his brother was a martyr. The cross must remain put for a bit longer. On August 3, just as I was leaving Warsaw, the scenes under the cross reminisced a play where sanity and reason was dealt a blow by the modern version of Teutonic Knights and in the name of fake religious fervor. In essence, the battle for the wooden cross in Warsaw has slowly established the usually pragmatic Catholic Church as a victim for the years to come - a victim of its own complicity in being silent about the affair. Words for calm and reason have not been propped up by the stilts of a much needed resolution. Since August 3, the world is watching the scenes on Krakowskie Przedmiescie in bewilderment.

Polish cross wars: Clouded sky over the nation's madness. Prince Poniatowski waves his sabre.

So, to actually assist me in where I want to go with these comments, I borrow from another image which made my Polish 10-day visit really worthwhile. While the crusaders were chaining themselves to the cross, the tourists, like me, were enjoying another Polish past-time: Chopin.

200 years on: Chopin's modern bust enhances remembrance of his ever-presence in Warsaw

A visitor to Warsaw and its environs is currently under the spell of Chopin's gentle romanticism as plenty of it to remind us of the artist's 200th birthday. Spots are marked by benches which are technologically enhanced. By pressing a button, you are enriched by a few facts to consider and a dozen of tacts of Chopin's music. So, you look around, and you are invited to experience the very space where Chopin walked.

A street mime displays his art in from of St. John's Cathedral

Surrounded by collective madness - when common sense is replaced by the culture of fanatical insanity - one craves for a blessing of escapes. Chopin's art seemed to have provided me with a moment of calm, and a memory that carries me on.