10 Days in the Holy Land : one pilgrim’s journal.

Preface:Dear friends,As I begin this account of our journey to Israel (which will appear in serial form in Sunday’s bulletin over the next few weeks), I can scarcely believe it is already more than four weeks since we returned. What’s interesting is that each time I glance back, I see something new or perhaps, differently – with new eyes and new insight. It strikes me now that this 10 day experience was for Elaine and I a kind of rekindling and deepening of our love for God, a response to his invitation to “return to Him, our first love” (Revelation 2:4). Welcome to the journey.

Day 1 Architecture of Time

The day has arrived. It is only a few hours before departure to Tel Aviv. I congratulate Elaine once again on her fine sense of judgment. Because she voted to rebook our flight a day earlier we are at this moment enjoying a stress free and relaxing wait in the Maple Leaf Lounge at Billy Bishop airport in Toronto, after a good night’s sleep, while St John’s shovels itself out from under another snowy blast of winter. (We are now in total agreement that if we ever contemplate another similar trip we will figure in a day’s grace.) I ponder our good fortune and then turn my mind back to when this adventure was first conceived. Elaine is at work on her computer & notices the name of our friend, Hans Weichbrodt, in connection with an advertised Break Forth Israel Tour. Curious, she explores only to find it is fully booked and there is a waiting list. Still curious, she emails Hans, and within minutes he responds: “You must come! I will call Arlen.” A 24 hour window opens. We reckon together: The dates aren’t a problem. There are some monies remaining from my Mother’s estate. She would heartily approve, a woman who for most of her adult life prayed faithfully for the peace of Jerusalem.

My musings are interrupted by another two pilgrims who join us – a middle aged woman and her grandson. It is his bar mitzvah and Miriam is taking him to Israel to celebrate with family there. I mention that I have brought along Abraham Heschel’s The Sabbath, for a little preparatory read. She nods her approval and we chat a little about the precious treasures that are Israel’s gift to the world, the Ten Commands of the Torah, and the holiness of the Sabbath.

I reflect further, noting in particular, the timely arrival of Heschel’s little book only days before our trip. I am captivated by it. The concept of the Architecture of Time I find especially intriguing – a thought that bears some careful thinking about, – but the gist of it goes something like this. Mostly, people – ordinary people, thinkers, politicians, philosophers, builders, people generally – look, think and work in finite categories of the material world – what he calls architecture of space. The shortcoming of this approach is that at best it is a labor that is never finished, at worst, totally enslaving. The Architecture of Time on the other hand is not limited in this way, but is another kind of building of an interior and spiritual sort, rooted in a memory imbued with eternity, lived out in the daily round of jewish worship and ritual, finding its perfection in the holy rest that is God’s gift of the Sabbath Day. This helps me to clarify my focus for this pilgrimage. 17 years ago when I made a similar kind of journey to Italy it was with the expressed purpose of studying works of Christian art & architecture with camera in hand, (to capture “space” as it were.) It was then a profoundly impacting spiritual experience. But this is not what I am looking for today. Perhaps it is as simple as learning how to enter more deeply in to that holy rest of the Sabbath, the last thing that God made the 7th day and his special gift to us. As Rabbi Hershel says: “Our Sabbaths are our great cathedrals.” Yes, and I have brought my camera. Who knows, I may find some use for it.