A view of Lake Kinneret.
(photo credit: TOURISM MINISTRY)
As I sit at my dining table, I look out upon a very rainy drizzly English morning. I think of all those people who will be marching defiantly in London across Westminster Bridge today as a tribute to those who have been injured or killed during our recent terrorist atrocity. My thoughts turn to Israel who daily suffers the possibility of such attacks and who flew the flag of the United Kingdom standing tall with us in our hour of great sorrow and despair.
My husband and I traveled to Israel in December, 2016. Like all travelers who come to this complicated country for the first time, we had expectations, trepidations and a lot of misconceptions what our experience might be. Would it be safe? Would we feel unwelcome as people of no faith? Would we have the courage to learn and listen and accept all that we saw and heard. Above all, could we leave our preconceptions at the door and enter with an open heart?
As all ‘Pilgrims’ on a first trip, we visited many of the well known holy sites on the tourist map. Some of our party put prayers into the Wailing Wall, some kissed the ground in the Church of the Nativity in Bethlehem, some wept in The Church of the Holy Sepulcher at the site of the crucifixion. We gazed in wonder at olive trees in the Garden of Gethsemane so old they had seen the birth and death of Christ. We walked the crowded streets of Nazareth and dined on St. Peter fish on the shore of the Sea of Galilee. As our little bus wound its way through the beautiful countryside, we marveled at the fertile fields and the great unexpected bounty of a nation born in great struggle. And so, in the end, what did we make of all we had seen, heard and encountered in Israel?
I close my eyes at this dining table of mine and I see not churches and temples and sites of importance, great though they are. I do not see a political solution or the possibility of a clear road to one. I see the broad smile of a citizen of Jerusalem helping us on a visit to a market
. I see the kind face of the wrinkled man serving me the sweet mint tea in The Muslim Quarter as I rested my weary legs. I hear the giggle of the girls as they eyed up the boys at the huge Bar Mitzvah party at our hotel and the old musician playing his mournful air as Shabbat shoppers dropped shekels into his cup. I hear the ting, ting of the trolley as it glided past us on our way to the Old Town. I am warmed again on this damp British day as I feel the sun on my arms as I dined on the shores of the Sea of Galilee. Suddenly I am once more in Nazareth at the Synagogue Church, in the stone room surrounded by a group of fresh faced Jesuit priests who raised together their beautiful voices in Jesus My Lord my God My All.
Today, as I watch London march across Westminster Bridge, I remember Israel and her great kindness and courage. It is the way of journeys. We are a part of each other’s memories through shared experience and the gift is to find that we take home far more than we ever bring. Written by J-Pilgrim contributor Nadine Herrington Porter.
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