Magazine article Washington Report on Middle East Affairs

Living Stones Pilgrimage: With the Christians of the Holy Land

Magazine article Washington Report on Middle East Affairs

Living Stones Pilgrimage: With the Christians of the Holy Land

Article excerpt

Living Stones Pilgrimage: With the Christians of the Holy Land

By Alison Hilliard and Betty Jane Bailey. University of Notre Dame Press, 1999, 132 pp. List: $15. AET: $13.50

Reviewed by Fred Strickert

One day an Israeli tour guide was explaining the physical structures near the Jaffa Gate in Old City Jerusalem. "There, see the man wearing a keffiyeh, the one holding the shopping bags in his hands?" The guide spoke while pointing with his hand. "Just beyond him you can see the ancient stones of the tower of David."

At that moment a priest walked by. "There, see the tall structure of block stones, the one called the tower of David?" He too pointed in the same direction. "Just this side of the tower you can see one of the living stones of Palestine going about his daily business."

The Holy Land is all about stones. Traditional guidebooks describe archeological sites and historic buildings. Tour buses pass from one location to the next.

"So what have you seen?" I often ask tourists as they disembark from an air-conditioned bus. "Stones. Lots of stones," is the common response. "Megiddo, Caesarea, Sepphoris, I can't keep them all straight. After a couple sites, the stones all look alike."

For those tourists who have made connections with the local community, there is often an added response: "What we remember best are the people."

These are the Living Stones of the Holy Land.

In recent years, Christian leaders in the Holy Land have been encouraging tourists to seek out travel agents who offer "alternative tourism" or "authentic tourism" packages. If theirs is a traditional tour, then they are urged to at least attempt to worship with the local community or request an information session on one of the free days.

Living Stones Pilgrimage by Alison Hilliard and Betty Bailey is the perfect guide to slip in one's backpack to enable those living stones connections. …

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