Tuesday, June 5, 2007

Homeward Bound, But Due to Return!

May 19th, 2007

In order to be home to preach the next morning (Sunday, May 20th), we left this morning on Continental Airline, which does fly on Shabbath, though Ben Gurion Airport was a ghost-town.

We caught a taxi this morning from Ecce Homo B&B. What was amazing was this: we went on a modern highway from Jerusalem, in which we never saw any of the Palestinian areas, even though our driver was Muslim and Palestinian.

The issue of his religion, ethnicity, and nationality came into full-view when we drove up to the airport. At the entrance, we were pulled over not because we were Americans, but because he was Palestinian. The security detail asked us a lot of questions, and checked a few bags. Given the permission to go to the airport, the driver (who did not speak from Jerusalem) opened up: "This is silly! This is 2007! How can they treat people this way? If you were Arab, then they would have frisked you, checked my taxi's doors, roof, engine, trunk, and side panels. They would've made us wait for two or three hours. And for what? Nothing! Nothing! This is insane."

The anger is palpable. The chaos that is about to be sparked is going to be insane. On this day, the Israeli's have been bombing Hamas strongholds in Palestinian Gaza Strip. Later today, Lebanon would be bombing Palestinian refugee camps where terrorists were hiding. The violence is all around us.

The airport was almost vacant, because most people don't fly on Shabbath. Many of the small shops were closed in the airport. While we were flying back home, the memories of this time and place, people and holy shrines, will last forever. After all, the School of the Pilgrim has been born in Israel and Egypt, as well as North Carolina!

Pilgrim peace, Brett

Set Our Feet Toward Jerusalem

May 18th, 2007

We arose at a decent time this morning after yesterday's early wake-up call. We had a delicious b'fast, and soon prepared to make our way up to Taba passport check-point, with a ride from Moussa and Ead!

After we waved good-bye to Henry, who was off on a three day camel trek, we were soon on our way to Taba. The images of the empty hotel resorts on the coast, along with all the check-points, and the need to hire a security detail for the ride up, was a lot to think about. The beauty of the Sinai was all around us, but the sense of fear is high in a land that has been gripped by insecurity and war for ages.

In Eilat, we re-traced our footsteps of a few days earlier. We got a taxi at the passport check-point; got to the bus station and I purchased a Herald-Tribune to read on the five hour bus trip back to Jerusalem. The ride back was quiet, though the ride is wild because of all the twists and turns of the road.

Back in Jerusalem, we were surprised to find everything shutting down at the Central Bus Station in Jerusalem: it was Shabbath! Nothing was open! Buses were shutting down; restaurants were closed; shops were empty; banks were shut tight: all of west Jerusalem, the Jewish section, was literally shutting down. People were running home before dinner was served.

We met John Leonard, a Carolinian who is living in Tel Aviv, and is a graduate of University of North Carolina-Chapel Hill. As he reminded us, Tel Aviv is the European city of Israel that never sleeps, while it is Jerusalem in which the laws of the Jewish community hold sway, though not even the airline El Al flies on Shabbath.

Of course, dinner that night was Az Ahara in east Jerusalem, which was open for our final supper!

Pilgrim peace, Brett

The Camels of Mt. Sinai!

May 17th, 2007

We awakened around 2:00 A.M., and finally roused ourselves out of bed by 2:15 A.M., in order to be up and ready for our 3:00 A.M. CAMEL RIDE! Meeting Henry outside our B&B room, Moussa and Henry escorted us to "Camel Central," in which we were paired up with a camel driver who led two or three camels, and their riders, up Mt. Sinai. Of course, I had the loudest, most nasal, and most abrasive and thoroughly Egyptian camel driver, right from "Star Wars"! For two hours we rode up Mt. Sinai, following a snaking path up to the top. We went by hundreds of pilgrims going to Mt. Sinai, including South Koreans and students from Australia and Europe. At 4:00 we could hear the bells call the monks to morning prayers.

