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Interfaith Trip to Israel on Inaugural Non-Stop United Flight

06/19/2019 04:07:18 PM


Seth Leventhal

Recently, Rabbi Amy joined with Pastor Mike Trivett of Christian Fellowship Church and Syed Alam of the ADAMS Center on a historic trip to Jerusalem, to help inaugurate United Airlines’ (who Syed works for) non-stop route to Israel. They were approved to fly on the maiden flight on this route. Here’s an excerpt from their proposal to United outlining the historic significance of this trip:

“We believe that the opportunity to bring a Rabbi, a Muslim leader, and a Pastor to walk together in the streets of Jerusalem and beyond will not only help to celebrate this launch of this route, but will symbolize the desire for peace in a land which is important and cherished by all three faiths.    We also are hopeful that such a gesture will show the remarkable power of relationship to overcome stereotypes and differences which tend, for the most part, to be a source of division rather than of love, mutual admiration, the rooting for success, and the mutual objective of security in all things.”

Following are a few highlights reported by Rabbi Amy from this short but eventful trip:

"Our trip began at the United terminal gate at Dulles Airport where the airline was holding an inaugural party replete with falafel, Israeli salad and baklava.  Among the speeches and announcements, our interfaith clergy trio was recognized. 

[First evening after arrival], Syed went to evening prayers and Pastor Mike and I walked to the Western Wall through the Dung Gate, the southeastern gate.  I showed Pastor Mike Robinson’s Arch and explained the ongoing and somewhat acrimonious discussion among the liberal Jewish movements, the ultra-orthodox and the Israeli government about designating Robinson Arch as the official egalitarian prayer space on par with the men’s and women’s sections.  I entered the women’s section, touched the Wall, and prayed the Shema and its blessings.  Despite my reservations about the area related to the controversy, it felt reassuring to be able to feel the Wall against my hand.

The next morning, we stopped in on the Church of Mary Magdalene. Beside this church is the Garden of Gesthemane, Jesus’s last resting place before the Romans caught up with him to be arrested.  One thing I learned is how to pronounce Gesthemane! (geth - seh (accented) - ma – knee)

From the Church we headed to the Old City and entered through the Lion’s Gate, the northeastern gate, into the Muslim Quarter. We joined families coming to spend the day on the Temple Mount, or for the Muslims, the Al Aqsa Mosque near the Dome of the Rock.  Not being Muslim and it not being visiting hours, neither Pastor Mike nor I would be allowed in the area. I have visited the Dome of the Rock one time, during an earlier visit to Israel in the early 1990s.  You can descend into a cave that features the sacred stone which may have stood at the center of the First Temple built by King Solomon. It is also thought to be the site where Abraham brought Isaac to be sacrificed and where he learned not to. That site is also the place where Mohammad is believed to have experienced his midnight journey to heaven. 

We continued walking through the Muslim Quarter into the Christian Quarter to the Holy Sepulchre. Constantine had the Church of the Holy Sepulchre built in the 4th century once he converted to Christianity. He believed it important to mark and make sacred the places that Jesus visited. The Church of the Holy Sepulchre is large, is governed by several different Christian religions including Roman Catholic, Armenian, Coptic, Ethiopian, Greek Orthodox, and Syriac in a complicated arrangement.  The Church contains within it the last four stops on the Via Dolorosa, the route that Jesus walked on his way to his crucifixion.

Leaving the Christian Quarter, we rejoined the crowds and returned to the Arab market.  As the time for the main prayer service of Ramadan neared, Syed left us to join the throngs heading to Al Aqsa and Pastor Mike and I headed to the Jewish Quarter.  After the Muslim prayer service, Pastor Mike and I returned to the Muslim quarter to wait for Syed.  It was like watching a parade as people streamed by—people returning to work or to home or to continue their visit to Jerusalem if they had come from out of town to celebrate Ramadan.  Once reunited we returned to the Jewish quarter for lunch and a photo in front of the large menorah that decorates the central square.  

After lunch we headed back through the Muslim Quarter in order to exit the old city through the Damascus Gate, the gate in the mid-northern part of the city. This would bring us near to the Garden Tomb, the site where Jesus is believed to have been buried and then resurrected.  We left the Garden Tomb after 3 pm.  Western Jerusalem was getting ready for Shabbat and I had to prepare for my return flight that evening.  We found a taxi that would take us near to our hotel.  Back at the hotel, we drank some tea, rested from the 100 degree heat, and reflected on the 24 amazing and full hours we had together."

Click here to see some photos from this trip.



Fri, December 8 2023 25 Kislev 5784