Greater Stowe Interfaith Holy Land Trip
April 16-27, 2023
Dan's Daily Diary
Each day, I intend to take photos and notes and write a description of what our team has experienced and learned together. When applicable, I will also include Scriptural references that correspond with the Biblical sites we are exploring. Our host guide, Keshet Education Journeys has provided additional resources that I will include as well. https://www.keshetisrael.co.il
Thank you for following our journey!
Blessings and Shalom,
Day 7 - 9 below
To next days
Shabbat continues throughout the day and all Jewish stores are closed. The streets are remarkably quiet. The Christians walked to the Garden Tomb where we learned about another possible site of Jesus’ crucifixion, death, and resurrection.
Discovered in the late 1800s by British archeologists, the Garden Tomb is an ancient first-century Jewish burial cemetery located on the grounds of an ancient garden.
At this location, Fr. Rick and I led a worship service for the members of St. Johns and Stowe Community Church.
I preached from the Gospel of Luke and read the events that took place that first Easter morning. I encourage you to read the following story:
The resurrected presence of Jesus was seen and experienced in the community, as Jesus’ followers walked along roads, met together to worship, broke bread, and shared meals together. We still experience the presence of Christ in the community and in the everyday aspects of life when we have eyes that see, ears that hear, and hearts that are open to see Jesus in our midst. I look forward to returning to our Stowe Community Church family and experiencing stories of resurrection and new life together.
Fr. Rick presided over Communion and together we served our brothers and sisters in Christ. The service included prayers, the passing of the peace, and the singing of Amazing Grace. It was a beautiful and powerful service that connected us with Christians all over the world joined together by the Spirit of Christ in faith, hope, and love.
In the afternoon we toured the entire Old City of Jerusalem, including a walking tour from the rooftops. For a city so small and compact, it is full of life and energy. There are four main quarters that comprise the old city: Christian, Armenian, Jewish, and Muslim, each one with its distinct people, food, shops, and culture. The Turkish walls that surround the old city date back over 500 years ago, but the remains of ancient Jerusalem are scattered throughout tracing Biblical, historical, and archeological history back over 3,000 years. Once inside the walls, you experience a cacophony of sounds
I was privileged to lead our evening team reflection time and began our time together with a spiritual practice called the Daily Examen Prayer. There are five aspects of meditation to focus on as each day concludes:
1. Become aware of God’s presence.
2. Review the day with gratitude.
3. Pay attention to your emotions.
4. Choose one feature of the day and pray from it.
5. Look toward tomorrow.
I encourage you this week to take some time in this meditative prayer practice.
During our reflection time, both faith communities shared how meaningful their worship services were and the important role of music. We sang our SCC closing blessing together and shared the peace of God with one another with much joy..and many hugs!
At 7:51 pm, Rabbi David led Havdallah marking the end of Shabbat with a blessing over bread, wine, and lighting of a braided candle, symbolizing how Shabbat and the week ahead are braided together…as are we.
That is the greeting we hear each morning, meaning “Good Morning”. In response, you can say “Boker Tov” or “Boker Or.” The general meaning of “Boker Or” is to wish someone a good morning. The direct translation, however, is “Morning of Light.” When saying “Boker Or” you are wishing someone a morning of light. What a beautiful way to start the day!
This was a day of enlightening and enriching encounters. During our morning Session at the hotel, we heard from Khaled Abu Toameh, former Arab Affairs Correspondent
for the Jerusalem Post. https://www.jpost.com
The question he addressed was “Can Israel and the Palestinian Authority Make Peace?” This is a very complicated situation and Khaled’s insights as an Israeli Arab Muslim was fascinating. He believes that peace can be accomplished through educated people, especially the youth in ways of non-violence, mutual understanding, and openness.
We then visited the Kibbutz Kfar Etzion Heritage Center which tells the story of the Jewish communities that were destroyed there in 1948 and reestablished following the 1967 Six Days War. The multimedia presentation was immersive and moving and provided a deeper understanding of why that specific land meant so much for the Jewish people of that kibbutz.
Our next session was with the mayor of the Jewish settlement town of Efrat. He addressed the question “Are Settlements an Obstacle to Peace?” Mayor Oded Ravivi has served that community for fifteen years and believes that settlements can be bridges of peace and friendship between the Jewish and Palestinian communities and he spoke about projects and initiatives he has done towards that goal.
Following that meeting, we visited a Palestinian-Israeli Initiative for Understanding known as Roots. Their leaders believe that dialogue and interaction between Jews and Arabs living in the West Bank can bring nonviolence and reconciliation.
The final encounter was in the “Ultra-Orthodox” Jewish settlement town of Beitar Illit where we met educational pioneer Rabbi Menachem Bombach, founder and CEO of the Netzach Educational Network. This organization promotes the integration of the Ultra-Orthodox community into Israeli society. He believes in combining secular and religious education to better prepare Israeli youth (specifically from the Haredi community) to integrate into society and give back to the people of Israel.
Each one of our presenters was passionate about their beliefs and engaging excellent communicators for their cause. Though some were of different religious traditions and political persuasions, hearing their different perspectives was important to us and one of the reasons we planned this trip. It also brought to light just how complex this area truly is and how sharing the land amongst such diverse people is a challenge.
My hope is that our team will return to Stowe, not only more interested and enlightened about the affairs here in the Holy Land but willing to listen and learn from others with various perspectives so that together we can be advocators of peace and builders of bridges in our own community.
Today was a day of solidarity and solemnity. We spent the entire morning at the Yad Vashem Holocaust Memorial Center better understand the tragedy of events that led to the murder of over 6 million Jews during WWII. Needless to say, this was a difficult experience for our Jewish sisters and brothers, a few of whom had relatives who died during that time. Additionally, the knowledge that the German Christian Church was complicit and even supportive of the Nazi policy to exterminate all Jewish people was deeply troubling. While a few Christians spoke out against what was happening (and some even risked their lives to protect and save Jewish people) the far majority remained silent during this time period.
“First they came for the Communists
And I did not speak out
Because I was not a Communist
Then they came for the Socialists
And I did not speak out
Because I was not a Socialist
Then they came for the trade unionists
And I did not speak out
Because I was not a trade unionist
Then they came for the Jews
And I did not speak out
Because I was not a Jew
Then they came for me
And there was no one left
To speak out for me.”
Our morning challenged all of us to think about our own attitudes. to racism and discrimination in the world today and our actions. *Since no photos were allowed in the museum, I encourage you to learn more at:
After lunch, we had a brief team reflection and say farewell to Rabbi David, Fr. Rick, and a few other group members who are leaving today.
In the afternoon, we returned to the Old City to visit the Church of the Holy Sepulcher which is the traditional site of the crucifixion, burial, and resurrection of Jesus. Here we learned about the Christian connection to and presence in Jerusalem over the centuries. Afterward, we went back to the Western Wall to spend some time in private prayer. I placed my hands upon the wall and prayed for the peace of Jerusalem and for shalom in this area.
Our team took a 4-hour bus ride down into the desert to a local kibbutz in preparation for our journey into the Kingdom of Jordan and visit to Petra.