When I was a child, in the age before mass air travel and workaday contract work in the Middle East, people talked about a very special experience called a “Pilgrimage to the Holy Land”. It meant being able to go the actual Jerusalem. Back then, it hardly seemed possible that I should ever do this, and might I reach ever these hallowed precincts it seemed equally unlikely I would know what to do. Yet one of the great things about the Belmont Club is that it afforded the opportunity to go places that would otherwise never have been accessible. One of those opportunities turned out to be a trip to Jerusalem, where I played the pilgrim. Later, I went to Sderot, where I played a pilgrim of a different sort.
The word pilgrim literally means “one who has come from afar”, but as pilgrims themselves often discover, nothing is settled by being on the road. On the road you may meet people going in the opposite direction or who’ve decided that the side of the path is as far as they ever want to go. Where then is the Holy Land?
The best thing about getting to the conventional end of the pilgrimage was finding nothing there. It was an empty tomb, just as advertised, and therefore in some sense the quarry had escaped and whole wide world was one Jerusalem, one city of David. Therefore you might with confidence sit on your very doorstep and hear the chorus of the pilgrims approach and fade away, right down past the 7/11 and listen to them vanish around the corner. But it was easier to believe in holiness when you realized it can be ordinary. And that is the function of a pilgrimage’s end. To teach that nothing really worthwhile is placed beyond the reach of the simple provided you make the effort; and there is no earthly Jerusalem so distant that we can’t send back a postcard saying “hi mom”. This is what pilgrims know and all they need to know.
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