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

Dear Diary... After the woman calling from the Israeli Government Tourist Office said those magical, three little words, the most beautiful in any language, "all expenses paid", she had me sold but didn't know it..

Out of the World and Into the Kingdom--Faher Joe Landi's journey from pagan to priesthood by Rissa Singson Fr. Joe Landi

.            The invitation was good news and a lifelong dream come true--a trip to the Holy Land. "I rejoiced when they said to me, 'Let us go to the house of the Lord.'" (Psalm 122-1) Many people have told me that visiting the Holy Land changed their life. Visiting the land where Jesus and the Christian faith were born has got to have a profound effect. Being there during Lent and following in the footsteps of Jesus on His final way along the Via Dolorosa is bound to be a moving experience. Pat Boone said of his experience in visiting the Holy Land, "No one can visit these places and return the same. I am blessed each time I visit Israel, and my trips there have provided memories I will cherish always. The Bible says we are to pray for the peace of Jerusalem (Psalm 122-6)." What better place to do this than in the Holy City itself?

The bad news was that the trip to the Holy Land included an "invitation" to attend the Holy Land 2000 Leaders’ Conference. I surmised, "We're going to spend a lot of time in stuffy meetings, listening to propaganda about what a great place Israel is to visit—doesn’t sound like much fun."

"No, No," she hastened to assure me. "There will be numerous organized tours, visiting Christian sites, meetings with Christian representing different denominations and with government leaders--most probably Israel's Prime Minister. You will visit the Holy Places in Galilee, Jerusalem, and Bethlehem. You will be in Tel Aviv, Jaffa and meet with the Latin Patriarch of Jerusalem." She was on a roll.

"What about accommodations" I inquired. "I've been sleeping alone lately and find it preferable to sharing with someone--even someone that I know, much less a stranger." Undeterred, she continued her roll, "Oh no! This is a first-class conference sponsored by the Government of Israel, Ministry of Tourism--private rooms in first-class hotels--we want to show you why Israel is the official destination of pilgrims for the new millennium--this is first-class all the way." "Does that mean", I interrupted, seeing how far I could milk this invitation before verbally saying "yes" to the tour, "With a first-class air ticket to Israel?" It sounded like she swallowed her tongue.

She was trying to regain momentum while apologizing that it was a "coach" ticket. All the while I'm figuring mentally that it's probably a seventeen-hour flight from Los Angeles. Even while recalling the "coach" flight to Italy, which I shared with my nephew David, that was the longest seven hours of my life, and remembering what a misnomer the word "coach" is, I still let her off the hook. "I would be willing to pay for an up-grade to business-class from "sardine-class" if a seat is available." "I'll look into it for you," she graciously volunteered.

In the meantime, I phoned El Al and found that it was around $700 difference in price from sardine to business-class, figuring that my nephew, David, who has always been a soft touch, would pay for the difference. Affordable—that's the good news. The bad news came from the woman at the Israeli Government Tourist Office calling back with a response to my offer to purchase an up-grade, "Unfortunately, since the ticket is free, you can not purchase an up-grade by making up the price difference between a coach and business-class ticket." Let's see now if I understand Israeli economics in this case? The theory must be: A 100% of nothing is better than a 100% of something.

A visit to the Holy Land should be that of a pilgrim, not that of a tourist going for temporal gratification. Pilgrims undertake physical pilgrimages for their interior completeness. Pilgrims need to fulfill inner yearnings to walk where the holy ones of the Christian Way walked. For the pilgrim, the name Holy Land alone evokes the sources of our faith. However, there is also the sites of Judaism and Islam combined with important archaeological excavations to create an unparalleled experience, whatever one’s belief. So, I’ve gotten into my pilgrim mode.

"Just one more thing," reads the pamphlet that accompanied the ticket. "Devout Jews are required to stop whatever they're doing and pray three times a day whether on dry land, sailing the oceans or flying 40,000 feet high over the Swiss Alps. So, there'll be times, particularly as dawn breaks, when lots of your fellow passengers will gather in the aisles or the doorways to hold a prayer service. Some may wear woolen or silk prayer shawls, and some may wrap their arms and foreheads with leather phylacteries. Actually, you find we Israelis like to move around a lot on board during the flight. Sometimes, it can get like a big party. We like to stroll. And chat. And make friends. And explore. It can get very friendly!" United, please take note.

Visiting the places where the biblical history of the Holy Land unfolded is enough of a call to take on a seventeen-hour flight. Well, at least it is now, before I get off the ground and wedged into a seat on the airplane. Besides, I can get up, put on my Yarmulke (skull cap), and join the prayer walk--Hebrew can sound a lot like speaking in tongues.    

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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