I will soon be visiting Israel. This is a journey I have wanted to make for decades, but I could never figure out how. I knew I didn’t want to go as a tourist or on a family vacation or as part of a Christian travel group. I knew it would have to be something like a pilgrimage; I wanted to see with my own eyes and give thanks for the flourishing of Jewish life after the Shoah. Under Nazi rule, my people attempted to kill all European Jews and, Lord have mercy, almost succeeded. This “almost” has deeply shaped my life and my faith, and I have long wanted to walk and pray in the streets of Jerusalem. I just didn’t know how to let it be the journey it needed to be.
And then, just a few weeks ago, my friend Rabbi Mark Schiftan invited me to go with him on a trip for Christian clergy and Jewish leaders, planned and coordinated by the Jewish Federation of Nashville. I felt honored, humbled and blessed, and after carrying the invitation with me for a few days, I told him I would love to go.
Our group, nine Nashville Christian clergy persons and seven Nashville Jewish leaders, will board our flight early in the morning of May 27, my 55th birthday. We will visit Jerusalem, a kibbutz near lake Kinneret, the Golan heights, Nazareth, Tel Aviv and many sites along the way. We will have conversations with academic, political, and military leaders. We will pray and study Scripture together. We will share meals, including a Shabbat dinner, and we will talk about our impressions. We expect to return to Nashville on June 4th, transformed in ways none of us can predict.
We hope for the blessings of friendship and learning, for the planting of seeds that will make us more faithful to God’s vision of peace, and we ask for your prayers.
I know in my bones this is the trip I’ve been waiting for.