After two hours, we dismounted from our camels at a wonderfully crowded tea house, where we met a mother and daughter couple from Poland, by way of Washington, D.C. When my camel driver and were about to have our photo taken, a camel stuck his nose into the picture frame, and the driver just whacked the snout of the camel, who let out a dull "ugh"!

We walked up to a bluff just below the top of Mt. Sinai because of all the tourists (hundreds) encamped on the top, waiting for the sun to rise over the east at around 5:15 A.M. After watching shooting stars going up on camel back, now we were given the treat of watching the sun rise over the Sinai on a clear blue-sky day. Amazing.

Like a few days earlier, we celebrated Eucharist, remembering that this is Ascension Sunday, and that a few days earlier we were standing on top of Mt. Tabor, the place of Transfiguration, and now we were on the top of Mt. Sinai, again a place of Transfiguration, in which Moses received the Decalogue, and his countenance was pure light after meeting God. Henry called this the "St. George and School of the Pilgrim Chapel"!

After watching hundreds of tourists skedaddle down from Mt. Sinai, we slowly made our way up to the top of Mt. Sinai, where there was now nary a tourist. We saw two clefts in which Moses could have hidden himself, with a chapel at the top of the summit. From the top we could see a snaking trail that was possibly where the people of Israel followed themselves to Mt. Sinai.

It was here that Henry spoke to my heart, mind, and body: the School of the Pilgrim is happening! This is a land rich in pilgrimage trails, explored and unexplored. Moussa (his name means Moses), knows the Egyptian Coptic trail where the Holy Family fled from their homeland during the killing of the young innocents soon after Jesus' birth: and no one has written or filmed or documented this trek. There are still many "Gospels according to" parchments throughout this area. Stories still need to be written and recorded. The entire way down from the top of Mt. Sinai was taken up with possible new pilgrimages in the future, starting next September 2008, with another full-blown pilgrimage of the School of the Pilgrim in 2009.

That afternoon, we said good-bye to St. Catherine's. Though the museum was closed, which holds the beautifully mysterious icon Christ of the Sinai, Moussa gave me a postcard of the image that now watches me in my office.

That night, we encamp at the Red Sea resort of Nuweiba! Dinner was shared with Henry, Carol, and our motley crew after we had a wonderful swim and freshened up from our morning trek to Mt. Sinai!


Pilgrim peace, Brett

Moses' Oasis and St. Catherine

May 16th, 2007

After the quick and sudden down pour yesterday, the evening was cool and gentle. This morning, awakening in the Bedouin tent, looking straight out I could make out four camels in the distance, parked near the local sheiks jeep.

This morning, our friend Ead was preparing b'fast, with hot water for tea and coffee! We are surrounded by the beauty of the desert rock formation and sandy bluffs. The sky is blue, with nary a cloud in sight. We wear long sleeve shirts, but will soon shuck them off for t-shirts and shorts. Nice to wear shorts after wearing long trousers in all the churches and monasteries.

Last night, the sheik's wife came and spread out her wares and trinkets for the tourists to purchase. This morning, the daughter of one of the sheik's wives brought a new collection, along with her sister. Henry would just say, "Looks like the mall is open," and over we would go to purchase a gift for home.

While Moussa drove the jeep to meet us at our next destination point, Moussa and Henry took us on a hike. Asking us, "what is a miracle?" we looked out over the mountainous terrain of the Sinai. It was not the Sahara or the Gobi, but the starkly alluring mountains of the Sinai. We caught sight of our first snake, along with lizards. We learned that Moses' trick of sticking the rod into sandstone, releasing water, is an old desert trick as water gets caught in sandstone. We knew better than drinking the water, and learned that if you stamped your feet where camels dare to trod you call up camel ticks!

The hour of silence in the desert was a gift to behold. Sitting against a rock wall, with a rocky overhang, looking out over a small oasis, was sheer wonder.

