Real-Time Blogging from Israel and the West Bank
By Auburn
June 09, 2010

By Martin Erhardt (Princeton Theological Seminary) and Aaron Finkelstein (Yeshivat Chovevei Torah)

[Editor's note: Sixteen future religious leaders - rabbinic students and Christian seminarians - are traveling throughout Israel and the West Bank this week to engage in learning and dialogue about the hottest of Jewish-Christian issues - Israel/Palestine.]

Our first full day in Jerusalem began with presentations about intercultural dialogue between Israeli Jews and Israeli Arabs, many of whom know little of the experiences of their counterparts. Rabbi Ron Kronish, founder and director of the Interreligious Coordinating Council in Israel, and Margaret Karram, an Arab-Israeli-Palestinian-Catholic who is active in the Focolare movement, higlighted the insularity of cultural groups within Israel. They told us that Jews and Palestinians often encounter one another superficially in public places, but seldom have meaningful relationships outside of their own communities.

Next we visited the site where Jesus ate the Last Supper, which happens to be above the room where King David is buried - a testament to the power of inter-millenial coordination. In the Last Supper room, our colleague Chad Kim (Princeton Theological Seminary) read the account from the Gospel of Luke and gave a brief reflection on the significance of the Last Supper for contemporary Christian practice in the Anglican tradition.

Later in the day, most of the group ascended the Temple Mount and learned about the Al-Aqsa Mosque and the Dome of the Rock. Some rabbinic students went to a ritual bath, or mikveh, to spiritually prepare beforehand, and a few refrained from visiting the Temple Mount for religious reasons.

Our final stop of the day was the Christian Quarter, led by the intrepid Daniel Rossing of the Jerusalem Center for Jewish Christian Relations. After a visual tour of Jerusalem from the rooftop of the Church of the Holy Sepulchre, Chad told us, "I was energized by the sounds of a vespers service and a muezzin calling for prayer even more than by the Christian sites themselves."

Each night after dinner we engage each other in dialogue about the events of the day. Last night we also prepared for the logistics of the checkpoints that we'll pass through in order to get to Bethlehem tomorrow night.