Journey from the MidWest to the MidEast ...

The Indianapolis-based International Interfaith Initiative (III), in collaboration with the Village Experience, led a trip of a diverse group (including representatives from Jewish, Muslim, Catholic, Evangelical, and Hindu religious communities) to the Middle East from December 27, 2009 to January 9, 2010. It was a follow-up to the very successful III Mideast trip of 2008. Read about the adventure on this blog. Look for partnership opportunities for your group at ... and be part of the next trip from Indy to the MidEast.

Saturday, January 2, 2010

This Year in Jerusalem

I am back in Israel. It is a long time coming. As I sit here in Arad, preparing for the ride north I hear the morning worship of a group of Nigerian pilgrims here for the Eastern Christmas. Their charsimatic service rings through the lobby of the hotel as the sun rises on another day in the region. One more experience to take in.

On New Years eve I was able to sit in a desert and watch the sun slip behind the mountains and later track the moon's race across a night sky chasing Orien until both disappeared behind the mountain. Previously that day I sat at the base of the mountain and thought about how this hunk of rock explosing out of the desert must have looked to the first people who found their way here. Building their homes and temples into the rock makes sense. They found comfort in this powerful structure and what must have been seen as an eternal presence.

On New Year's morning I was privledged to watch the first light of day as the sun rose over the same mountains I had spent time thinking about the day before. The light seemed to wake up the desert and to our ancient ancestors certainly must have been awesome, in the true sense of the word, inspiring fear and reverence.

I think too often we dismiss the religious traditions of old as pagan, or quaint, or worse turn the great gods of old into comicbook superheroes. We don't stop and look at our own story as fodder for similar treatment. In fact when it happens often times there are protests or worse. But we should explore what we mean when we discuss dig up ancient cultures' dieties for our entertainment. Sometimes even modern expressions of these cultures for our amusement should be questioned. Too often it feels like going to the zoo.

But that is not the point. The mountains, the sky, the sun and the changing weather all spoke to the people of the ancient world as much or as loudly as any god speaks today.

There was a break in my writing and I have now found myself in Bethlehem. I stood in line for the Chruch of the Nativity but JS and I bugged out at the last minute to share lunch and a powerful conversation. Many people spoke to me about the trip suggesting I be worried about visiting the West Bank and Jordan. In Jordan many told me not to wear my Kippah and even here in Bethlehem I don't feel comfortable with it on. But my real concern was spending two weeks building a relationship with someone who identifies as Evangelical. JS has shown me a new face of that and for that I am grateful. As we continue to grow as a group I find the moments of pursuit of of understanding each other and ourselves are as powerful as the rock carved city at Petra.

Last night I shared the Shabbat family ritual of candles, kiddush and Motzi. I explained a bit of the meaning and worked to connect something that is important to me into a meaningful experience for all. I hope I hit the mark. It is these shared moments that help the group grow closer. It is these shared moments that really explores what we mean by interfaith.

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