And to think: Moses, a pilgrim indeed, camped in these very spots.

How do we know? We actually came to Hashmonah, mentioned in Numbers 33: 29: they set out from Mithkah and camped at Hashmonah. Hashmonah had one other tourist group (Europeans) among the Bedouin encampment eateries, and our group. Underneath the overhang of bright colored cloths, with soft cushions, we rested our heads after eating and took a lovely nap.

After Hashmonah, we climbed to the top of a rocky pinnacle, and looking back we were swept up in the beauty of the thousand shades of brown, white, red, pink, black, and greenery of oases.

Before getting into our jeep with Ead behind the wheel, we came upon a large rock formation. Scratched into many of these rocks are ancient scripts mentioning where the oases are with images of camels pointing to the place, along with ancient Byzantine and Coptic scripts, with a jot from a Crusader, mentioning the Hashmonah oasis over the nearest pass. Again, like Kilroy of American fame, we would say, "Egeria the pilgrim was here!"

We drove up to St. Catherine of the Sinai Greek Orthodox Monastery after our desert trek. Egyptian tourist authorities have made this a little city, with many check-points. Checking in at the monastery, we learned that the monastery would be largely closed tomorrow because it is the Feast of the Ascension of Jesus Christ! Eastertide is drawing to a close. However, through Moussa's friendships with the monks, we were given a rare treat: we got into the monastery walls, saw the well where Moses met his wife, as well as the burning bush, and were in the presence of the monks chanting psalms during vespers in a chapel that boasts of being built in the 6th century, during the reign of Justinian! The icons were amazingly beautiful, with gold leaf design and images of the Christ in beautiful repose.

But that wasn't the only amazing part of the journey: we met Father Justin, an American Greek Orthodox monk from Texas! He is the librarian of the monastery, which holds the largest collection of the oldest Greek manuscripts in the world, along with an impressive collection of Arabic writings. This even supersedes the collection in the Vatican. Fr. Justin was a wonderful host, only too eager to show us around.

The beauty of these historic pilgrim places is overwhelming!

Pilgrim peace, Brett

Monday, June 4, 2007

To Egypt!

May 15th, 2007

One dream of mine was to visit Egypt! I didn't realize that this would be the year to do it until Henry asked me (with a wink and a smile in his voice), "Wanna camp out in the Sinai?" "Sure," I said with enthusiasm.

At 7:15 A.M., we found ourselves on a bus cruising south along the shore of the Dead Sea, headed to the seaside resort of Eliat. We passed Massada, a place of great political significance, in which a renegade group of Jews held out against the powers-that-be in the ancient of days.

Eilat is like Atlantic City, NJ! There are hotels that look like skyscrapers reaching for the skies, with all kinds of water activities on the Red Sea. After a quick lunch following the five hour ride, we crossed the border at Taba, Egypt! What a change: air conditioned passport office in Israel, fans blowing and an old out-post, circa 1950s, in Egypt. There was a Hilton Hotel with casino on the Egyptian side, but the area was vacuous after the hub-bub of Eilat. Israelis have been scared off by the violence in the area over the years, and are waiting for it to subside before they invest again. Meanwhile, there are hotels upon hotels that look like ghost-towns all the way to Nuweiba.

An hour later, in Nuweiba, we met Moussa and Ead of Abu Noud Travel Agency, our pilgrim guides for our next venture: off-road camping in the desert! The desert was mountainous, with no one hill like any other. We saw Bedouin encampments in the middle of the desert, and were amazed at the ability for people to live in the middle of absolutely nowhere! Moussa and Ead were gracious hosts, showing us the way of the pilgrim, like Moses and the people of Israel.

