While I have been privileged to travel to The Holy Land annually for more than a decade now, my most recent trip was a particular joy! Serving as a pilgrimage leader for forty to fifty people, I am ever aware that it is our good fortune and joy to be able to visit this land esteemed and loved by Jews and Christians alike.
Generally I travel to Israel in spring. But this year, my sojourn had me in The Holy City for the most special Yom Kippur. My heart thrilled to two major observations of Jerusalem during the high holy days. First, I witnessed a strong dedication on the part of Godâ€™s People Israel, to The Feast–there was such a great sense of anticipation. Secondly, I observed a sincere and steadfast devotion to Family.
It was stunning to see the traffic of a major city dissipate into a quiet halt at sundown. I spent a great deal of time walking that evening from my hotel through The Old City and on to the synagogue and back. Even Gentiles seemed to respect The Feast and virtually no mechanized transportation was visible. What was so much in evidence were the numbers of families walking together to and from their places of worship. The next day, one could not help but notice the absence of people and vehicles on the typically busy and bustling streets of Jerusalem. So many were observing the solemnity and sanctity of Yom Kippur with prayer and fasting–with children as young as ten prepared for, and participating in, the fast.
Our group was welcomed to a service at the reformed synagogue which meets at The Hebrew Union Institute overlooking The Western Wall. While my Orthodox friends had no music in their service, I was deeply moved by the music contained in that of the reformed congregation. It truly spoke of the majesty of the one true G-d, The G-d of Israel–it was both well rehearsed and most reverent.
The prayer book was another blessing. I was especially impacted by the Kol Nidre. The prayers were powerful reminders of our dependence upon G-d–something terribly overlooked in a world which seems to relegate our G-d to the realm of the unimportant and insignificantâ€¦except in crises.
Being in Israel is always a wonderful adventure. But this year, it was more spiritually stirring than ever before. It is good to remember that even in light of the many concerns facing Her as a nation, G-dâ€™s Promises to Israel stand firm! I am ever mindful that those in the Christian tradition are in debt to Israel for the land, their scriptures, and the promises of the One True G-dâ€”G-d and Father of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob!
In light of our contemporary scene, it is good to pauseâ€¦ponder the words of King Davidâ€¦and pray fervently and often for Israel:
Pray for the peace of Jerusalem:
May they prosper who love you.
May peace be within your walls,
And prosperity within your palaces.
For the sake of my brothers and my friends,
I will now say,
â€˜May peace be within you.â€™
For the sake of the house of The LORD our G-d,
I will seek your good.
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