Firmly in Memory: The Holy Land
Israel. The Holy Land. ‘Tis holy indeed. For this reason you don’t just travel there; you take a pilgrimage. And I, along with 18 other pilgrims from Wake Divinity, did exactly that. With journal and prayer book in hand, our travels began. Over the span of two days we went from Winston-Salem to Charlotte to Munich to Tel-Aviv to Galilee. But what truly got us ready for our next two weeks as pilgrims was the prayer that Dr. Neal Walls read to us after our first dinner together. It was by Rabbi Lawrence A. Hoffman and it says:
How far we’ve traveled, just for this,
To be just here,
Precisely here, at this most sacred place,
Exactly now, at this most sacred time
For which we have devoutly hoped—and worked—
And so we pray for every happy circumstance that you
may bless us with.
Help us cling clearly to this moment of our lives,
To hold it softly in
our hands, and then, to fit it firmly
in its place in memory.
Help us in the days ahead
To wend our way through history.
Help us hear the echo of the words heard by the prophets,
Of dry bones rising or of David’s wild dance on his way
As we go from place to place
May we go from strength to strength,
And find the words to offer silent prayers to You
Of time gone by, or yet to come,
Assured by the knowledge
That moments truly marked by prayer can never vanish
in the wind.
As I reflect on our time in Israel, I can see our experiences in the lines of this prayer.
“And so we pray for every happy circumstance that you may bless us with.”
We were blessed with many happy circumstances: gelato in Tiberias; late night dance lessons; meeting Catholic deacons, nuns, and Franciscans; learning Israeli songs and dances on the Sea of Galilee; dessert at the Notre Dame with Carrie and Robert Smith; commemorating baptisms in the Jordan River; meeting Ita at a synagogue in Safed; and fellowshipping in Caesarea by the Mediterranean Sea.
“Help us cling clearly to this moment of our lives”
We tried so hard to cling clearly to the moments of our trip that we at times seemed more like tourists than pilgrims. We took thousands of pictures, occasionally feeling convicted that we were not fully present in each moment and having to ask ourselves: What is the meaning of these pictures I take? Why am I taking the pictures I’m taking? What am I truly taking a picture of? We made an effort to cling to the moments through photography, but whether we realized it at the time or not, we also clung to the moments through our conversations with each other and through our journaled conversations with ourselves.
We heard and felt the echoes as we traveled from place to place. From our high perch on the Arbel Cliffs, we heard the literal echoes of a Muslim call to prayer resounding from the valley below. We heard and felt the echoes of prayers and laments offered at the Western Wall. We heard our own echo as we sang praises to God in the Crusader church dedicated to St. Anne, the Virgin Mary’s mother. We felt the echoes of Christ’s passion as we walked the Via Dolorosa. We heard and felt the echoes of pain and hope emanating from the Wall separating Israel and Palestine. The echoes were constant; we just had to make sure to listen and feel.
“That moments truly marked by prayer can never vanish in the wind.”
We marked each day with prayer, both morning and evening. Prayers were offered up both individually and collectively in the various locations we traveled to. With the amount of time spent in prayer on our trip to the Holy Land, I have no doubt that it is a moment that will “never vanish in the wind.”
During this first week of classes, I have been acutely aware of how many things remind me of my time in Israel, and although we still have many weeks to go in the semester, I hope that I continue to be reminded of the Holy Land and all the echoes, prayers, and happy circumstances therein.
Janay is a graduate of High Point University with a degree in Biology. She is currently pursuing a profession in Counseling through the Master of Divinity/Master of Arts in Counseling dual degree program. She aspires for everyone to love their neighbors in spite of differences so that a diverse unity can be achieved.