7 June 2015
A Requiem for Enlightenment
There sat the 72-year-old woman; patiently waiting at the communal dining table in the hostel on the Mount of Olives in East Jerusalem, at which over the years numerous backpackers had sat. In this virtually empty “House of Peace” hostel, a dramatic event had taken place, because of which there was no room just now for the otherwise normal warm ‘welcome’. Early in the morning the day before, “Housekeeper” Ernest was struck down in the bathroom and died of a sudden cardiac arrest that came like a bolt from the blue. The 73-year-old host of House of Peace, Sheik Ibrahim abu El-Hawa, is deeply upset and inconsolable. Over the years, he had come to regard the 53-year-old Texan, Ernest, as a much-loved loved family member, which is why for the time being there is not the usual warmth and attention for his newly arrived guest, with a long-distance journey behind her.
Nombeko Filtane has come from South Africa to the Mount of Olives with a special goal. As she states in her testimony, she does this at the moment she feels that God is calling her to go and pray in Jerusalem. Never have I heard anyone say this with such a sense of trust and confidence and what is more, so plainly and simply. This year would be the eighth time in her life that this has happened. What amazed me above all was her role and the timing in these entire proceedings. Soundlessly she cleaned the kitchen till it was spotless. Lengthy discussions went on at the kitchen table and she is quite clearly a friendly intelligent woman. Ibrahim discovered that he had met her before, 35 years ago. Nombeko took me into her world; no, she would have nothing to do with the self-enrichment of the church and its dogmas; God doesn’t live in the church but in men and women!
Because Ibrahim and I have been friends for a number of years now, he knew about my personal pain, following Ernest’s sudden death. Totally out of the blue he turned to Nombeko: “You must release her heart!”. His remark startled me, because he was the one who had just lost his much-loved friend. Was he maybe projecting his pain via me? How would this woman from South Africa be able to ease the pain? I’m not so familiar with this world and in fact I’m really a bit sceptical about these kinds of rituals. Nombeko set to work on me. I put my trust in her loving intentions and she held her hands above my head.
The next day I witnessed her prayers; she prayed to God and Jesus intensively for four long hours, calling for a better world. Her bedroom in “the House of Peace” has now become her house of prayer.
During her implorations and singing to God and Jesus, Nombeko was mindful of my presence and just as I trusted her, she now trusted me.
An experience never to be forgotten.