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Israel pilgrimage opportunity to experience quiet spirituality

placeholder February 8, 2016   •   VOL. 54, NO. 3   •   Oakland, CA

Author Nina M. Riccio with Matt Hadro of the Catholic News Agency at a typical dinner at Eldiar restaurant in Haifa. Hummus, tabouli, baba ganoush, marinated vegetables, pita and other goodies were put out on the table before we even ordered our meal.

Israel pilgrimage opportunity to experience
quiet spirituality

Most of us think of pilgrimages as intensely religious experiences, meant to amplify one's faith. But what I found during my week in Israel was less of an overwhelmingly religious encounter; instead, it was an opportunity to experience a quiet spirituality.

The "Catholic Pilgrimage to the Holy Land" was a weeklong tour put together by the Israeli Ministry of Tourism. Four journalists from different Catholic publications around the country participated. Naturally, our tour focused on sites important to Christendom, with a few surprises thrown in as well.

It's impossible to sum up a trip to the Holy Land in a few sentences. After all, this is a 68-year-old country with a history measured in millennia. Suffice to say that it's a nation full of surprises, a place where Jews and Muslims live and work side-by-side in the market, shop in each other's stores and share so much in terms of cuisine and history and religion. You'd never expect that from listening to the news. And given the shadow of the Holocaust all around, it was surprising to note the obvious German influence, both in terms of architecture (the Bauhaus apartments in Tel Aviv, for example), and in products. I learned that the River Jordan is narrow enough to skip a stone across, that the Second Temple was almost a quarter the size of the entire city of Jerusalem, and that it's illegal to cut down an olive tree.

Next: Our first stops.

(Nina M. Riccio is a Connecticut-based traveler and freelance writer focusing on education, health and family issues.)

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