In the Path of Abraham: A Jewish, Christian, Muslim Experience of the Holy LandSeptember 5-11, 2011
On this day, we experienced the land from a Christian point of view. Kibbutz Lavi is near the Sea of Galilee. After a very generous breakfast at the Kibbutz, our buses drove to Tiberius where we boarded a wooden boat for ride modelled on an experience of Jesus in the Bible. We heard the biblical text with the soft wind blowing in our faces as we looked out on the pastoral hills surrounding the water. Next, we bussed on to Capernaum, the location of St. Peter’s home where a modern Franciscan Church now stands. One of our religious leaders, F. Damien McPherson is a Franciscan monk and we were greeted with great warmth. We heard a reading of the Beatitudes, also known as the Sermon on the Mount. Our next stop was a baptismal site called Yardenit where the Jordan River meets the Sea of Galilee. Some Christians in our group chose to reaffirm their baptism there and stood in a semi-circle in the shallow water of the Jordan River. Tiny fishes darted between their legs. The Christian clergy both Roman Catholic and Protestant undertook the ceremony. We sat in the dappled shade and watched. The look of quiet happiness and joy on the faces of our Christian friends as they re-affirmed their baptism was very moving to see.
In the afternoon, we visited the Christian site of Kfar Cana a village where Jesus performed the miracle of the wine. The roads wound up and down steep hills and the views of the valleys were spectacular from the air-conditioned bus window. How difficult it must have been for people in biblical times to walks these hills in the heat, carrying what they needed for the journey and hoping for the best! You could understand the importance of hospitality at that time.
Later that afternoon, we had a bus tour of Haifa, a city that lies on the Carmel Mountain range and a narrow plain on the coast of Israel. Where the small villages in Israel are often mostly Arab Christian and Muslim or Jewish, the cities are all mixed with people from all those communities plus others who are not affiliated with those communities. We visited Beit Hagefen, the Centre for Arab-Jewish culture, youth and sports in Haifa. We heard some speeches and saw a film about the work of this centre and I bought some postcards as a memento. This place and the dialogue centre in south Tel Aviv both gave me some hope that grass roots dialogues can continue while the political battles and inter-community confrontations rage on.
We returned to Kibbutz Lavi, ate dinner and fell asleep immediately on the pillow. Another early start is planned for tomorrow. It feels to me like we have been touring for a week.