No, havoc is not being wreaked in the Holy Land. Yes, you can come on pilgrimage. The Custody of the Holy Land is not ignoring the wave of violence that is taking place around the country. However, it calls pilgrims to try to understand what is truly happening in this Land.
The country remains safe and the pilgrimage paths have been unaffected by the current clashes.
In an interview with the San Francesco online magazine, the Custos answered the question: “What do you recommend to pilgrims willing to go to Jerusalem?”
“Pilgrims can leave [their home countries] with peace of mind because they belong to no groups between which, at this historic moment, there are tensions. Compared to recent months, this time period has had an increase in pilgrimages, which were organized prior to the recent events, and we hope that as a result of the current situation, there will be no cancellations for the upcoming fall/winter season, which is historically rich in pilgrimages.”
We must take into consideration the extremely localized nature in space and time of these conflicts. A Bethlehem resident interviewed on the quiet Sunday morning on November 12 at Rachel’s tomb replied: “In the morning, young people go to school!”
On the week October 5 to 11, many groups of pilgrims were able to visit the Esplanade of the Mosques, which to Jews is known as the Temple Mount. On Friday, October 9, the traditional Franciscan Way of the Cross took place as usual in the alleys of the old city, which included stops at stations IV and V. “It was intimate and collected,” said one participant.
The international press looks at these events by counting only the dead, the attacks and the, which are real; however, these remain limited. The media do not talk about the fact that every day in Jerusalem, Bethlehem, Nazareth and throughout the country, we live and we go to work. Israelis are working with Palestinians; shops are open, and many people continue to seek ways of living together. Many continue to preserve the current and future conditions of coexistence.
As far as pilgrimages to the Holy Land, they are a unique opportunity to walk in the footsteps of Christ, but they are also a concrete experience of solidarity with the Christians of this country.
Yes, coming on pilgrimage here is more necessary than ever in this country. Our Christian faith calls us to open our minds to the understanding of situations and to the hope that the same faith brings to us, which prohibits us from giving in to irrational fears.
Christians and religious congregations who live here can continue to sustain themselves thanks to the pilgrimages, and they are waiting for you to find reasons to hope! See you soon!