We planned to camp outside, with the canopy of stars overhead, until it began to rain. This was a blessing for the people in the desert, and the Bedouins rejoiced for the rain! Quickly, we made it to a Bedouin tent, covered with goat hair blanket that quickly closes up when wet. We ate a wonderful dinner that night, the rain stopped, and the stars came out. In the middle of the desert of the Sinai, we were amazed at the plethora of stars, starting with Venus and the moon coming out first, followed by a panoply of twinkling jewels.

Egypt! A land of pilgrimage!

Pilgrim peace, Brett

Cognitive Dissonance!

May 14th, 2007

We made it to Yad Vashem, the Israeli Holocaust Museum, this morning via bus in Jerusalem. I've seen photos of the eternal flame of this Holocaust Museum, and was eager to see what was the story of this place.

When entering the entrance hall, I came to see how nationalism and religion can mix together from a totally different perspective than that of the States and Christianity. The various halls of Yad Vashem in the display area were filled with tourists as well as school groups. Young and old, able-bodied and disabled, jostled to see the evidence of the atrocity that were committed in Hitler's Germany.

The displays were overwhelming. It felt like someone took an attic full of memorabilia and threw it around a small room. From floor to ceiling there was plenty of evidence of what had happened: photos, brick-a-brack, newsreel photos, books, posters, all capturing the horrors of Nazi Germany. By the time we left, we were exhausted by the display.

But what stood out were the walls around the ghettos of Warsaw and other cities, and the walls of the concentration camps, which resembled the walls around the Palestinian enclaves of Israel. I struggle with the cognitive dissonance, in which the ones who were once victims were now the victimizers of others.

After lunch, we went to the Israel Museum. The display of the city of Jerusalem, circa the first century A.D. was powerful. The art in the Museum was gorgeous: impressionists like Corot and Monet, along with the modern art of Picasso and Mondrian, near a collection of the baroque art of Europe, and a Rembrandt thrown in for good measure. Beautiful!

That night we found ourselves on Jaffa St., near Ben Yehuda St., which was like a big down-town mall. We ate dinner this night in this part of west Jerusalem. It is here that we were frisked when entering a restaurant, and there was no Palestinian beer on the menu. Welcome to the divided city of a divided people!

Pilgrim peace, Brett

Of Fish and People

May 13th, 2007

It is Mothers' Day in the States, and so we thanked God for all mothers around the world, especially this day the mothers of those who have died or been killed in the bloodshed in this part of the world.

After a full German breakfast at the Pilgerhaus, because it was raining lightly we ran to the small Chapel of Pilgerhaus to celebrate Eucharist. The Chapel looked out over the Sea of Galilee. Taking the bread, breaking it, and drinking from the cup of love (white wine!), I am somewhat in awe of eating this meal of salvation in the land of Jesus, the Palestinian Jew who changed the world!

After Eucharist we high tailed it to the Primacy of St. Peter Chapel, that was next door to Pilgerhaus. As we walked down to the Sea of Galilee, lo and behold two fishermen in their fishing boat came to shore! This is the place where the risen Christ reportedly fixed a meal for the fishermen. This is one of the places that Egeria met a group of Byzantine Christians, who cared for the table-rock where Jesus fed the disciples. After Henry read John 21, we hiked up our pants and stood in the Sea at the Primacy of St. Peter, smiling for the camera.

Then, next door to this Chapel was Capernaum. With wonder we walked around the synagogue that was most likely standing when Peter lived in this small town, looking down at the 1st century ruins of this once-thriving town.

With no time to spare, by lunch time we made it up to Mt. Tabor: the Mount of Transfiguration! Unfortunately, it closed early on this day (Sunday), but we nevertheless looked at the field below where one of the wars of Armageddon was to take place. We smiled as Henry read from the Gospel of Luke, in which we read that it was here that Jesus set his face, and his foot to Jerusalem, on his exodus to his death...for us and our salvation, in the company of the disciples along with Elijah and Moses.

