A Reflection on the Interfaith Mission to Israel
By Lori Baden, Associate Executive Director of Temple Sholom
In February, I participated in the 10-day group trip to Israel led by Rabbi Mitch and Rev. Lemler (formerly of Christ Church). The purpose of the trip was to offer participants an Interfaith view of Israel, and show how and where the two religions intersect. Our group of 35 participants included kids, teens and adults.
Our journey took us to three main areas of the country: the Upper Galilee including Mt. Bental and the Golan Heights; the bustling modern city of Tel Aviv; and Jerusalem, the center of three world religions. One of the most interesting Interfaith sites was Capernaum, where there was a 5th century synagogue side-by-side with a unique octagonal church from the Byzantine era that was used as a place of worship by the first Christians. This was a very visible reminder of how close Christianity’s roots are to Judaism.
In Jerusalem, we visited both Jewish and Christian Quarters and learned about life during the 2nd Temple Period. A highlight was a visit to the Kotel on Shabbat where both the Christians and Jews in our group shared prayers of peace.
Together, we floated in the Dead Sea, celebrated a Bat Mitzvah on Masada, and visited the cooperative town of Neve Shalom – a place where Jews and Arabs live together. We listened to an Arab woman talk about her hope being placed in the hands of children, who are growing up among those who are different from themselves. Two of her children attend a Christian school, and all four of her children attend a Jewish summer camp.
Our trip ended in Tel Aviv where we explored St. Peter’s Church in Jaffa and relived the exciting moments of the declaration of the State of Israel at Independence Hall.
While I’ve been to Israel before, there is something unique about travelling as part of an Interfaith group. Rabbi Mitch and Rev. Lemler were able to compare and contrast our separate religious traditions and visually show us where our roots come from. On the last night, we went around the room and asked each participant what their favorite part of the trip was. By and large, the Interfaith aspect of the trip was the overall highlight.