Tuesday, May 13, 2008

An Epilogue to My Jerusalem Tales

I’ve been home from Jerusalem for exactly two weeks and five days now, and I don’t have a job yet. As a result, I have had plenty of time to reflect on my experience in the Holy Land. I have come to the conclusion that Dr. Seely, my Ancient Near Eastern Studies professor said it best. Wearing his Canterbury Tales tie on an Easter day in Jerusalem, he told us that pilgrimage is not so much about the destination as it is about the journey, the relationships you form and the people you meet along the way.

My journey certainly was a wonderful one, although in the end it was not my own, but a journey I shared with about 80 other people. We started out as complete strangers when we arrived at the airport in Salt Lake City, but somehow within our first few jetlagged, sleep deprived days we became bonded. And over the next few months exploring the Old City together, visiting the pyramids together, studying the scriptures on the shores of the Galilee together, and of course living together, we became more like a family than merely travel companions. (And I have a feeling we will be Facebook friends for life!)

But some of my favourite memories happened when other people’s pilgrimages intersected briefly with ours. (You see, in the Holy Land we like to call other visitors pilgrims rather than tourists.) For example, after waking up at 2 a.m. and hiking to the top of Mount Sinai to see the sunrise, we found we were not the only group seeking a mountaintop experience. As we sang the very appropriate hymn, “How Great Thou Art,” Korean pilgrims sang along in Korean and shared our absolutely spectacular view with us. And we had similar experiences with other people from other lands at other places.

Then of course there was Palm Sunday when we joined with Christians from all over the world and carried palm branches together from Bethphage to St. Annes, remembering Christ’s triumphal entry into Jerusalem all those years ago. On that day, for a few hours, our journey ran parallel to theirs. It happened again on Easter morning when I sat with hundreds of other Christians near the Garden Tomb and sang “O Happy Day,” rejoicing with them that the tomb sat empty and sharing in the knowledge that Christ truly had risen from the dead.

Often we brushed shoulders with those of other faiths as well. Jerusalem is after all the Holy City for more than one religion. There were several Friday nights where we sang and danced with the Jews at the Western Wall to welcome in the Sabbath. I watched them bow towards the wall and touch it and kiss it and I could feel their faith. In the same spirit we had the chance to celebrate Passover and participate in a Seder meal, where we remembered the Exodus from Egypt and the covenant that Jehovah made with the ancient Israelites.

But we also listened five times a day to the Muslim call to prayer and walked with reverence on Al Haram Ash Shariff past the Dome of the Rock and the Aqsa Mosque. And we learned about the Ramadan, the Islamic month of fasting, and ate a Ramadan feast.

It was through these experiences with other people that my Jerusalem friends and I were able to better understand what it means to be Christ-like. Jordan put it into words when he said that with Christ it was also more about the journey than the destination. As we walked together in the Holy Land where Jesus walked, we learned together that it was more important to walk as Jesus walked, which in essence was taking the time to stop and show compassion to people along the way.

And so concludes my pilgrimage to Jerusalem. Thank you for indulging me by reading my stories and reflections. I hope that in a small way, you (whoever you are) were able to journey with me. Although, this is by no means the end of "Journeys With Jade."

Sunset by the Sea of Galilee.

Jumping for joy in the Mediterranean Sea.

Real Roman roads! (walking where Jesus walked)