It's one part pilgrimage to holy sites. It's one part bonding with friends we know. It's one part exploration, planting seeds for new friendships as we learn about life in Israel and Palestine in a time of tension.
Eight of us are leaving today to spend 12 days in Israel/Palestine. Four of us have ties to Memorial United Church of Christ in Fitchburg -- Bonnie Van Overbeke, the former pastor there; Nancy Baumgardner, a very active member; Petra Streiff, the former parish nurse who is now associate pastor at Swiss UCC in New Glarus; and me, the current full-time pastor. Memorial has a partnership with Christmas Lutheran Church in Bethlehem, where we will all be worshipping next Sunday (Nov. 1). Joining us are two couples from Mississippi -- Rims and Judy Barber (Rims in Bonnie's brother) and their friends Glenn and Betty Gentry.
We will arrive in Israel on Tuesday afternoon and head to Nazareth. We'll see various Biblical sites around the Sea of Galilee; visit Biram, the hometown of Elias Chacour, an amazing Melkite archbishop who works to cross the barriers among Christians, Muslims and Jews; and spend some time at Nazareth Village, a recreation of the first century village where Jesus grew up.
We will head to Bethlehem on Thursday and spend several days there, including time chatting with Rev. Mitri Rabeb, the pastor at Christmas Lutheran Church and a good friend. On Monday, Nov. 2, we will head east to Eliat on the Red Sea. We will visit the ancient city of Petra and on the way back to Jerusalem after a few days, we will stop at the Dead Sea and visit Qumran, the site of the discovery of the Dead Sea Scrolls.
We arrive in Jerusalem on Wednesday evening, Nov. 4. We will visit the holy sites there, spend time at Augusta Victoria Hospital and meet a wide variety of people. And then it's back home.
I'll file updates and photos as I can along the way.
Peace. Shalom. Salaam.