The people that grace our tea table are more interesting than the food, however, and over the last few months we have enjoyed the company of a delightful variety of Christian visitors. Canon Andrew White and his Christian Arab driver/assistant, Hanna are regulars, Andrew, who used to be known as The Vicar of Bagdhad can sadly, no longer minister to his flock at St George’s Church there or the tiny remaining Jewish community with whom he used to spend Friday evenings, because of the terrible situation in Iraq but their loss is our gain as he now spends more time in Jerusalem. He can always be relied upon to bring delightful and interesting visitors with him and a few months ago we found ourselves hosting a friend of his who is a Bishop. We suddenly realized as they came through the front-door that we had no idea of the correct way to address him. “You can call me Bishop Michael, was his reply to our query.” He proved to be an interesting and delightful guest.
Earlier this month, Canon Andrew brought two delightful young women to visit us, both devout Christians, one British, the other from America, who are in Israel volunteering with the Shevet Achim organization which arranges heart operations for children from poor, Middle Eastern countries. Their descriptions of the work being done and their part in it was fascinating and heartwarming.
Last week, our guests were four young people, also Christians, from an organisation called Generation to Generation, here touring and learning about Israel. The group of 16 comprised exceptional young people from the U.K. U.S.A., Japan Germany, South Africa and Brazil. We had visited them at their hotel earlier in the week with Canon White, for a question and answer session and regretted that we did not have room to entertain all of them. “Invite the three who ask the best questions,’ suggested Canon Andrew, in the end it became four as the questions came thick and fast and were all thoughtful and intelligent.
The first question was the all-time winner, “Why did you make Aliya?” More complex than it might seem and not always the easiest one to answer.
KEEPING IN CONTACT
Many of our visitors become close friends, staying in contact and sharing their family news and photographs with us and returning for further visits. Among these are Cedric and Barbara from Hampshire and Barbara’s friend from schooldays, Gina, an Anglican nun who originally visited us some years ago for Friday dinner through a contact in the U.K. Council of Christians and Jews. They returned for a Shabbat tea recently and we had the opportunity to get to know more about them.
Cedric is now retired from the Civil Service having been awarded an O.B.E. for his services, Barbara is a retired teacher who now does a very responsible and skilled volunteer job, repairing hearing-aids and working with the hearing-impaired through the N.H.S. while Gina has recently retired as the Church of England Chaplain at Wormwood Scrubbs Prison where she was twice attacked and injured by prisoners. She is now very much involved in teaching and counselling work in her church and parish. One afternoon was just not enough time to ask all the questions we wanted to ask and to enjoy the company of these three special people who we are now privileged to call our friends.
MODES OF ADDRESS
If we may end with a bit of name-dropping, we have even entertained the present Archbishop of Canterbury, Justin Welby, although he hadn’t reached his present exalted office at the time, but was, like our friend Andrew White who sent him and his group of young people to visit us, a Canon at Coventry Cathedral. We had no problem with how to address him because as he came through the door he said in his down-to-earth and friendly manner, “I’m Justin.”