Debbie Allen is a current M.Div. student. She attended the recent pilgrimage to the Israel and Palestine region organized by CRCDS, entitled "The Holy Land and Its People." Below is the short version of an essay Debbie wrote following the trip that is adapted for public reading.
What happens when we walk through a gate? Who are we before we enter the gate and who do we become on the other side? How does the gate change us? In June, I had an opportunity to pass through many gates on a pilgrimage to the Holy Land led by CRCDS professors Melanie Duguid May and Mark Brummitt. Gates became a lens through which I could begin to understand what I was seeing and experiencing.
It was at Tel Megiddo that I first encountered the significance of gates. As we climbed to the top of this wind-blown hill where more than 20 cities were constructed over the course of 5,000 years, I was taken by the magnificence of its location on what was once known as the Via Maris, the international highway leading from Egypt to Mesopotamia. The immensity of the deep blue sky and the expansive view out over the Jezreel Valley were exhilarating. Our first stop was at the city gates. Tina, our guide, spoke about the importance of the gates not only for defensive purposes, but also as a social space, a market place, a place of judgment and execution, as well as a place of shrines. She mentioned biblical stories in which city gates were prominent, among them Proverbs 1:21 in which Wisdom cries out at the busiest corner, the entrance of the city gates; Ruth 4:1 in which Boaz goes to the gate to redeem the estate of Elimelech so that he can receive Ruth to be his wife; and II Samuel 18:24, 33 in which David sits between the two gates, waiting for tidings of his son, Absalom, and then goes up to the chamber over the gate to weep when he learns of Absalom’s death. These stories added to the richness of gate imagery, but it was Tina’s description of the gate as an ambivalent and a liminal space that captivated me. The gate was ambivalent, she said, because it was, at the same time, an entrance that provided access and the place of greatest weakness and vulnerability to invasion. It was liminal because it was a space between the inner and the outer worlds, a place of transition for travelers in which they briefly belonged to neither world and were therefore open and unprotected. The actual stone remains of the Megiddo gates no longer conveyed might or power, but in my imagination, I recreated their former stature and envisioned lively scenes of human activity moving in and out through this passageway.