Commentary: From Jerusalem to New York to New Delhi


CHARLOTTE: From Jerusalem to New York to New Delhi, Adélie Pontay reflects on her professional and spiritual journey over the last couple of years.

ARIEL: She remembers her last afternoon in Jerusalem.

 

I’m sitting on a bench on the roof of the Franciscan Monastery. The sky above me is impossibly blue, and the sun shimmers on the cream-colored stones of the Old City of Jerusalem. Almost all the buildings here are made of that stone and the light is blinding. The massive, grey dome of the Holy Sepulchre, is so close it seems like I could extend my arm and touch it. Farther away, there is the golden glare of the Dome of the Rock and right behind it the Mount of Olives. I’m waiting for Brother David, a young friar and a friend of mine. I’m uncomfortable, maybe a little worried. Something weird is going on inside me, and I want him to diagnose it. It’s a feeling of overwhelming quietness. A general calm has ruled over the nagging uneasiness and worry that I thought defined me. It’s happened several times in the last few months.

Oh no, I couldn’t be another one of those stories. “I went to the Holy Land and I found God.” I had moved to Jerusalem in September 2014, a staunch atheist and the daughter of the Almighty French secularism. I had been bottle-fed with Enlightenment philosophers and post-modern skepticism. For me, Jerusalem was at the heart of a geopolitical conflict. If anything, religion was good for tourism.

But purely by accident, I got an internship at a religious magazine, published by the Franciscans.

That’s how I ended up on the roof with Brother David. A few days later, I was on the plane back to France. Back home, I wasn’t sure of what I had experienced, it all seemed to dissolve away on the rainy streets of Paris. Only the memory remained, I couldn’t explain why but it felt important. And I was craving for that feeling to come back.

Fast forward to March 2015, I was on another plane, which this time was taking me from New York to New Delhi, on a trip for my journalism class “Covering Religion.”

Four days in, we were in the holy city of Amritsar. We had been walking through the white marble buildings all through the hot morning, when we finally sat down.

Before me was the shiny surface of a gigantic pool of holy water. In the very center, the glimmering Golden Temple. And there again I felt it, this peaceful resting place within me. I had been chasing it for months, in churches and synagogues and yoga and running. It’s like I could feel the holiness of the place.

So what? have I turned religious? No way. I don’t know. Maybe I’ve just reached some kind of 25-year-old wisdom and I’m at a better place with myself. That’s one possible diagnosis. Maybe, I am more open to those doubts about my atheism.

Or I just become weird on hot days and around white stones and golden buildings where there is a lot of reflected light.

Back Announce: Adélie Pontay is knocking at all doors this weekend, celebrating Easter and Passover.

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