Friday, May 25, 2007

Holy Land Pilgrimage: The Second Day, May 9, 2007

May 9, 2007

We arrived in Ben Gurion International Airport in Tel Aviv on Wed., May 9th! The sun was out, a cloudless blue sky was over our heads, and Henry Carse, our pilgrim guide for the next ten days, was only too happy to see us at the airport. Henry and I had talked about doing this pilgrimage a year ago, but the war broke out on the border of Lebanon and Israel, thus causing us to re-schedule this pilgrimage.

While our Palestinian brothers and sisters on the flight were held up in security checks, we whisked through security checks at the airport with nary a lick of attention.

Henry first showed us the money, instructing us that four sheckels equals a dollar, "Got that?" and he plunked some money into our hand. "We'll work on the finances later." Dashing out to the car he borrowed from St. Georges College in Jerusalem, we made our way out of the airport with brochures, pamphlets, and maps in our hands. Henry, with a wink of his eye, told us that he would take us along an older route into town. Knowing full well that we would soon meet the politics of the day along the old route, we were amazed at what we saw: drawing closer to Jerusalem, we were amazed at the walls rising up in the middle of treeless plateaus. The Palestinian people were being walled in while Israeli settlements were springing up on what was their land. The walls divide friends, families, land, and cultures. Check-points sprung up out of nowhere. Amazing.

Jerusalem the Golden! Henry drove us right up to the front door of Ecce Homo, our B&B while we are in Jerusalem. Managed by the Sisters of Notre Dame, we said "adieu" to Henry, found our rooms, and napped until we saw Henry at 4:00 P.M.

After a quick nap, we roused ourselves and walked along the Via Dolorosa, the very trail that pilgrims take following the mythical last walk, or "Dead Man Walking" pathway that Jesus followed to Golgotha. We grabbed some bread for lunch, and looked inside countless small stores in which people were hawking their wares.

At 4:00, we met Henry at Ecce Homo. Henry took us to the top of Ecce Homo, the Terrace, in which we got a grand view of the Mount of Olives, Dome of the Rock, and Church of the Holy Sepulchre. We saw the straight line that these three monuments made, remembering the countless cultures, civilizations, and people who had lived, prayed, worshipped, fought, laughed, loved, and worked in this place.

Dinner that night was at the American Colony Hotel. Soup and a hamburger, and Taybeh beer (a Palestinian beer)! It would be the last time we saw such Western food for the next few weeks.

It was a great welcome to the Holy places and spaces that we were to explore in the coming days.

Pilgrim peace, Brett

Holy Land Pilgrimage: Day One in Israel

May 8, 2007

The beginning of this pilgrimage to Israel and Egypt began on the morning of Tue., May 8th, in which, like all other moments before a pilgrimage actually begins, there is much running around, wanting to be sure that the homefront is in good shape for the coming weeks.

Finally, at 1:20 in the afternoon, as I boarded the Continental shuttle to Newark Liberty Intl. Airport, the pilgrimage had begun. Getting to the airport gate that led to the jet taking us to Israel, I was amazed at the additional layer of security. Bags were checked, and the "magic" wands were passed over our bodies. This was a precursor to the kind of checkpoints that would become a regular annoyance each day in the Holy Land.

Making an easy connection in Newark to the flight that would take us to the Holy Land, we were soon in the air. Sleeping most of the way to Tel Aviv, I roused to watch some of the Orthodox rabbis convene in the back of the plane in the galley area to pray. This was a foreshadowing of many more prayer events in the days to come, resembling the mass congregation of people praying at the Western Wall in Jerusalem. I reminded myself that in the next few weeks, I, as a Christian, was going to be in the minority in a land filled with Muslim and Jewish believers.

Pilgrim peace, Brett

Tuesday, May 22, 2007

Pilgrimage in the Holy Land!

For the last two weeks (May 8-19th), I've been a pilgrim in the land of all pilgrimages: Israel and Egypt! It was a fantastic pilgrimage, going beyond any pre-set expectations of what would occur during that time.

In the next few days, I will add what happened each day of the pilgrimage in the Holy Land...or should I write Holy Lands! For what I experienced was not only the sacred spaces and places of the world religions, but the political strife and the cultural circumstances that are having an impact not only there, but around the world!

Pilgrim peace, Brett