from Ahmet Ümit’s Dervish Gate

“[…] I watched the people in the park, dusk wrapping around them as evening descended. Two uniformed police officers were performing the Muslim ablutions, washing their feet under the spouts of the fountains in front of the mosque. Though I couldn’t distinguish their faces so well, the guns strapped to the smalls of their backs were clear as day. I knew they would soon be asking God to pardon their sins, and was struck by the hypocrisy of it. Entering into God’s presence with guns hanging off their belts – a God who commands ‘Thou shall not kill!'” (p. 30, translated by Elke Dixon).

This reminded me of my visit to the Western Wall in Jerusalem. At the entrance, there was a big poster listing instructions on what to do and what not to do at the site, which is often described as the world’s biggest open air synagogue. I don’t remember clearly, but I guess the usual warnings of etiquette about modest dressing, keeping noise to the minimum, and respecting those praying… But when I entered, I heard people shouting, so I was alarmed. On the right hand side, there was a group of young men jumping up and down, chanting in unison, as if in support of their favorite football team. And then I noticed the soldiers and the desks loaded with rifles; many, many of them. I was shocked, and then it dawned on me that this was an oath ceremony of the army, a new generation of young recruits were joining. The hypocrisy of it all struck me as well, it looked ugly. To my mind, those young men’s eagerness to kill was violating the sanctity of the place more than anything else.



oath ceremony at the Western Wall, with rifles stacked on the desks

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