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Holy Land Lenten Pilgrimage canceled

Anna Boarini | Tuesday, January 24, 2012

A popular and distinctive spring break option offered to students last year has been withdrawn due to logistical difficulties. The Theology and Campus Ministry Departments cancelled this semester’s Holy Land Lenten Pilgrimage, which was to have travelled through Jerusalem, Galilee and Bethlehem.

Students going on the Theology department and Campus Ministry sponsored trip received an email earlier this week informing them of the trip’s cancellation. The email was signed by Theology department chair J. Matthew Ashley and interim director of Campus Ministry Fr. Joe Carey.

According to the email, “insurmountable logistical problems” contributed to the cancellation of the trip.

Ashley said living arrangements were a concern with the trip as planned.

“First, there were space constraints at Tantur [an ecumenical institute for theological studies based in Jerusalem], but we were able to work around those,” he said.

Budget constraints were also an issue, Ashley said.

“The second and more serious problem had to do with airfares,” he said. “The prices are extremely volatile, making it impossible to fix a price for the participants and be sure we could stay within our budget.”

Along with the price of airfare, Ashley said safety concerns came into question when planning the flight over to Israel.

“There was a serious question as to whether we could secure a block of seats for all the participants on the same flight,” he said. “Because of security issues all of the participants have to travel together.”

Last March, a group of students, including junior Colin King, was able to travel to the Holy Land. King said the group’s accommodations were unlike anything he has experienced.

“We stayed at Tantur, a Notre Dame residence right on the border of Israeli controlled Jerusalem and Palestinian controlled Bethlehem,” he said. “It’s about a five-minute walk from the massive walls surrounding Bethlehem.”

During the day, the students on the trip would travel to holy sites and at night they would learn about the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. Junior Jackie Bacon said this academic aspect was especially interesting.

“It was really cool for me as an Arabic major, learning more about the conflict and being in the moment, seeing how the conflict plays out for these people,” she said. “We were learning what is happening in this part of the world and then seeing the conflict happen when we were walking around.”

While King also enjoyed the academic side of the trip and the insight into the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, he said the trip truly deepened his faith.

“This trip was first and foremost a spiritual experience, we went to these unbelievable holy places,” he said. “This gave me some tangible sights and images to places that I have always heard about. You read the Bible and now you can picture what you read.”