I received a job to guide a group of Protestants on pilgrimage from Kenya, Uganda, Tanzania, & Rwanda, who despite being Protestants, wanted a more Roman Catholic iterinary.The following is my tour of Jerusalem with these pilgrims./My iterinary was handed to me in advance.
After picking me up at Latrun, I started our day at Emmaus: Reading from Luke about Jesus & his appearance to two of his disciples. I also pointed out Tel Ayalon in ParK Canada connecting it with the battle fought by Joshua against the Canaanites & reading from Joshua.
We proceeded up Route 1 where I gave my tourists a good dose of Zionism with the Battle For the Roads..siege of Jerusalem & the Jordanian occupation of this area. I firmly believe that it is healthy to remind pilgrims that they are in the Jewish state of Israel even as we follow in the footsteps of Jesus.
I then had my group enter Jerusalem through Ein Kerem & pointed out the churches connected to the Visitation.
Our next stop was Yad Vashem. My assignment….to guide the Shoah Museum in just one hour. My East African pilgrims were in tears as they left the museum….some, especially the Rwandans understood genocide all too well. Asked how Cultured Christian Europeans could carry out genocide…we got into a healthy discussion of the impact of the charge of Deicide against the Jewish people for 2,000 years laying the groundwork for this genocide. It also surprised my pilgrims that nowhere in the entire New Testament does it say that the Jews killed Jesus. I explained that this act was carried out by Pontius Pilate & the Romans…all Gentiles. This would also not justify persecuting & murdering Gentiles in revenge. This they internalized in tears as they began to understand what I was telling them.
Next stop….the Government compound on Givat Ram for a explanation on Israeli democracy.
We then stopped at Kibbutz Ramat Rachel for an overlook of Bethlehem & the Church of the Nativity. I also talked about the Palaces of the Judean Kings at Ramat Rachel while reading from Jeremiah. I also talked about this area as being the traditional place in Christianity that Mary, pregnant with Jesus & her husband Joseph stopped to rest while en route to Bethlehem. Also, another dose of Zionism with an explanation of the Jordanian trenches we were standing on.
Next stop: Goldman Promenade & an explanation of the the view of Jerusalem & the location of the Mount of Olives & the churches on it connected with the last days of Jesus.
After lunch: Church of the Holy Sepulcher. Yes, these are Protestants who wanted not the Garden Tomb, but preferred the Church of the Holy Sepulcher. We toured Golgotha, the Sepulcher, the Armenian Chapel, Helena chapel, the Chapel of Adam…& gave the pilgrims the whole history of the church as well as the explanation of the lack of up keep of the church….infighting among Christians over who is in control there.
We then proceeded down the Cardo to the Jewish quarter & a visit to the Kotel & an explanation of the Temple Mount & the Jewish Temple, Dome of the Rock, Al Aska, & the sites around & on the Temple Mount relative to Jesus during his last days as related in the New Testament.
As we left through the Dung Gate my Protestant East Africans had questions for me. Are those people they saw with the funny clothes (Jewish Haredi) Christian Jews? After explaining what they were & why they dressed that way, I was asked why I did not dress that way….leading to another healthy discussion on different denominations of Judaism…which led to "you are a Jew but are not religious? I explained I am a secular Zionist Jew who does believe in G-d in a way that the entire universe is alive & all humans & all things are part of that living universe (Spinoza & a healthy influence of Native American Indian folklore)….confusing them even more.
But, my tourists came away very happy with their pilgrimage to Jerusalem. They were all very sad to say goodbye to me: embarrassing me beyond description….& I felt that I had indeed connected to genuinely nice, curious people on religious pilgrimage who felt very satisfied with their tour.