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Rabbi Rose & Father Argentzia at St. Peter's Basilica
Photo by Fenella Temmerman

Detail from a mural in the Jewish Quarter of the Old City of Jerusalem. A child from Temple times interacting with one from the present
Photo by Fenella Temmerman

Rabbi Rose, Yossi, Father Sam
Photo by Fenella Temmerman

Father Sam Argentiano at Capharnaum


Simone Cohen Scott, posted May 4, 2012


[Editor's note: This was written from Jerusalem  January 25, 2012 by th ewriter who participated on a trip to Rome and Jerusalem led by Rabbi Rose and Father Sam Argentiano from Winnipeg]

A certain delicacy is required to take a group of Catholics and Jews on a journey that explores the past of both peoples, particularly when their relationship has not always been sweetness and light. It requires a sensitive artiste, and that describes our Licensed Guide Yossi Dagan, who wove us a tapestry as we explored the sites, their topography, architecture, art, archaeology, even agriculture, threading the foundation and the strata of Jewish forefathers, Christianity’s founders, and everyone since. At times the progression began to blur for us, but nevertheless the pattern emerged—a mind expanding pattern.

The threads of the embroidery are many, beginning in earliest Bible times, for after all, this IS the land of the Bible, and the Bible is the matrix of both faiths. We traced and meditated upon the enigmatic evolution of our religions, the destruction of the Temple of the Jews just as that Jew, Jesus, had established a chavera. The first carries its internalized Common Law of biblical Judaism into the Galut or Diaspora, and the other’s message is taken out to the Gentiles, where it eventually permeates Rome, suppressing paganism and becoming the Church.

It took more than just our intention to make this pilgrimage so outstanding. We must credit the exceptional love and devotion of the historians, archaeologists, artisans, and museum designers, for the wonderful work that has been done here to discover, expose, and present, the truths of ages past. Besides the ancient synagogues and churches we visited, (We held services in some.), the history of our joint heritage was illuminated and articulated by painstaking excavations, restorations, and presentations.

On my side, as probably on everyone’s, certain stereotypes had been in place. But as this week in Israel proceeded, layered on the impressions we took from Rome, it began to feel like a family reunion, where far-flung strangers find they have great, great-grandparents in common, and each has traversed to this meeting by a different route.

Reality attempted to intrude on our nascent spirituality. Vying Christian factions at the Church of the Nativity in Bethlehem were rude to Father Sam when he began to hold a Mass, as were some women, to our women, at one of the ancient synagogues. Can you believe this? A member of our group was berated with: "You Christians don’t get your prayers answered because you don’t put your hands right. This is how you’re supposed to do it," and she demonstrated with open palms facing up. Later, we all soothed our hearts by watching that broom battle on the internet (between cleaners at a church who crossed into each others denominational spaces), and laughing at the foibles of religiosity.

Of course we had regular times of sharing special insights into the day’s revelations, or reading relevant Scripture references. Rabbi Rose and Father Sam alternately prayed for our day’s adventures as we started off each morning on the bus. I can’t imagine a better suited pair of clergy; they even look like brothers. And both being New Yorkers, they soon had us broadening our A’s and crossing streets in the middle.

As the bus approached Jerusalem, Rabbi Rose led us through the Psalms that were recited in Temple times, ascending to Jerusalem to celebrate the festivals-- the Songs of Ascent (Psalms 120 to 134). We all sang ‘Hine Ma Tov U-Ma Nayim, Shevet Achim Gam Yachad’, and meant it. It’ll be ready when next we greet the Pope.


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Rhonda Spivak, Editor

Publisher: Spivak's Jewish Review Ltd.

Opinions expressed in letters to the editor or articles by contributing writers are not necessarily endorsed by Winnipeg Jewish Review.