I grew up in a culturally diverse Maryland suburban area of Washington, D.C., and have a significant number of Jewish friends I have known since childhood, some of who’s bar or bat mitzvahs I attended. I also attended Shabbat services, Purim parties, interfaith dialogue, and educational sessions and political discussions about peace with justice in the Middle East as a student at Oberlin College. A year with the Lutheran Volunteer Corps serving two churches in Omaha, NE made me realize I wanted to attend seminary and pursue ordained ministry. With these life experiences, and after two years of seminary studies, including Biblical language learning and studies, I am so glad and excited that I have finally arrived in this land which is called holy, to experience its holy places, meet its people, and learn its stories. Even though I just landed in Tel Aviv yesterday and I have a lot to learn and experience, I am anticipating that my experience here for the next two weeks will positively enhance my going forward as a Christian educator, preacher, and church leader, and as a person of faith engaged in the world. I’m looking forward to finding out exactly how.
The text for my first sermon for preaching class this past semester was Mark 11:1-10, which is the author of Mark’s account of the entry of Jesus into Jerusalem. Jesus enters riding on a young colt, with crowds spreading their coats on the ground in front of him and waving palm branches, and shouting “Hosanna.”
For my first entry into Jerusalem, I rode in a “Nesher,” a shared airport taxi minivan with 9 other people. My flight landed at 5:45 pm and I probably left the airport about 6:30, so there was lots of evening traffic on the highway from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem. It was a beautiful evening and there was a warm, but comfortable breeze coming through the windows of the Nesher, and though it was a bit crowded, I was happy to be looking out the window at the beautiful, hilly and rocky land, seeing some of those first olive trees the Bible tells us about.
I noted when the Nesher passed through a checkpoint. It looked and felt like a tollbooth on the New Jersey turnpike or I-90 in Chicago – only there were no tolls to be collected. Just Israeli soldiers in uniform, carrying guns. This is what I’ve read about and heard about, I thought to myself, while also reminding myself that I have a lot more to see.
I was the last person to be dropped off at Tantur Ecumenical Institute, where my group is staying, so I got to see a lot of the different residential neighborhoods of the big, bustling metropolis. I did not realize how BIG and spread out Jerusalem is! And diverse in its neighborhoods. We stopped in one neighborhood where the crowds of people out and about and the characteristic dress of the Hasidic Jews stuck out to me and reminded me of a neighborhood near my brother’s old apartment in Brooklyn, NY. A downtown area where there were hotels and hostels was bustling in a different way, with people out going to stores and dinner. As twilight was turning into night, the Nesher driver dropped me off outside of the gate outside of Tantur’s campus, where a smiling Janelle (one of our two group leaders) was waiting for me with a big hug. As we walked up the hill to the campus building, a cool night breeze came with us, and Janelle pointed out roughly where Bethlehem and the West Bank were from where we were staying.
I wonder what Jesus would think about Jerusalem today.
As I write today, we are sitting at Ben Gurion airport waiting for the rest of our group to get here. There is a big open area where sliding doors open and people come in. We’ve heard a few groups singing, clapping, and cheering as their friends and family come out, and there are lots of helium balloons that have gotten away from greeters and floated up to the high ceiling in this large space. It has been fun to use my limited Hebrew reading skills to at least try to pronounce the words on the signs in the airport and in Jerusalem.
I’m ready for an adventure and a journey!
Meet the author: Hello world! I’m Anna. A few weeks ago I finished my second year of classes in the M. Div program at the Lutheran School of Theology at Chicago (LSTC) in the Hyde Park neighborhood of Chicago, IL, USA, and I am going through the candidacy process on the path to ordained ministry as a pastor in the ELCA.