by Fr. Joe Landi, Editor of the San Francisco Charismatics  

About Fr. Landi Out of the World and Into the Kingdom--His journey to priesthood by Rissa Singson. Suggested Books about Israel: The man with a camera has replaced the Chassidic storyteller in At the Wall (1998 Hardcopy, $19.96) by Ron Agam. The Birth of Israel (1999 Paperback, $11.96) by Marlin Levin , The Christian Traveler's Guide to the Holy Land (1998 Paperback $15.99) by Charles H. Dyer, Greg Hatteberg, Greg Hattelberg.  Bookes are hyperlinked to

Suggested Reading

Dear Diary... Last week, I spent a month in the Holy Land. Not that the time dragged, but by what was crammed into one week. It began as the El Al flight touched down at Tel Aviv’s Airport.

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We broke into spontaneous applause if for no other reason than to break the boredom of a seventeen-hour flight. At that point, I was so tired that I didn’t care if we had belly-landed. Anything to get off that plane, freed from Sardine Class, and its playful, but Kosher food which, was good, albeit served in those cute little plates commonly used at doll house tea parties and airplanes. The smoked salmon and freshly toasted bagels for breakfast were a nice touch. Perhaps it was a reward for surviving the menacing Israeli security personnel at LAX. They give new depth to the meaning of "checking in"—are you now or have you ever been a "terrorist." "Did you pack your bags—did they ever leave your sight?" he asked several times with beady eyes looking directly into mine. His inquisition amounted to: Are you dumb enough to let someone you didn’t know give you a ticking package to carry on the plane.

The exit at Tel Aviv through Israeli customs was smoothed by the staff presence of our hosts from the Israeli Government Tourist Office. They greeted us warmly with flowers, gave us identifying badges, and ushered us into sparkling new buses for the trip to Jerusalem where we were to be housed for the first few days of the Holy Land 2000 Leaders Conference. The landscape viewed from the huge picture windows of our bus was aglow with wild flowers. They were the first blush of Spring and seemed to be popping up wherever the land is not covered with the annoyances of human inhabitants.

There are many reasons to visit the Holy Land besides getting an "all expenses paid" trip—my favorite three words. To celebrate 2000 years of Christianity where it all began seems to be high on the list of reasons. For those for whom that alone is the reason for a Holy Land pilgrimage, you are a few years too late. The 3rd millennium began no later than 1997. Dennis the Short, (Dionysius Exiguus) a 6th century monk, laid a shaky foundation for the calendar we use today by miscalculating how far in the past was Christ’s birth. Historians now place the Nativity in the year of King Herod’s death, around 4 BC, using our present calendar.

According to many, the big reason for not going to visit the Holy Land, besides the cost, seems to be "it’s too dangerous there". The over 500 delegates to the Leadership 2000 Conference would disagree. We sensed the tranquility, what has been done to make a trip to the Holy Land an adventure of a lifetime, and want to help change the image that the Holy Land is a dangerous place. "We are all Abraham’s children," one Palestinian remarked about their ongoing problems. "And like children everywhere, we sometimes fight. But we’re working on coming to an understanding so we can all welcome the Christian pilgrims" (and the money they will bring). There were no signs of a holy or un-holy war. In some of our major cities, there is probably more of a chance of getting shot, run-over, or mugged than in the Holy Land.

"Although Bethlehem’s history… has often been marked by violence, the city still stands as a promise of peace and an assurance that the human hope for peace is not in vain," Pope John Paul II reportedly told Palestinian Leader, Arafat, who was in Rome and coordinated his invitation to the Pope to visit the Holy Land to coincide with the 2000 Leadership Conference. "I hope I can be there," the pontiff told him.

The cooperation and cordiality between the Palestinian and Israeli tourist bureaus was very evident. Israeli Tourism Minister, Moshe Katsav, told us that his government has invested nearly $500 million in preparation for the millennial celebration. "It is our duty and we are doing it out of respect to the Christian World," he told us.

In Bethlehem where we here hosted at a luncheon at the Paradise Hotel, the Palestinian Minister of Tourism, Mitri Abu Aita told us that since the signing of the Oslo Agreement, Bethlehem has been undergoing a massive face-lift to prepare for the pilgrims. Narrow streets are being widened, 2,000 hotel rooms would be available by next year, and the new Gaza airport is now open, urging us to encourage airlines in our home countries to make use of it when bringing pilgrims to the Holy Land. "For us Palestinians," said Mr. Aita, "Bethlehem 2000 is a new beginning...a chance to show the world that Bethlehem is still a city of peace." Since his appointment last summer he has been instrumental in getting regional cooperation with Egypt, Jordan and Israel as a strategy for encouraging tourism to the Holy Land during the year 2000 of the Christian Era.

The Vatican’s new ambassador for Israel and Palestine, Monsignor Pietro Sampi, told us, "Jesus himself welcomes the visitors to Bethlehem," and that "Christians from all over the world will come as brothers of the Jews and Muslims… not as enemies."

Your visit will effect you profoundly. Expect the Gospels to come alive with new insights as if you are hearing them for the first time. One cannot help being refreshed after seeing where he was born, where he walked, the Sea of Galilee where he calmed the waters—where he changed water into wine, where he gave the marvelous sermon on the mount, and where he died that we might understand the true meaning of life—to serve God and one another. You’ll come away from the Holy Land with a resolve to help make this new millennium truly the Christian Era.

  Fr. Joe Landi is a Parochial Vicar at St. Cecilia Parish, San Francisco, the Archbishop’s Liaison to the Charismatic Renewal, the editor of the San Francisco Charismatics and Board Chair of the Sierra Point credit Union, South San Francisco, which now serves the South San Francisco Community, parochial schools in San Mateo County, and the Charismatic Renewal. Opinions expressed are his own.

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