By The Rev. Dr. Karen Hamilton
General Secretary, The Canadian Council of Churches
Leaving our Kibbutz hotel, The Path of Abraham bus rolled towards Nazareth and the Church of the Annunciation. This traditional place of the Annunciation to Mary that she would bear the Son of God, Jesus, is decorated with large mosiacs of Mother and Child from countries around the world. The mosaic from Ukraine reminded us to keep its people in our prayers. The mosaic from Australia is colourful and elaborate and the Canadian clay mosaic known in popular parlance as the 'Madonna of the hockey stick'.
From the Church of the Annunciation we wound our way through the market of Nazareth to the historic White Mosque. We were welcomed more than warmly with coffee, tea and a plethora of delightful sweets including the traditional coconut cookies of the region. We met the Imam and Principal of the Mosque and the Roman Catholic Bishop of Nazareth who work closely together and addressed us about their reality in that town of both cooperation and tension between Christians and Muslims. Baruch, Karen and Damian were even interviewed by the Italian television station that filmed the whole event - You Tube video should be up in a week or so. (Search 'White Mosque, Nazareth, March 10, 2014)
Capernaum was our next stop with its rich religious history - the Jewish synagogue and the place of Jesus' healing of his disciple Simon Peter's mother-in-law which became a very early Christian church - both over-looking the Sea of Galilee.
Our journey together as Jews, Christians and Muslims - Children of Abraham all, then took us down the east side of the Sea of Galilee, into the Judean desert and past the oasis of Jericho. The lights of Amman, Jordan could be seen across the Jordan valley. We arrived in Bethlehem to be met by our host families and taken in pairs to their homes for dinner, for the evening, for conversation and listening.
Food was shared with some lovely contributions of homemade lemonade and jams from the trees of people's gardens. Stories and pictures were shared and some understanding of the challenges of Palestinian Christians gained.
Travelling as I am with my son, Gavin, we appreciated the fact that our host family had five sons around his age. He was invited out for the evening with 'the guys' and music and computer games shared.
I am now a Facebook friend with one of the brothers! Sisters and brothers in the line of Abraham are we.
Top Photo: Study Group members meeting with local religious leaders at the White Mosque
Lower photo: The Canadian contribution to the Church of the Annunciation
All photos courtesy Rev. Dr. Karen Hamilton