Israel: a theological experience.

Living in Israel is such a rich experience that those who live here are able to enter theoretically and physically into the world of the Bible. During the recent summer Bat Kol Program, I was able to better perceive the Jewish perspective and spirituality with regard to the land of Israel. We had some lectures in the classroom and we also made some topographical excursions in places like Galilee, Temple Mount and some synagogues.

It is incredible to realize every effort the State of Israel makes to keep the memory of this Land and its greatness as fertile soil, where Judaism has germinated for millennia. All the notable initiatives of the State and of the population to preserve the history of the place demonstrate the biblical and theological background that surrounds the Jewish unconscious.

There are some physical experiences that far surpass any theoretical reading. It is only when one faces the aridity of the desert and the heat of the region during the summer that this person becomes aware of what “water” actually means in biblical language. It takes only five or ten minutes to observe the city from the top of the several mountains of Jerusalem to realize what it really means to be led to the mountain by Satan to be tempted. In fact, it is on the mountain that we can see better the whole length of the city, which somehow gives us the feeling of possessing all what we can see, as if it were there as something to be conquered, hence the temptation of power.

In addition, every stone in Israel tells a lot about history. Stones symbolize endurance, permanence, eternity. It is not by chance that the Torah was first written in stones. The archaeological sites that I visited during the course are carefully preserved and the stones that once were part of a house, a temple, a synagogue, remain there, not in the same position because despite the resistance of the stone, even the largest temple can be demolished, and that is why the prophet said that one day the Lord would make a New Covenant written not in stones, but in the heart of his people (Jer 31:33).

Another very enriching experience was visiting synagogues during Kabalat Shabbat. Seeing the Jewish people praying, singing and celebrating the same faith of their ancestors, remembering, through each one of the readings, the not-so-easy path that their ancestors have passed through. All this generates the awareness of a covenant that has not been abolished at all. This experience brought to mind the concreteness of interfaith discourse (which sometimes seems to be quite vague) which says that God’s call is irrevocable. Those people in the synagogue, praying and praising, are clear evidences that God remains with his people and communicates with it.

by Br. Joel Moreira, NDS.

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