Today we completed our Palestine of Jesus course at St George’s College in Jerusalem. It has been a fascinating two week experience as we combined several smaller sets of participants from Australia and the USA into a new short term learning community. We have shared so much, learned so much, and come to love one another so much that the series of goodbyes that will begin later tonight will be very sad.
We began the day with an early morning walk to the Old City, entering through the Herod Gate at the bottom of Salah al-Din Street and joining the Via Dolorosa at the Church of the Condemnation.
Participants took turns to carry the cross at the head of our prayerful procession, and to read selected Scriptures at the various stations.
We returned to College for breakfast and then headed out to Abu Ghosh, one of the traditional locations for Emmaus (Luke 24). Our destination was the French Catholic Convent of the Ark of the Covenant, whose large figure of Mary towers over the Muslim village of Abu Ghosh. As we approached this morning, I wondered about the lack of sensitivity that the architects of this structure demonstrated towards the faith of the local residents.
After spending an hour in small group discussion, as we reflected on the Emmaus story and its significance for us as we prepare to leave Jerusalem and return home, we shared in a Eucharist with the modern city of Jerusalem serving as the backdrop for our outdoor altar.
The afternoon was left free, so that people could make last minute purchases and begin the process of packing for our departures during the next 24 hours. Meanwhile, the exchange of missiles and rockets continued, with reports of Hamas rockets striking Haifa in the north and of extensive destruction in Gaza as the air attacks by Israel continue. As all this is happening, life in Jerusalem continues almost without missing a beat, a sad testimony to the routine nature of the conflict.