We began our aliyah, our ascent, to Jerusalem mid-morning on Friday the 13th. The sky was overcast, but as we ascended into the Judean hills the clouds opened and the rain began in great earnest. Although this rain was welcomed by many israelis, it presented a challenge to those of us who were about to spend the afternoon outside walking through the rain.
As we entered the outskirts of Jerusalem there was no grand vista. The steep hills and valleys simply began to be populated with homes and other buildings. Then there was a beautiful bridge supporting the brand new light rail system. All of a sudden, in the midst of an urban area, our bus stopped and we got out to find ourselves at the foot of the wall surrounding the Old City. Uri and Sebastian, our tour guides, hopped off to find some umbrellas and we were off into this city fraught with meaning for so many peoples and traditions.
|Uri inside the Jaffa Gate|
|Damaged mosaic (r) and burnt beam (l)|
|Western Wall (r) under the Dome|
From the Western Walkway we made our way up to the Western Wall where we all took a handful of prayers prepared by the parishioners of one of participants, Susan, the vicar of an Episcopal church in New Jersey. In the cold rain I took my share of the prayers to the Wall and placed them into the joints of the wall and offered my prayers. The first was the Summary of the Law, familiar to Anglicans:
The second is like it:
Love your neighbour as yourself.
There is no commandment greater than these.
I then added the petition that
I then asked our God to accept these prayers and to answer them as may be best for us and for those for whom we pray. Then the Lord's Prayer and the eucharistic doxology from The Book of Alternative Services:
Then I made a quick trip to find the warmth and dryness of our bus!
After a very warm shower and a change of clothes I joined my group for the Shabbat evening services at Kol HaNashemah, a Reform congregation near our hotel. Before the service we were greeted by a member of the congregation who asked us two questions that are of pertinence to Christians as well: How do we reach out to those in the 20's and 30's? How can our liturgy be more alive?
Following worship we returned to the hotel for Shabbat dinner with Rabbi Ron Kronish, Director of the Inter-Faith Religious Coordinating Council in Israel, a group that is working to bring together young Israelis and Palestinians in programmes that help develop their skills in dialogue. Five young people joined us and shared their experiences in the programmes offered by the Council. One young Palestinian participant expressed the depth of his feelings which proved to be a challenge to at least one of our Jewish colleagues, precipitating a lengthy conversation later in the evening.
Exhausted I left before the conclusion of dinner for bed!