Thursday, 10:40 am local time
Once upon a time. All the best stories start with once upon a time, and this one does too. Once upon a time. In the beginning. B’rashit bara eloheinu. Every story starts in time, actually: once upon some time that is not this time. There’s a story in the Godly Play curriculum about the way the Church counts time, and it starts with Christmas, the “end that is a beginning, or maybe the beginning that’s an ending.” Time is circular. We come back to that once upon a time, sometimes.
Wednesday, 11:58 pm local time
The number six million means nothing to me. It is incomprehensible. I’m a math/science guy at heart, so I appreciate the quantifiable, but to contemplate the extermination of six million people…it’s unthinkable. Literally – I cannot think about it, I cannot wrap my head around it. Even visiting Yad Va’Shem today, the Israeli memorial to the victims of the Holocaust – in Hebrew, the Shoah – it doesn’t help. I’ve been to Holocaust museums. I know the history, both the geopolitical and the religious, and it only does so much.
Wednesday, 7:15 am local time
A trip like this takes a toll on you. There’s so much to say, but never enough time to say it. I’m a seminarian, so I’m used to staying up late writing and waking up early for lectures, but the intensity of this journey has made me tired – has made all of tired. We’ve listened to six passionate people in the last two days talk about their struggles and joys and woes and fears and it’s getting to me. This is our last full day in Israel, though. The space between now and our first jaunt to Tel Lakish is simultaneously too vast and too narrow to measure, and much has fallen through the cracks. And we’re not done yet.
Tuesday, 12:30 am local time
This morning we headed out on the bus for Bethlehem. The drive is just about a 10-minutes from Jerusalem and yet Jewish Israeli Citizens cannot cross into Bethlehem. Bethlehem is in the West Bank and cars filled with tourists and Palestinians (Arab speakers from the West Bank) must go through a series of checkpoints to enter Jerusalem from Bethlehem. The newly erected 25-foot wall between these two cities effectively makes these neighboring cities feel and interact like two separate countries.
Monday, 1:10 pm local time
We met this morning with two groups working on the Palestinian problem in the town of Bethlehem. Christians know Bethlehem as the site of the birth of Christ, and we will indeed be visiting the Church of the Nativity later this afternoon, but for many Palestinians, Bethlehem is merely another part of the Occupied Territories.
Sunday, 11:59 pm local time
Two things need to be noted: first, the header for this post is a picture of the group in front of Qumran Cave 11; Emma and Matt unfortunately got cropped out of this shot, but you will be able to see the whole picture on the Day 9 pictures page. Second, I’ve waited to post pictures from Days 7, 8, and 9 in anticipation of contributions from other people. It’s been a long trip, and we’ve all been going to sleep earlier in the last few days. I’ll post all three days’ worth of pictures tomorrow.
Sunday, 11:45 pm local time
After we visited the Temple Mount, we had some free time, so a few of us went to see the Western Wall. I could not imagine a visit to Jerusalem without seeing this most sacred place. My feet hurt, I was thirsty, and really wanted to go home, but I did not want to take it for granted that I would get another chance before we leave on Thursday morning. When we arrived in Jerusalem it felt like we had all the time in the world to see the city, but now I am counting the hours and thinking of all the things I still want to do.