Monday, February 17
by Betty Bowersox, Christie Boyle  and Jane Klieve
(see pictures at the end of the blog or visit our Grace in the Holy Land photo gallery)

Sometimes it’s better to start at the end….

Betty in the Garden of Gethsemane_opt

Betty Bowersox in the Garden of Gethsemane

Having said that, one of the key words for the day is “agony.” We started in Bethpage and followed Jesus’ journey to Gethsemane in the morning.  In the afternoon, we visited Yad Vashem, the Holocaust Museum. The emotions that surfaced were very intense and we feel it is important to share our thoughts.

Morning activities:

Bethpage — On the day that is now Palm Sunday, Jesus stopped in this place and sent two of his disciples to bring a donkey. When they returned, Jesus climbed onto a large rock to mount the donkey and rode into Jerusalem from the Mount of Olives. At that time, the area was unsettled and there were no walls or houses – only rocks & this large stone. Today, Bethpage Church has been built around the stone.

Next we went to the Mount of Olives Chapel of the Ascension. This is the site from which Jesus ascended into Heaven 40 days after his death. This place is holy to both Muslims and Christians and the Muslims have custody of the site. Once a year, on the Feast of the Ascension, Christians are allowed to worship here.

As we continued our steep downhill walk, we came to Pater Noster. This is the place where Jesus taught the disciples to pray.  The Lord’s Prayer is displayed in 180 languages on large tiles around the garden.  Sheila was able to read us the version in Occitan, the native language of southern France. 

After that brief respite on relatively flat ground, we made our way to Dominus Flevit — where Jesus wept and foretold the destruction of the city. It was quite something to think of the agony of our Lord.

We had a delicious lunch in a local restaurant. Once again, it was a multi-course offering that included fabulous Carpaccio as the first course.

Afternoon activities:

We spent most of the afternoon at Yad Vashem – the Holocaust Museum. The site is very large and contains both an extensive indoor museum and outdoor displays and memorials.

The indoor museum contains pictures, artifacts, testimonials and videos which are overwhelming. At the entrance, there is a sign prohibiting anyone under age ten from entering. We all understand this and recognize that it can be difficult for people of any age to take this in and respond. We observed some young teens moving through the exhibits talking and laughing among themselves. As we discussed this after dinner, we recognized that people who have no experiences to help them cope sometimes respond this way. Each of us copes and grieves in our own way. As people of faith, we pray that by seeing and remembering, we will all work to prevent this from happening again.

At the end of the indoor museum, we encountered the Hall of Names. This is a circular room of floor to ceiling bookshelves filled with volumes listing the names of those who lost their lives during the Holocaust. Betty commented that it is impossible to see this and not have a strong emotional reaction – it was enough to make hearts weep. The effort to collect names is ongoing and the goal is to remember all those who died and were denied a proper burial. 

Thankfully, we were able to end our day with Eucharist in the Garden of Gethsemane.  Dick Entenmann captured the thoughts we all shared:  “It was so nice to worship together and be reminded of our faith after visit to the museum.”

Reflections on the day:

Sheila – agony over man’s inhumanity to man. It’s awful to think about how it can happen. How could it happen in your neighborhood?  People being hauled off or “disappearing.” 

Christie – agony is the right word.  We thought about Christ’s agony and the agony of humanity today.

Ruth – We tend to look down on Peter & Judas for denying/betraying, but we do that through our indifference. 

Sonja – bothered by the Vatican’s lack of action during World War II. Sheila noted that while the Vatican didn’t step in, many priests did help and paid the price.

Todd – Following the route of Christ’s walk from Bethpage to Garden of Gethsemane/Jerusalem today was such an experience. Every year on Palm Sunday, we replicate this procession in our church. It was something to see people from all over the world coming here to do this too. Becky E. echoed this idea in terms of both our pilgrimage and the Sunday service in the Cathedral.

Ruth – We’re all finding muscles we didn’t know we had. Everyone agreed that walking downhill for a mile was challenging!

We are so thankful for our guide Gus. When we arrived, he welcomed us home and emphasized that this is our shared homeland. He is a man of deep faith and tremendous knowledge with a real gift for explaining the sites we are visiting in relation to the Bible. He is genuinely respectful of all people and makes us feel special when he addresses us as “my brothers & sisters.” We believe that we should all strive to extend this respect and hospitality to others.

Previews of coming attractions:

Tomorrow – going to Jacob’s well where the Samaritan woman gave Jesus water. We will visit the Anglican Episcopal Church in Nablus and enjoy a lunch prepared by the women of the congregation.

Shalom

 
The Lord's Prayer - Pater Noster Church_opt

This is the English version of The Lord’s Prayer at The Pater Noster Church. Can you see the whiter “who” tile? It originally read “which.”

Pilgrims at the Pater Noster Church_opt

The Pilgrims at The Pater Noster Church. A few of the 180 Lord’s Prayer tiles are behind them.

Eucharist in the Garden of Gethsemen_opt

Fr. Todd blessing the bread at our Eucharist this afternoon in the Garden of Gethsemane.

Altar at the Basiica of Agony_opt

The rock in front of this alter in The Basilica of Our Lord’s Agony was in the Garden of Gethsemane, where Jesus prayed the hour might pass from him. Note the railing, representing the Crown of Thorns.

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