It’s a great feeling to be heading into our second night at St. George’s College in Jerusalem looking back on so many new experiences. Our clothes are unpacked, our money is exchanged, we’re remembering not to flush the toilet paper, and we know where to find breakfast.
But those are just the practical details. The parts we’ll remember are that we were greeted here last night and again this morning with enormous warmth, we’ve made new friends, smelled exotic herbs and flowers and eaten things called “shakshukra” and “maqloubeh” and “knoffeh.” This very moment we’re hearing firecrackers that celebrate the Jewish feast of Purim.
Since our program hasn’t begun yet, we’re making our own agendas. This morning we walked the short distance to Old Jerusalem, wandered through the markets and caught up the spirit of a group of pilgrims praying and singing in Spanish as they walked the Via Dolorosa. This afternoon following a friend’s suggestion, we visited the small Palestinian village of Abu Gosh to see the Benedictine Abbey of St. Mary of the Resurrection, a medieval Crusaders’ church. In the midst of the turmoil we associate with Israel, this ancient abbey rests tranquilly on grounds that include a small graveyard and acres of palm trees and cyclamen. There was a brief closure of the grounds in the late afternoon which gave us the time us to climb a long hill to the top of the town, then descend, two very out-of-place but not unwelcome Americans, cold and hungry. We were rewarded with the discovery of a single-table size local pastry/coffeeshop that had its own way of bringing us a little closer to heaven.
Finally the Monastery reopened for the monastic service of Vespers sung by the resident of monks and nuns. As the sun set we listened to their voices echoing off the walls and ceiling of that ancient building. An unforgettable end to a full day of discovery. –Margy Collom
St. George’s College
Spices in a Jerusalem Market