My name is Mark Fischer, and I’m a professor at St. John’s Seminary in California. In the fall of 2015 the seminary gave me a one-semester sabbatical, which I’m spending at the Tantur Ecumenical Institute in Jerusalem. For twenty-five years I have taught Christian theology to men aspiring to be Catholic priests. But I had never been to the land of Abraham, of Moses, and of Jesus. I had studied them, prayed to them, lectured about them, but had never been to their land. As I left for the Holy Land, I wondered how this visit would change me. It did, and I’m grateful.
In 1973, almost forty years ago, I had visited the Middle East, but not Israel. At that time, I was a recent university graduate, and uncertain about my life. U.S. citizens were then welcome in the Middle East. With my friend Bill McGuire, I had crossed Turkey by railroad and bus on my way to Iran. I had visited Tabriz, Tehran, Shiraz, and Mashhad. We then moved on to Afghanistan, stopping at Herat, Kandahar, and Kabul. We traveled simply and in safety. That was before September 11, 2001 and the U.S. invasions of Iran and Afghanistan.
Things are so different today, and so am I. By the time I made my farewell to Jerusalem, I had discovered a lot about how the Middle East has changed, and about how I had changed as well. But the first step in my journey was my arrival, and I invite you to read about it.