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HLD 2020: An unforgettable week


There’s a famous art display in the Israel Museum (Jerusalem) called “Gathering of Strangers”. It’s an arrangement of colored light bulbs that spells the words “Gathering of Strangers.” Many museum visitors read the phrase and think, “That’s just how I would describe my time in Jerusalem.”

What began as a gathering of strangers in Holy Land Dialogues (HLD) 2020 ended as a gathering of new friends from all over the world.

While each of the four buses were organized by language, a diversity of countries was represented. In an English-speaking bus, there were participants from the United Kingdom, Ireland, United States, Belgium, and Canada (Singapore and New Zealand were unfortunately unable to attend because of the COVID-19 outbreak). On a Spanish-speaking bus, you might meet people from Spain, Costa Rica, Argentina, El Salvador, Mexico, or Guatemala. Participants were able to share impressions and stories with others from different backgrounds. 

An HLD like none other

HLD 2020 wasn’t quite like previous Holy Land Dialogues. On one hand, the trip started in Galilee for the first time, so the travelers could devote two full days to visiting the sites there before driving down to Jerusalem.

On the other hand, HLD participants were able to spend all of Wednesday morning listening to lectures on HLD 2020’s theme, forgiveness, at the Notre Dame of Jerusalem center. The keynote speakers of the day, co-sponsored by the Social Trends Institute, were Ruth Fine of the Hebrew University of Jerusalem, and Mariano Crespo of the University of Navarra. 

HLD Talks makes its debut

In addition, HLD featured a new set of talks in the evenings called HLD Talks, where HLD participants gathered to listen to locals talk about life in the Holy Land. Some of the highlights were Nazareth-based entrepreneur Imad Younis, CNN correspondent Jose Levy, and the founder of Tag Meir (United Against Racism), Gadi Gvaryahu. Participants also learned about the Emmaus Trail from Henri Gourinard of Polis Institute, and about the history of Jewish-Christian relations from Yisca Harani.

As for visiting the sites in the Holy Land…it’s hard to think of what participants didn’t do. They walked in the silence of the Judean Desert, danced on a boat on the Sea of Galilee, and heard bells ring in the Basilica of the Annunciation in Nazareth. They inhaled the spices of the Old City of Jerusalem, bent their heads to enter the Church of the Nativity in Bethlehem, and breathed the fresh air of Ein Karem, the place of the Mary’s visitation to Elizabeth. 

All too soon, the week came to an end – but we hope that the friendships forged in this week won’t. The Saxum staff is looking forward to the next HLD!

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