Day 1. We were less than 50 people, the first Canadian interfaith trip to religious sites in Israel and Palestine. We have an opportunity to experience and observe the places holy to ourselves and others through their eyes too. We only had 6 days and needed to crowd in as much as possible. Everything we saw and experienced we understood in the context of everything else we saw and experienced. To add even more richness to this trip, we were students and seniors and adults in their middle years. We were urban and rural in Canada and we all professed one of the 4 faiths. We were actively Protestant, Roman Catholic, Muslim or Jewish. Our inspiring leaders were each clergy from one of these faiths.
Each day we were witnesses to the unexpected.
On the first day, we landed near Tel Aviv and immediately boarded tour buses with our excellent guides.
We did a bus tour of Tel Aviv/Jaffa and hear Rabbi David Rosen give us some back ground on interfaith experiences of the other. We learned that each group has many assumptions about the nature of the other faith communities which may or may not be valid. We were sitting in an old building that was in the process of being rebuilt in south Tel Aviv. The purpose of this building is to provide one space of many for neighbourhood dialogues.
Later, we visited a tiny Syrian Orthodox church in Nazareth, an Arab town near Tel Aviv. It is a very old (4th century) building that is revered as the site that the parents of Jesus lived. Afterwards, we visited a large Roman Catholic College where the parish priest told us about the small Christian community in Nazareth. He had attended this school as a boy. The Druze minister of the Israel Department of Religious affairs entered the room laughing. He came with his wife, a native of Nazareth and got lost and late anyway. As a government minister, he stressed the multireligious freedom in Israel where all holy sites are protected and supported. I will will continue this blog in the days to come.