Editor’s Note: This is the first reflection from seminarian Michael Kurth, EPF Young Adult Network Convener, while on a ten day pilgrimage to the Holy Land in March 2017. Michael is a Postulant in the Diocese of New York and currently attends Berkeley Divinity School at Yale Divinity School and the Yale Institute of Sacred Music.
Though treading with tired eyes from long international flights, we arrived Sunday morning in Tel Aviv with enthusiasm, ready for our adventure to begin. The weather – intermittent showers and patches of sun – has been hovering around a chilly 50 degrees fahrenheit. And yet, a chill has not frosted over our pilgrimage group, as we have spent our first two days engaged with each other and the journey upon us. Our group is comprised of six pilgrims and two experienced tour guides. We are seminarians, faculty members, a culinary trained chef, and retirees (priest, pediatrician, and CIA agent. Seriously.). Over ten days (March 12-21), we will explore Jerusalem and other areas of the West Bank (Ramallah and Bethlehem in particular) to gain understanding of the lived situation between Israelis and Palestinians, and the small but important role the Episcopal Church plays in finding peace and justice. Along the way, we will visit many Holy Sites (mostly in Jerusalem, but also in Bethlehem, Nablus, and hopefully the Sea of Galilee).
Our first days in Jerusalem provided moments of both incredible spiritual joy tinged with sadness at the current state of the city. On Monday, we visited the United Nations Office for the Coordination of Human Affairs, where a UN staffer discussed in great detail the complex and troubling current living situations in Gaza and the West Bank. Afterwards, we met with the Episcopal Diocese of Jerusalem and Archbishop Suheil Dawani, hearing about the many hospitals, schools, and jobs training the Diocese offers throughout its VERY large territory (Israel, Palestine, Jordan, Syria, and Lebanon). Monday afternoon we had free, so I headed to the Western Wall (a fragment of the outer wall of the Second Temple, the holiest place for all Jews), the Mount of Olives (a site where Jesus taught) and Garden of Gethsemane (where Jesus prayed with his disciples before being betrayed). While at the Garden, I found myself moved in prayer to the point of quiet weeping. “Not my will, but your will be done .” (Lk 22:42)
Deo Gratias — Thanks be to God,