Like an “open house”: the visit of a group of Israeli Jews to St. Saviour’s Convent | Custodia Terrae Sanctae

Like an “open house”: the visit of a group of Israeli Jews to St. Saviour’s Convent

Jerusalem, St. Saviour’s Convent, 5th November 2011

This Saturday was a very special one for the Franciscan Convent of St. Saviour in Jerusalem and seat of the Custody of the Holy Land, because a large group of Israeli Jews, including many young people and families with small children, met in the Old City, near New Gate, for a guided visit to the premises of the Custody, as part of the Open House Jerusalem project. This activity got off to a successful start in 2007 and is now sponsored and supported by many local administrative and cultural bodies, including the Jerusalem City Council, the Israeli Ministry of Tourism, the Jerusalem Development Authority, the Society for the Preservation of the Israeli Historical-Cultural Heritage, the Israel Antiquities Authority and the Israel Nature and Parks Authority. Inspired by similar Open House projects in London and New York, the initiative offers the chance to visit more than one hundred buildings that are significant from different points of view, public places, historical monuments and fine apartments, all important for their design and architectural style. The many tours allow visitors to gain an in-depth knowledge of the city from historical, town-planning, technological, social and cultural points of view, highlighting the originality and beauty of the many places that go towards making Jerusalem fascinating and unique.

This year again, for the third time running, the organizers asked St. Saviour’s Convent to take part in this interesting project. The number of visitors on this occasion was exceptional, with almost one hundred people. Divided into two groups, the first guided by Brother Oscar Mario Marzo and the second by Brother Alberto Pari, the guests were able to visit some significant areas of the Custody. In addition to the parish church of St. Saviour, the refectory with its fine paintings and the Custodial Curia, which had already been open to the visit in the previous two years, this time the Custody’s cellar was also opened up to the groups who admired the wine-making equipment and the large old barrels which, until the 1950s, allowed the Franciscan friars to produce the wine for all the religious families of the Holy Land.

The visitors were very curious and had lots of questions to ask during the visit and Brother Oscar and Brother Alberto answered them with cordiality and simplicity, delighted to relate something about their lives and help bring the Christian and Franciscan reality closer to Israeli society, which still often find it hard to communicate and know one another. It is a small point of contact between two complex worlds which meet thanks to an open door and the respectful desire to enter. It is a concrete and universal gesture, which everyone can understand and appreciate, a gesture of silent hospitality and fraternity, which brings out the infinite nuances and multiple sensibilities of this land and those who live in it, so many times forced into stereotyped categories that can be hurtful. On this special day, St. Saviour’s Convent truly became an “open house”, becoming enriched with a new horizon in its vocation for welcome, thanks to which, adults and children, even those who were there for the first time, felt, for a second, at home.

By Caterina Foppa Pedretti
Photos by Marco Gavasso