My dear Friends
Nearly 20 years ago I went to Rome, to apply to become a member of an already established religious community. The interview took place in a beautiful setting; a house on Lake Albano, opposite the Pope’s summer residence of Castel Gandolfo.
It was not meant to be, as most of you know and, less than two months later The Little Sisters of Joy came into being, due to an act of grace, during my stay in Provence around Christmas 1998.
So I was delighted when my Methodist friends, Tim and Angela Macquiban, invited me back to Rome last September. Tim is Director of the Methodist Ecumenical Office in Rome and Pastor of the Ponte Sant’ Angelo Church, named after the famous bridge, where brides walk and buskers sing and where Tosca in the Opera hurled herself from the battlements of the castle. Angela, who compliments his work in many different ways, has attended gatherings of The Little Sisters of Joy in Cambridge, which where I met them when Tim was Minister of Wesley Church.
The first surprise came when I entered their lovely house, several floors up from street level. With its stone floors and woven rugs, I had a memory which took me right back to my time in Jerusalem in 1989, which was very profound. I knew I would feel very much at home in Rome this time.
From my little oval window in the bathroom adjacent to the lovely bedroom they had given me I could see, amongst the gorgeous plane trees, the ancient river Tiber and I was reminded of a line from the Psalm: "The waters of a river give joy to God’s city.."
I digress for a moment to tell you about my visit to friends living above Lake Bracchiano, to the North of Rome, in a stunningly beautiful small town called Trevignano Romano, which dates back to ancient times. Judy and David’s home overlooks olive trees, beyond which the lake stretches out, where light over the water seems to change every ten minutes; quite a scene watching the sun going down as we tucked into a delicious meal Judy had prepared. David, Vatican correspondent for over 50 years and particularly close to Pope John Paul II, with whom he travelled extensively, was a friend of my brother Ronnie’s from the time they were at school together until Ronnie died in 2003, aged 72. (High Wycombe was where my parents and many other Jewish families spent the war years.)
There were Jews living in Rome for 2 centuries before the Current Era. With the dispersion of the Jewish nation after the 2nd Temple was destroyed in the year 70, many Jews in the new ‘Diaspora’ made their way the relatively short distance from Jerusalem to Rome along the Mediterranean. Many people come to see the Christian Catacombs in Rome; what remains mainly hidden to them are the Jewish catacombs, which date from much earlier and are apparently situated further out, on the edges of the city. One of the people I met in Rome through Tim and Angela told me that his daughter could take me there one day.
Pilgrimages have been popular for centuries and the concept in Hebrew is derived from the word ‘to go up.’ I am making another pilgrimage to Toronto this autumn, where once again I hope to meet many diverse people along the way, who will enhance my life and help me to further the cause of Peace. I always stay in a neighbourhood called ‘Spadina’ which I discovered is the Mohawk word for ‘High Place.’
Next year, 4TH September 2018, you are all invited to the Spadina Theatre at the Alliance Francaise in Toronto:
EVENT: GILA’S LAUNCH IN WORDS AND MUSIC OF THE FRENCH VERSION OF
WHERE THE WOODS MEET THE WATER
Come & have a holiday not far from Niagara Falls & meet the 172 Nations
In Unity and Shalom