I set out for the LA airport on September 6.

I set out for the LA airport on September 6.

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.

Mark Fischer and Bill McGuire drive with Ghassem Erefani in Tehran, 1973.

Mark Fischer and Bill McGuire drive with Ghassem Erefani through Tehran in 1973.

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.

8 Responses to Welcome

  1. Heitor Faroni says:

    Mark, I hope you have a wonderful experience in Jerusalem and bring back wonderful stories and great insights of history, culture and religions matters.

    Looking forward to see your posts!

  2. Mrs. Jaime Scheid says:

    I’m looking forward to reading your blog. Thank you for sharing your experience with us. God Bless you.

  3. Chris Whelan says:


    This is a wonderful tool to help us keep in touch! I love it!!!!!

    Can’t wait to read your next post…..



  4. Janet & Paul Mailhot says:

    We so enjoyed your first posting and are really looking forward to the next.
    Don’t know how you find the time, but keep it up!

  5. Kim Cabral says:

    Hi Mark, so glad to hear from you! It looks like you are having such a wonderful experience. We miss you at the Seminary. We’re glad you’re safe and look forward to your return! The Seminary isn’t the same without you:)

  6. Dan says:

    This is Dan from the Camarillo Farmers market. The Bamboo company. I hope you are having a great time . Please don’t forget to visit Zefat as we had discussed. Click on this link for a good youtube tour of the place. O look forward to speaking with you about your journey when you return.

  7. Maria Elena Uribe says:

    Wow! what a great opportunity and it looks like you are enjoying every single minute of it. Kudos to you and I hope to see and hear from you soon!

  8. Sandy Di'des says:

    Dear Mark:

    I am so happy that you are enjoying your time at Tantur and around Jerusalem. The pictures you took are amazing. I am going to be sad when most of you will leave here. It was a real pleasure to know each one of you. I hope I will see you again in future at Tantur.


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