Final day for reflection and study
Our last day in the Holy Land has been characterized by reflection and study of the contemporary political situation in this country. We met with two unique individuals, each with a perspective hard-won through personal experience. We spent two hours with Father David Neuhaus, S.J. at the Pontifical Biblical Institute in West Jerusalem. His multi-faceted identity along with profound learning and erudition equip him to be an excellent guide for understanding anti-semitism, Zionism, Islamophobia, and all the other ideologies that beset this land (and ours). Father Neuhaus comes from a German Jewish family; his relatives were decorated German soldiers in WWI, only to later perish in the Holocaust. He himself was born and raised in South Africa during the Apartheit regime. In his twenties he became a Catholic Christian and ultimately a Jesuit. He lives in Israel and teaches mostly Palestinian students in Bethlehem. All of us were spellbound by his lecture and the ensuing conversation with him. For lunch and early afternoon we went to the famous Jerusalem YMCA, built in the 1930s, across the street from the King David Hotel. There we met Yulia Omari, a Russian Jew who married a Palestinian Muslim over twenty years ago. They have three daughters who speak Arabic, Hebrew, Russian, and English. She’s now interim CEO of the Jerusalem YMCA, one of the few organizations in the city that serves everyone with integrated programs for Jews, Christians, and Muslims. Thus, we end the trip with a glimmer of hope for a future that might be one day. We then left Bethlehem for Tel Aviv,stopping briefly in the ancient city of Jaffa to look around. On arrival in Tel Aviv, many of us braved the wind to go down to the beach to walk in the Mediterranean Sea. It’s up at 5 am tomorrow to head to the airport for the flight home. This will be my last post; I hope you’ve enjoyed following our adventures!