After traveling overnight from New York City to Tel Aviv and then to Jerusalem, it was suppertime and our group was hungry. It was an interesting evening to be looking for a meal. First of all, it was a fast day for the Jews, commemorating the destruction of the Temple. Second, it is also Ramadan, which means Muslims are fasting during the day.
I am moved when the devotion of religious followers includes discipline about food. Abstaining from meals can surely get ones attention, and is surely the point. Becoming mindful about daily rhythms and then breaking the fast with a celebrative meal is a constructive spiritual practice.
Early Christians were much more attentive to times of fasting; giving two days a week to this holy habit cultivated prayer and a sense of humility. They were able to enter more fully the world of “the least of these” and offer charity with what they had saved.
We did find a meal, but the very slow service suggested that the kitchen was pay attention to a religious clock—sundown—more than the pace of these hungry Americans. The deliberate pace of our meal helped us be more grateful, I believe.
We begin our study together this Wednesday morning, and I am eager to enter a time of transformative learning. The level of instruction is of highest quality, and my colleagues are nimble scholars. I hope to keep up!
The Shalom Hartman Institute is located approximately a mile from our hotel, so walking each way will be a prayerful time early and late. The best way to see Jerusalem is to walk, of course. In addition to the daily schedule at the Institute, we will have some time in the evenings to walk the Old City, as well as visit other stunning vistas.
We will enjoy many good meals while here, but we will be fed at a deeper level as we think how Jews and Christians can understand our long kinship and our shared future. It is my prayer that this time of learning will strengthen my vocation as president of Central, a place of hospitality, generativity, and diversity.
Molly T. Marshall
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