We all have things in life that we hold dear, that define us, that we feel in our very core.
We all have things that are sacred.
Even though most of us had never set foot on Israel’s ground just over a month ago, this tiny country was unquestionably something we each held sacred. It represented a place where faith didn’t have to be something that we felt only in our hearts. It was a place where faith could be tangible and visible — where the length of a coat or the shape of a hat could tell the world what you believe. It represented a place where you didn’t have to explain who you are, but rather a place where you can just be.
It also is a place we knew held challenges, and we were greeted with them immediately. We saw what happens when competing stories fight for the spotlight, rather than search for the common ground of co-existence. We walked alongside the physical barriers that arise when a modern-day story of Exodus meets a fear of losing the first homeland a people have found in generations. We felt the tension that can build when dynamic faiths find a home within the same city walls.
No one claims that it was easy to hear that a place we hold sacred has real problems, but by challenging our existing beliefs, we learned right away the importance of listening to all perspectives.
Pilgrimage: Israel was an intensive 10-day travel seminar, organized by the University of Richmond's Office of the Chaplaincy. The experience included stops in the Galilee region, Haifa, and Jerusalem. Participants explored the history and current state of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, interfaith communication, and the traditions and important sites of Christians, Muslims, and Jews.
My role was to document the trip, moment-to-moment, with photos, captions, and quotes from guest speakers and participants. Each day concluded with a longer post showing the continuing dialogue and learning experience for the participants.