Thursday, November 22, 2007

CSS Pilgrimage Day 8

by Steve Ray on November 22, 2007

We just returned back from a whirlwind and exciting day. It was the optional day, not really part of the spiritual pilgrimage, but a day of adventure and exploration. We left at 7:30 AM to drive south along the Dead Sea to Masada. We watched a short documentary and then ascended to the top of Masada on the cable cars.

We then drove to Qumran and learned about the Dead Sea Scrolls and the Essenes and saw Cave Number 4 where the most important scrolls were found. Then to Jericho to take pictures of the Sycamore Tree and the Mountain of Temptation where the Devil offered to give Jesus all the kingdoms of the world.


We then ate an authentic Palestinian meal in a real Palestinian city in the West Bank — Jericho. People did more shopping and everyone rode a camel. Then to the Dead Sea for swimming — er, sorry, I mean floating!

Then back to our hotel for our last Mass together in the Notre Dame Chapel, dinner, blessing of religious objects and for a short nap before all the pilgrims leave the hotel early in the morning — Lufthansa at 1:30 AM and British Air at 3:15 AM. All your family and friends will be home on Friday!

We have heard nothing but compliments for this trip — not one complaint! Your family and friends will return exhausted and exhilerated. A good number of them have already decided to return with us in the future. We have planned a new CSS pilgrimage for early November 2009 which will include Israel and Egypt — stay tuned!



Some of you may have already read this since Ben Stein gave this commentary on CBS in 2005, but it is worth repeating since Christmas is approaching — and because it is good stuff.

I wanted to make sure it was accurate so I checked it out on Snopes and found it was accurate, though some people have added much to it. However, the version below is exactly what he said and you can check me out here if you wish. You can also read the words directly from Ben Stein's website too.

Stein.jpgI am a Jew, and every single one of my ancestors was  Jewish. And it does not bother me even a little bit when people call those beautiful lit up, bejeweled trees Christmas trees. I don't feel threatened. I don't feel discriminated against. That's what they are: Christmas trees. It doesn't bother me a bit when people say, "Merry Christmas" to me.

I don't think they are slighting me or getting ready to put me in a ghetto. In fact, I kind of like it. It shows that we are all brothers and sisters celebrating this happy time of year. It doesn't bother me at all that there is a manger scene on display at a key intersection near my beach house in Malibu. If people want a creche, it's just as fine with me as is the Menorah a few hundred yards away.

I don't like getting pushed around for being a Jew and I don't think Christians like getting pushed around for being Christians. I think people who believe in God are sick and tired of getting pushed around, period. I have no idea where the concept came from that America is an explicitly atheist country. I can't find it in the Constitution and I don't like it being shoved down my throat.

Or maybe I can put it another way: where did the idea come from that we should worship Nick and Jessica [I think these are movie stars he had commented on earlier] and we aren't allowed to worship God as we understand Him?

 I guess that's a sign that I'm getting old, too. But there are a lot of us who are wondering where Nick and Jessica came from and where the America we knew went to.