Monday, July 6, 2015
I awoke at 2 am Israeli time after four hours of a good sleep in my dorm room. Normally, I’d try to go back to sleep, but this is a transition day as we adjust to the 7-hour time difference. Besides, I love to journal and read while it’s quiet.
Breakfast was eight hours away, so I raided the kitchen and had coffee, cheese and pita bread. Later I heard the daily 4 am noise of a canon firing which awakens Muslims during Ramadan to rise and eat before sun up.
My camera loves early morning explorations, and today did not disappoint! St. George’s campus is small but very lush with tropical, arid gardens and lots of birds. From there I went to morning mass and celebrated Holy Communion. It was such an emotional experience for me, as tears of job ran down my face during most of the service.
Breakfast was served at 8 am, and what a spread it was. By then, several other pilgrims had arrived and we started getting to know each other.
After breakfast, the Schoecks stayed at the college while the rest of us ventured out on our only free day to the Israeli Museum. It is the largest cultural institution in Israel, housing encyclopedic collections of works dating from pre-history to the present day in Archaeology, the Fine Arts and Jewish Art and Life. Since opening in 1965, the Museum has built a collection of nearly 500,000 objects representing the full scope of artistic creativity and world material culture.
Given that one could spend several days in this museum, we focused on three specific areas: The Model of Jerusalem in the Second Temple Period, The Archaeology Exhibits and the Dead Sea Scrolls.
The Model of Jerusalem is an outdoor exhibit featuring a detailed 10 scale model, covering nearly one acre. It recreates the topography and architecture of ancient Jerusalem at its peak in 66 CE, shortly before its destruction by the Romans and as Jesus would have known it. It provides a three-dimensional contextual illustration for the period documented by the Dead Sea Scrolls, when Rabbinic Judaism took shape and Christianity was born.
We joined a one-hour English-speaking tour of the Archaeological Exhibit lead by an American from Washington DC who’s lived in Jerusalem for 42 years. Her tour took us through selected key exhibits covering 100,000 years of history leading up to modern day Israel. She highlighted where the people came from and how the corridor to Israel came from many different peoples and cultures in the Mediterranean region.
Our last stop at the Israeli Museum was the Book of the Shrine, home to the renowned Dead Seas Scrolls, archeological artifacts, and rare medieval manuscripts of the Hebrew Bible. The Shrine’s distinctive modern design and architectural symbolism create a sense of the sublime. The upper Level of the Shrine introduces visitors to the story of the Scrolls and the Judean Desert sect. At the heart of the shrine is a presentation of original Dead Sea Scrolls – examples of sectarian texts and the oldest biblical manuscripts in existence, from the eight most complete scrolls ever discovered – surrounding a facsimile of the magnificently preserved Great Isaiah Scroll.
We returned by taxi to the College for some rest before Holy Communion to commence our course. That was followed by a lovely reception with staff, followed by dinner. All but three of the students have now arrived, so we’re making lots of new friends who are fellow pilgrims, one of whom is a bishop of the Anglican Church in Aotearoa, New Zealand and Polynesia. His name is Ross and he is specifically the Bishop of the Diocese of Auckland in New Zealand. Who would have thought we would have had a bishop incognito in our midst? It just goes to show that pilgrims come from all walks of life and we are all here seeking the same thing: a deeper relationship with God.