Racing back to Jerusalem, slipping easily through check-points, Henry dropped us off at the top of the Mount of Olives as we walked the Via Dolorosa to Ecce Homo, our B&B. The view of the old city of Jerusalem was magnificent. We watched Orthodox Jews walking among the burial plots of the dearly departed; we witnessed a group of Filipino Catholics praying at the chapel where Jesus wept, followed by a group of evangelical Christians from the States praying that they would be ready for the second coming of Christ! We interrupted a folk mass in the Chapel of All Nations, and ducked into the Grotto where Mary died. We were silent before a group of Italian tourists who were reverently walking the Via Dolorosa in the chapel commemorating the whipping of Jesus. We finally made it to Ecce Homo, ready to put our feet up. Dinner tonight was at Az Ahara!

Again, what struck us as significant was that Jesus, this Palestinian Jew, whose life made such an incredible impact upon the lives of others who have all different kinds of perspectives on this man of God.

Pilgrim peace, Brett

In Search of the Annunciation

May 12th

We arose quite early this morning to meet Henry by the Lion's Gate, taking one bag each for our trek to Nazareth and the Sea of Galilee! Henry promised us a great breakfast, with strong coffee, and croissants...which would've been great if it weren't for Shabbath. Everything in this area that is owned by Jews is closed!

We left Jerusalem, traveling east toward Jordan, going through a check point because we were entering--or are we leaving--occupied territory. Soon out of Jerusalem, we pull over to the side of the road, to a small viewing area. We see before us nothing but desert, but are equally intrigued with the faraway city of Jerusalem. Reading Ps. 55, Henry tells us that it was supposedly here, in this area, that Jesus was tempted by the Evil One! The beauty was that of the arid areas of New Mexico and Arizona in the States. Hostile yet gorgeous to the eye, and brown, black, with specks of green as far as the eye could see.

We found an "oasis," a gas station that was open, and so we ate some b'fast. We are seeing more camels and Bedouins, and the poor of this area live in small hovels and tents. Jericho is in the distance, and we dare not go there because it is Palestinian and thus an impregnable fortress with its prison gray wall.

Snaking up north on highway 90, we see the country Jordan across the Jordan river. It is lush and green where there are farms and fields of grain. We make a long stop at the river Jordan. At first, no one was there. But before we left, a bus load of Russian Orthodox pilgrims donned on long white t-shirts with an image of John baptizing Jesus and (with swim suits underneath) the pilgrims went down into the Jordan, blessed by their priest, coming out wet and a little wild.

We supped at a handsome Bedouin tent nearby, eating a hearty lunch that we keep us going through Nazareth.

In Nazareth, we were surprised at the congestion of a busy city. We went first to the Roman Catholic shrine to the Annunciation: the building hung over the small grotto where Mary was told that she would give birth to Emmanuel. But then Henry took us down the street to the Greek Orthodox chapel, in which Mary was supposedly by a river, drawing water, when she was told by Gabriel that she was to give birth to the source of abundant water, and thus the church was situated over the source of water! Not only that: they have found the ruins of a Roman bath, suggesting Nazareth was not a small town, but a busy city: imagine Jesus as a city kid of middle-class parents!

We then made our way to the Sea of Galilee, spending the night at the Benedictine Pilgerhaus! I met a Benedictine sister who knew of St. Benedict's Monastery, where I am an oblate! Small world! We hiked to the chapel of the Beatitudes, imagining this golden-grained field full of disciples. We hid in a small grotto where Jesus may have hung out after withdrawing from the crowds.

Dinner was superb, and there was an internet for us to use. While Henry went off with his friend that evening, we sat and enjoyed the cool breeze coming from the Sea of Galilee! In the distance were the Golan Heights of Lebanon! We just cannot believe we are in this part of the world of such thick, interesting, and turgid history amid Gospel wonders.

Pilgrim peace, Brett

Bethlehem, a Palestinian Refugee Camp

May 11th, 2007

As I write this posting, I am still filled with emotions that are raw yet tender. What I saw, heard, felt, and was moved by was not in the travel books I read before I went on this trip.

