Highlights from 2014 Pilgrimage to Israel and Palestine

Jan. 20, 2014

Arriving at Ben Gurion Airport early Saturday morning,  I was struck by its beauty. Unlike any airport I have seen.  Bright, open, airy.

20140119_163756Bus ride from airport/Tel Aviv about 45 minutes, and eventually you begin ascending the hills to the city on the hill. As we did so Father Don Senior, C.P., our guide for the pilgrimage,  read Psalm 122, the song of the pilgrims as the climbed the hills to Jerusalem.

Yesterday,  Sunday,  we visited the Museum of Israel and viewed a life-size model of the Old City as it looked at the time of Christ.  We also viewed the exhibits concerning the Dead Sea Scrolls.

Then to Yad Vashem. Hard to describe one’s emotions. Particularly wrenching is a candle-lit memorial to the 1.5 million children murdered in the Holocaust.

We ended the day at the Church of the Cenacle, close to the site of the Last Supper. Father Don noted in his homily the connection between Catholic Charities serving the Many,  and Christ saying at the supper that his body would be given for you and for many.

Yesterday I experienced Jerusalem as a cauldron into which we-Muslims, Jews, Christians- have and are pouring our fears and joys. It is quite a stew.  It is the center.

Photos from the Church of the Holy Sepulchre

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Jan. 21, 2014

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A deserted commercial street in Hebron.

On Martin Luther King Day we travelled to Hebron which is part of the geography and politics known as the West Bank. Formerly part of Jordan,  it has been under the control of Israel since the Six Days War in 1967. Hebron has some 250, 000 Palestinians and several thousand settlers.  It is a toxic mix of religion and culture,  with a heavy Israeli military presence.

Hebron is a dark place, tense with hatred and violence just barely under control.

King said darkness cannot defeat darkness.  Only light can defeat darkness.  Following our day in Hebron we ended with a prayer service at the Church of the Sepulchre.  The people of Hebron need our prayers.  They sure seem to bearing their Cross.

On a more hopeful note we had Dinner with CRS count rep Matt McGarry. CRS is doing some great work with heroic partners in places like Hebron.

More photos from Hebron:

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Jan. 23, 2014

We entered what is often called the Hill Country in Israel.   I locate it as northern Israel.  Let’s say from Nazareth north.

On Tuesday we stopped in Nazareth and the Basilica of the Assumption. The Church is centered over a grotto that marks Mary’s annunciation.  I was terrifically moved to be there.

I prayed for the women of Catholic Charities, and for the women we serve.

Nazareth is a bustling place. I liked it immediately.  My best effort at expressing my brief sojourn in Nazareth is to quote Basil Pennington,  “This is Jesus’ town…All is well.”

(The photos include the grotto and the exterior of the Basilica)

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Jan. 24, 2014

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The Sea of Galilee.

We are staying atop the Mount of the Beatitudes.  Above the Sea of Galilee.  It is more verdant in this part of Israel.  Green, more humid. Lusher compared to the Jerusalem area.

Today we read the Sermon on the Mount high atop the Mount,  then journeyed down to Tabgha and the Benedictine monastery which commorates the multiplication of the loaves and fishes. I suppose our food pantries and nutrition programs re-enact that miracle every day.

Nect. Capernaum and Peter’s house where Jesus,  in one famous New Testament passage,  healed the paralytic lowered ftom the roof.

Capernaum is small, or was small.  A village.  It is striking that people ftom this small town, Peter to name one, were from small, isolated towns like Capetnaum.

We went up to the Golan Heights and looked into Syria.  The scars from 1967 and 1973 wars are still visible.

Jan. 25, 2014

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Photo taken on Monday at CRS-funded Women’s Solidarity Project.  Women produce crafts-scarves etc. There is a Charities Camden TShirt hanging on their wall. Project located in Bethlehem district.

Jan. 26, 2014

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Students at Bethlehem University. Catholic Charities USA has an internship program where students from the University of Bethlehem spend part of the summer with local Catholic Charities agencies.  Catholic Charities, Diocese of Camden has requested to be a host for an intern this summer.

Jan. 27, 2014

The journey through Petra, Jordan.

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Jan. 28, 2014

A picture of Mount Nebo on the drive up to Amman, Jordan. We passed Syrian refugees in tents, a jarring sight.

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Jan. 29, 2014

Good Evening from Amman,  Jordan.

I can’t quite take that in. We travelled the length of Jordan over the past several days.  As a fan of T.E. Lawrence, aka Lawrence of Arabia,  it has been quite a thrill to see some of the same sights which he traversed.

Earlier today we visited Mount Nebo where God showed Moses the Promised Land which Moses would not live to see.

I was tremendously moved to look from the Mount back into Israel, the Promised Land.  I could see Jericho,  the Jordan River,  the Dead Sea,  and knew Jerusalem and Galilee were to my West and Northwest.

It struck me that Catholic Charities  can show the Promised Land to those we serve.  I prayed for all during Mass in the small Franciscan Chapel atop Mount Nebo.

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