Memoir for Holy Week: Sunrise at Kare Desche, Israel

A view of the Sea of Galilee, Israel

A view of the Sea of Galilee, Israel

By Robert Israel

The bell rang before dawn, summoning the monks to prayer at a hostel where I had been sleeping, in the open air courtyard, near the Sea of Galilee, known on Israeli maps as the Kinneret.

Unable to sleep, I wandered down a path to the water’s edge.

The path ends where an iron cross is embedded into a rock, across from where a stream of fresh water empties into the Kinneret from the opposite hillside. This cross marks the spot where Jesus Christ performed the miracle of the loaves and fish. But no one is really certain of this. The only clue the Bible tells us is that the place where that miracle supposedly happened was “grassy.” This place is certainly overgrown with marsh grass, and it situated between Capernaum and Tiberias, two places Jesus reportedly visited.

As I was contemplating the miracle — the five loaves of bread and two fishes that somehow served 5,000 people after being blessed by Jesus –a sudden and unexpected sensation that came over me. It took me by surprise. It moved me, the sensation of a spirit beyond me, of a force greater than me and all I have known. It came over me in a rush, but it wasn’t jarring. It did not alarm me. It was a feeling of calm, deeper than any I have ever known or have ever known since. I stood motionless in the stillness of early morning on the very spot where Jesus may have once stood. My mind was quieted.

The feeling came and vanished in minutes in this place that remains untouched by the passage of centuries and was broken only by the appearance of orphan Palestinian girls from an adjacent summer camp who strolled down the path and sat by the water’s edge. Two girls took out their tambourines and tin whistles. They began to play and several of the girls stood up and danced. They danced and laughed and waved to me. I could hear them singing, I could hear the tinkling of the tambourines when I turned and walked back to the monastery.


Robert Israel can be reached at A previous version of this piece appeared in The Rhode Island Herald.


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s