Leaders look forward to Holy Land trip

November 07, 2005|by DON AINES

HAGERSTOWN - How one interprets history often has to do with the perspective from which it is viewed and perhaps nowhere is that more so the case than Israel, the nexus of the three great monotheistic religions of the world - Judaism, Christianity and Islam.

Early next year, Rabbi Fred M. Raskind of Congregation B'nai Abraham in Hagerstown and the Rev. William H. Harter of Falling Spring Presbyterian Church in Chambersburg, Pa., will lead an interfaith tour that will offer participants differing viewpoints on the religious, historical, archaeological and cultural significance of key sites throughout the country.

Harter said the February trip to the region will be "number 36 or 37" in his career, including prior interfaith tours and a year he spent in Israel as a student.


"I've only been there once, but I've read the book extensively," joked Raskind, the rabbi at Congregation B'nai Abraham since August 2003. His previous trip, he said, included some Christian sites that were "important to me, not just historically, but religiously. It was important for me to experience that."

"He has an extraordinary background in Judaism and I have a strong background in Christianity," Raskind said. Together, they will provide perspectives travelers might not get on a purely Jewish or Christian tour, he said.

"If a church group goes, it's going to emphasize ... those sites of particular interest to Christians and those Jewish and Biblical sites that feed into Christianity," Raskind said. A Jewish tour, he said, would tend to focus on the places of importance to that faith's history and development.

Harter said it is important for Christians to experience a history of Judaism that extends beyond the Old Testament.

"Judaism did not stop with the first century. It continues to be a living, mutual covenant religion," he said.

"Christians should understand how much we share," said Harter, who noted that baptism is a religious rite that predates the faith and the monastic tradition can be traced back to sects such as the Essenes.

One does not have to be a Christian or a Jew to take part in the tour, Harter said.

"We may have Muslim participants on the tour and we welcome that," he said.

Some of the sites, such as the Western Wall and adjacent Temple Mount, are significant to all three religions and interpretation of Islam's role will be offered, he said.

"In so many places there are so many layers" of history, Raskind said. That is literally the case at many sites, where excavations have uncovered evidence dating to the Neolithic Period as well as Phoenician, Hebrew, Roman and Christian civilizations, forward into the period of the Crusades, he said.

The two-week trip leaves from Washington, D.C., on Feb. 15 and returns Feb. 28. A short list of stops includes Caesarea, Megiddo, Mount Carmel, Nazareth, the Sea of Galilee, Jerusalem, Jericho, the Holocaust museum at Yad Vashem and Masada.

An optional extension through March 4 includes stops at Petra, a Nabatean city carved into rock cliffs, and Eilat.

More information about the interfaith tour is available at the synagogue Web site,

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