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Saturday, October 24, 2015

Worship at St. George's Cathedral, Dialogue and Walking Tour in Tel Aviv

Sunday, October 18:  Our Last Day - Post by Christina

We began the day with worship at St. George's Cathedral, the seat of the diocese that covers Israel, the West Bank, Gaza, Jordan, and Lebanon. The service was a combination of English and Arabic not one  service for each but all together.  The sermon was given in both, the hymns were English but we sang in Arabic as well which was given us to do phonetically. For the two most important prayers, the Lord's Prayer and the Nicene Creed we said them each in our own language, such a joyful noise to the Lord! Except the last few phrases of the Creed which were in English, so the effect was a wash of sound that coalesced into unity in reciting the end. So beautiful.

After the service we met with Dean Hosam Naoum,  (Judy's counterpart), the Rabbi Levi Kelman from Kol HaNeshama, the synagogue we attended Friday night, and the Kaddi, or head magistrate of the Islamic Legal Courts (Sharia court) in Jerusalem.  Let me say something about that, in Israel there are four systems...directly under the government are the Jewish courts, the Sharia courts, and the Druze courts, then there are the East Jerusalem Palestinians who can choose to use either the Israeli Sharia or Jordanian courts. The three men told their stories, each like Ali and Shaul our first day in Israel, coming on their own paths to a place of acceptance of "the other" and trying to walk that Middle Way we Episcopalians believe we walk.  I came away believing more strongly that we liberals/moderates/people of good will on all sides have a critical place in this conversation.  And I also recognize that all of us have fanatics in our camps who are at best useless in the conversation and at worst terribly destructive, who must be respected but controlled by those with a larger vision.

Then we drove to Tel Aviv past Abu Gosh where we started our adventure last Tuesday ... for lunch at a beach front restaurant. The last lovely surprise of the trip was time with Dr. Ruth Calderon, a former member of the Kenesset.  Her field of study is the Talmud and her passion is how by studying our holy books and finding the connections we will realize we are part of one big story not separate competing stories. She ran a class for us by reading from two versions of the Talmud's story of how Rabbi Akiba died and then talking about parallels with Jesus' death and the death of Billel in Islam. R. Akiba and Billel died breathing the word "echad" which she says means "one". All three died "not fighting" but resisting none the less. I jumped up to read the portion from Matthew in a very old version she had plus the version we had from Tom's phone... The honor of speaking those words aloud in Israel makes me choke up even now as I remember it. We did and saw many wonderful things this trip, but to finish with a study of the scriptures could not have been better.

Our time in Israel concluded with a walking tour of Tel Aviv, with Julian, our guide, giving us a picture of the modern, secular city with all of its paradoxes in the evolving Jewish identity of young Israelis and a young state.

We then had ANOTHER wonderful meal in a restaurant that brings in at risk kids to work there. Then off to the airport, conversations with security, a fabulous lounge (and I mean that) in Istanbul to await our transfer.  As I write now, we are about an hour from JFK. I am not sure yet all the things I will do differently after this trip but there are a few....yearly donations to St. George's, the YMCA, and Roots. Find out who is providing medical care in the West Bank and figure out how I can help. Definitely going off beef, chicken, and pork 🐮🐓🐷!!!!!! And hopefully finding a place to study the holy books together.

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