Everyone has arrived safely and we have begun bonding as a group. Our band of pilgrims from Christ Church, Alexandria is joined and enriched by others from Zimbabwe, Newfoundland, England, Vermont, Minnesota and Maine.

We began our orientation today with a lecture about Jerusalem as a city of contrasts - the place where east meets west, where heaven meets earth, where old meets new. As we drove around the Old City looking at it from many different vantage points, faithful parishioner Lee Ellett, tried riding a camel for the first time. I won’t tell you what she uttered as the camel stood up, but you can see a city of contrasts in her face!

2013-02-05-lee-ellet-holy-land-camel-photo.jpg

We paused at one point, to read aloud the words of Psalm 122, looking across the Kidron valley to the golden Dome of the Rock. And just as we heard the phrase, Pray for the peace of Jerusalem, several mosques began their call to afternoon prayer. And it struck me that ours was just one of many voices that lay claim to this holy place. We were reminded in that instant that ours is just one of the faith traditions for whom this place holds great meaning and identity. The psalm ended and the muzzeins continued, dueling strains ringing off the hard stones.

The form of money in Israel is shekels. We are all madly trying to remember the conversion rate to dollars. When we climbed back on to the bus, Lee’s husband, Ted said, "Well, I’m 'shek-less.'" And we all agreed that it was Lee who had been "scared shek-less."