Bethlehem, which is only a few miles down the road from Jerusalem proper, is a walled-off prison, a.k.a., Palestinian refugee camp. "O little town of Bethlehem how still we see thee lie," does not exist anymore. The high grey wall that encircles this Holy City is horrendous. I call it a snake that is trying to kill off life in this City.

Henry drove us to one of the few entry places into the walled-off city. While we went through numerous scanners, x-ray machines, and gates while being televised, all in a few minutes, it can take a Palestinian hours to go through the very same thing. Henry could not come with us because he is Israeli.

Our new friend Elias Ghareeb met us on the other side of the wall. A Greek Orthodox Palestinian, Elias had just returned from vacation. Instead of flying out of Ben Gurion airport down the road, he has to go to Amman, Jordan and fly out of Jordan because he is Palestinian.

First place to go was Manger Square. Along the Church of the Nativity you can see the bullet holes from the battle that went on in this city a few years ago. Instead the Church we saw the beauty of the mosaic floors that Helena had built, along with the icons of the Crusaders. Underneath the main floor, in a small alcove, was the spot where Jesus was born, and the spot that the cradle inhabited. Hundreds of pilgrims filled the tight space. Elias reminded us that most people lived in small caves or grottoes, which explained the tight space that felt like a rocky enclosure.

Near this site is the place that St. Jerome wrote the Vulgate version of the Bible near the chapel of St. Joseph, Jesus' father. Again, like so much in Jerusalem, we saw the Russian and the Greek Orthodox sections, the Roman Catholic section, and the Coptic sections of the Church. Protestantism does not have much of a hold on these Holy sites.

Picking up Elias' car outside the Milk Grotto (where Mary's milk touched the floor of the cave, making the entire cave white), we went to the Palestinian Refugee Camp. We specifically spent time at the Lajee Center of the Aida Refugee Camp. We heard of the stories of oppression of the Palestinian people, and went to the top of the building to see the snaking, meandering wall that is dividing the people from the land. Within Bethlehem, the medical, educational, and civil services are being constricted. Life is tense among and in families. Israel is not building a wall along the Green Line (an agreed upon line between the Palestinian people and Israel), but is taking whatever land they want.

We talked a great deal about the oppression of the Palestinian people. The wall is meant to "protect the Palestinian people" says Israel, but the Palestinian people are growing restless within these walls, and the days of the next intifada are coming. Over lunch at the Grotto Restaurant we looked at where Elias hopes to move to, though it may be torn down in order for the Israeli's to build their wall.

We sang "Gloria in Excelsis Deo" in the Shepherd's Chapel, with Elias, a group of Filipino nuns, and ourselves. After we picked up some gifts for people at home at a beautiful gift store, and tried to visit the Greek Orthodox Church in Bethlehem, Elias turned me on to kanahfay (sp?), a sweet dessert that is high on my list of "must haves."

We left Elias that day angry about the sense of victimization that is going on among the people, and lost in the question: why would a people who were once victims now turn around and become the victimizers of oppression?

Pilgrim peace, Brett

Old Jerusalem, Eternal Tensions

May 10th, 2007

After yesterday's brief introduction to "old" and "new" Jerusalem, today's focus was on the "Old Jerusalem."

We met Henry in the morning after a restful night's sleep. We began with a walk up and down the Via Dolorosa, starting at the Lion's Gate, to the Church of the Holy Sepulcher, with many places in between. For example, we walked up an improvised bridge to the Dome of the Rock, home of Mt. Moriah, and the Al Asque Mosque. Sadly, because of most recent violence in 2001, the interior of the Dome is closed off to visitors, though the glass-tile mosaic work, along with the gold leaf Dome are exquisite to look at.

The Dome area was once home to the Temple mentioned often in the Bible, and thus it is a place of great spiritual tension and continuing religious violence.

