We traveled to Sepphoris, once headquarters of the Sanhedrin and the possible birth place of Mary, the Mother of Jesus. There we visited an ancient synagogue and were astounded by the beautiful, intricate, well preserved tile murals covering the floor. The Bible came to life as we traveled to Nazareth, the place where the birth of a Savior was announced. We traveled to Bethlehem where in the Church of the Nativity we sang Silent Night to the babe, Jesus.
We experienced current life in Hebron, a city well known in ancient times as because it is along major trade routes and traditionally believed to be the ancient burial site of Abraham, Sarah, Rebekah, Isaac, Leah and Jacob. We were blessed with the opportunity to visit the Ibrahimi mosque. We learned about the worship space and visited the cenotaphs (serve as tombstones) memorializing the burial sites of the patriarchs. Respecting our Muslim brothers and sisters, women covered their heads with scarves (which we adorned beautifully), and hooded robes if not wearing a dress or long sleeve clothing. We enjoyed posing with our new wardrobe in front of the cenotaph dedicated to Rebekah while the men in our group took our photos. It was so cute to see all of them lined up trying to get the best photo! Thanks guys for your work!
We also toured the Jewish synagogue, adjacent the Ibrahimi mosque. Upon our arrival a Jewish gentleman offered to give us a tour. Respecting our Jewish brothers and sisters, men covered their heads with a kippah/yamaka, which they adorned well. We learned about the Jewish worship space, the Ark of the Covenant, and how the space is used by the Jewish community today. He offered commentary on the cave of the Patriarchs and read from the Torah in Hebrew (the original language of the Torah/Old Testament). It was interesting to hear from both Muslims and Jews about the past and current struggles for control and use of the site. Whether Christian, Muslim or Jewish we are human beings created by God and loved by God. This trip to the Holy Land has reiterated for me whether Christian, Muslim or Jewish we are human beings created by God and loved by God and our deep interconnectedness is undeniable.
Oh, Jerusalem, my happy home…when shall I come to thee? We spent several days exploring the Old City of Jerusalem, Temple Mount, the Mount of Olives, and the City of David. We sang, “Prince of Peace” as we humbly walked the Palm Sunday Road to the Garden of Gethsemane. Remembering the heartache that Jesus felt, “Abba, Father, for you all things are possible; remove this cup from me; yet, not what I want, but what you want” (Mark 14: 36) and the accounts of his weeping over Jerusalem. We remembered Jesus’ journey along the Via Dolorosa, traditionally believed to be the path Jesus carried his cross and ending at the Church of the Holy Sepulchre where we were able to touch a stone fragment, traditionally believed to be from the tomb Jesus was buried. My spiritual experience of the Palm Sunday and Easter Sunday readings have been greatly enhanced by the experience of walking in remembrance of the life, death and resurrection of our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ. For me, this trip has brought a level of reality to the Bible that is not available in the classroom, but can only be experienced.