Mary Magdalene crossed the Mediterranean to France as a refugee. She brought the Jesus story to Provence. Each year Catholics reenact her arrival on the beach at Sainte Maries de la Mer. Last month Lin and I spent two weeks visiting sites where she lived and taught.
We were on pilgrimage when Hamas massacred Israelis and took hostages. The next day we climbed a mountain to where Magdalene lived. It was our daughter Zoeann’s birthday so we prayed for her and included Mary Anne, my ill sister, and our close friend Sharon Boyd who was dying. That night we learned Zoe, a visual journalist with the Washington Post, was being sent to cover the war. We focused our prayers.
This wasn’t my first experience of pilgrimage and war. As a Vietnam Veteran I marched against my war. These were pilgrimages of hope that we could save lives. Decades later I did a Buddhist pilgrimage in North Vietnam to reconcile my war experiences. I hoped Vietnam and America could become friends. It took more than prayer but our countries moved past the hatred.
This can happen in the Holy Land which is sacred to Muslims, Jews and Christians. Hamas committed mass murder and kidnapped hundreds. Israeli bombs have killed more. There is no hope when each side chooses revenge in the name of defense and justice. An eye for an eye leaves everyone blind.
Benzion Sanders, an Israeli veteran invaded Gaza in 2014. He wrote in the New York Times “All our causalities and the suffering brought on the Palestinians in Gaza accomplished nothing since our leaders refused to work on creating a political reality in which more violence would not be inevitable”.
Let’s create a pilgrimage for peace, hope and shared living in the Holy Land.