From the Dome, we walked to Bethesda Pool and St. Anne's Chapel. St. Anne's honors not only St. Anne but Mary herself. The beauty of the Chapel is that everything is a little bit off balance and not quite in perfect symmetry. It was also saved from being destroyed during one of the times that Jerusalem was under Ottoman rule by being turned into a Muslim school.

Bethesda was far larger than I imagined. Home to the story of the one who was paralyzed and waited for the angel to stir the waters, there were numerous levels of pools by which those with disabilities would sit and wait for the stirring of waters in order to touch the waters quickly and be healed.

After stopping for a quick cup of coffee, we went along the ancient Cordo, a corridor of shops, until Henry ducked into a sweet shop. "Give the gentleman five shekels, and come with me," and with that Henry opened a door in the back of the shop, and we walked into fourth century Jerusalem! Behind the door was an arch of the Church of the Holy Sepulchre that dated back to the earliest pilgrim, Egeria, a Spanish nun of the fourth century, who not only wrote down the various liturgies used in the early church, but accurately wrote down where the Holy sites were located, maintained for years by the ancient Byzantine church prior to Helena (Constantine's mother), arrival. The sweet shop owner doesn't quite know what they will do with it all yet in terms of turning it over to the antiquity authorities.

Directly above us was the Church of the Holy Sepulchre! We entered the Church through the Ethiopian Coptics and Egyptian Copts Church chapels, which were, themselves stunning in their antiquity, with a visually stunning painting of the Queen of Sheba meeting King David.

We entered the Church of the Holy Sepulchre, and were met by pilgrims touching and praying over the large marble slab that honored the embalming of Jesus (though the embalming was to have really taken place on the Sunday after his death). To the right was the stone known simply as Golgotha! The Greek Orthodox iconography was everywhere. Touching this stone, underneath it was another stone, the cleft of Adam, where Adam was to have "originated." Walking along this level, along a corridor, we came to a tomb that was once outside the City's gates, owned by Joseph of Armithea. Near this vacant tomb was a small tabernacle, which is said to be the site of where Jesus was buried and thus rose from the dead. In order to enter and touch the stone of the place where Jesus was buried I had to wrestle with the Greek Orthodox monk who wanted to pry my hand open over a burning flame, "the light of purity." Making a sign of the cross on my open palm over the sooty debris of the candle, I prayed over the site of where Jesus was said to have been buried.

All around us were mosaics and painted icons that were stunning to the eye. Chills now and then would pass over me as I contemplated not only the possibilities of Holiness entering terra firma, but also taking in the breadth and depth of the pilgrims who have come to this place in search of the Christ.

Henry left us to tend to matters at St. Georges while we went off to Papa Andreas for lunch. The view of the Old City from the restaurant was worth the cost of the lunch! Stunning!

For the afternoon, we had some history to learn! We went to the Citadel, that was once mistakenly thought to be a part of King David's fortress. In the Citadel we watched, listened, touched, and were mesmerized by the history of this City. Many cultures and countries have laid claim to this City throughout the centuries...and more likely there will be more changing of hands.

From there we walked to the southern wall near the Western (or Wailing) wall. At the Davidson Center, we walked along the current archaeological diggings and findings of the southern part of the Old City. We saw that as each layer of dirt and grime is removed there is something new being shown about the city's former inhabitants.

That night, exhausted, we ate at a wonderful restaurant, Az Ahara, in east Jerusalem. This part of the City is Palestinian and largely Muslim, whereas west Jerusalem is largely Israeli and Jewish. The difference? We could walk right into the restaurant, and I could order a Taybeh (Palestinian) beer, while on the west Jerusalem side I would have been frisked down and there is no Taybeh beer!

Like the inner domain of the Old City, the newer parts of Jerusalem are equally divided and unique unto themselves!

Pilgrim peace, Brett