Whose version of history am I to believe, I thought as I wandered through the Old City of Jerusalem. It was my first time attempting a solo expedition through the 0.9-square-kilometre walled area. I was nervous. My Hebrew was still rudimentary and untested. I was alone in my journey.
What would happen? My sense of direction isn’t perfect, but curiously confounding. I would try to reach a location and wind up someplace completely different. It happened to me often in my travels. Faulty maps and deluded directions will do that to you.
But somehow, I always wound up where I needed to be. To be lost is to find what you never thought you would find. In my wanderings, I had found much that I would not have found if I had only known how to stay on the path that would get me to my destination. My lack of fore planning would frustrate my peers.
But alas, that is me.
I found a church in the distance. Except this was no ordinary church that one attends weekly. It was the Church of the Holy Sepulchre. According to traditions dating back to the fourth century, it contains the two holiest sites in Christianity: the site where Jesus was crucified and Jesus’s empty tomb, where he is believed to have been buried and resurrected.
The pilgrims were everywhere. They had probably planned for this journey years or perhaps months in advance. And yet, I had wandered here by happenstance. But could it even be called that? If I was a pilgrim, I did not know it.
I had spent ten years studying in a Christian institution; being force-fed a version of history that I could neither question nor deny. The old stories, I knew, for my ex-principal had narrated them to us each morning. Each student was given a free copy of the Gideons Bible which we kept along with our hymnals.
It was only much later that I would come to intellectually understand that even amongst Christians, there were the different sects and denominations. If God was the Oneness, then why the many? There were many questions such as these on my mind, but I dared not voice them out loud. While I had repressed the expression of these questions, they hummed away inside of me; seeking answers that I had never been satisfactorily given.
Through my studies in Jerusalem, I would learn that archeologists, historians and scientists had found evidence to the contrary. Texts that were non canonised. Artefacts that would change our understanding of the world. Hidden histories that had brought the true truth to light. These new truths were denied and repressed. In some cases, they were even destroyed.
Ah alas, this world of politics makes my head dizzy at times. The clever manoeuvring of words. The tiny doctrinal differences that made all the difference in the world. Ah, my poor head, how it hurts from listening to all of these. The sacred texts and the myriad of ways that they had been interpreted over the centuries. I cannot bear it.
Is it happenstance that leads us someplace that we never thought we would go? Is it a fluke? Is it a small probability that somehow deviated from the standard mean of how things were supposed to be? Well, my being here was improbable; but I am here. I have never asked myself, “How did this happen?” Because I already know how it happened. I still wonder, sometimes, why it did.
What is the purpose for the improbable? Ah, I see! I should ask a statistician instead.