Jerusalem Welcomes Modern Day Knights

April 25, 2013 5:28 pm 0 comments

Swedish pilgrim Jorgen Nilssen at the Jerusalem Green Pilgrim Symposium. Photo: Tzuriel Cohen Arazi, Tazpit News Agency.

Nearly one millennium ago, a group of Armenian monks established a hospital outside the walls of Jerusalem to treat victims of leprosy, a chronic disease that was widespread during the Middle Ages. The hospital, known as the Military and Hospitaller Order of Saint Lazarus of Jerusalem, eventually served the Knights of St. Lazarus – European knights who had contacted leprosy or had been permanently wounded in Crusade battles from the point of the First Crusade in 1099.

When the Muslim conqueror Saladin invaded the Holy Land in 1187, the Order of St. Lazarus lost its main hospital and convent as well as many of its knights in Jerusalem. After moving to Acre, the order was eventually expelled by Muslim forces at the end of the 13th century, which terminated their 200-year presence in the Holy Land.

Throughout the centuries, the order, made up of an international community of Christians, has continued on with its medical and hospital care as well as charitable and orphanage work across the world.

“But now we’ve come back home,” says the order’s grand chancellor and delegate for the Holy Land, Count Phillipe Piccapietra, referring to the decision to move the order’s headquarters back to Jerusalem last year after a 720-year-old exile in France.

In a recent interview with Tazpit News Agency earlier this week, Piccapietra explained that “no one can understand the move [back] better than the Israelis.”

“Israel is the center of the world and here you can meet the whole world,” said the count, originally from Switzerland.

While the functions of the Order of St. Lazarus are slightly different today in Jerusalem – it no longer treats lepers and wounded knights – the organization seeks to heal minds, spirits, and bodies regardless of religious and political borders, says Piccapietra.

The order’s new project is to make Jerusalem’s Old City accessible to the handicapped via environmentally-friendly electric-run vehicles and mobility scooters. This is currently being carried out together with the Jerusalem municipality, which seeks to limit the number of cars driving through the narrow streets of the Old City and encourage the use of these smaller, more ecological friendly vehicles.

The order is also taking an active part in the Jerusalem municipality’s first international Jerusalem Symposium on Green and Accessible Pilgrimage this week, headed by Deputy Mayor Naomi Tsur.  The symposium seeks to welcome millions of pilgrims and eco-friendly travelers to Jerusalem every year as well as promote the city’s conservation of unique cultural, biblical, and natural heritage of all faiths.

The first pilgrim that the symposium welcomed was none other than a member of the Military and Hospitaller Order of St. Lazarus, Jorgen Nilsson, a Swede who walked 5,000 kilometers in six months to make his pilgrimage to Jerusalem.

The Grand Chancellor of the Order of Saint Lazarus of Jerusalem, Count Philippe Piccapietra.Tzuriel Cohen Arazi, Tazpit News Agency

“I wanted to make this journey to mark the order’s return home, and to bring a message for peace and take a stand against xenophobia,” Nilsson told Tazpit News Agency.

“It’s my first time in the Holy Land and the first time that a member of the order has ever made this trek by foot to Jerusalem in our history,” Nilsson said.

Nilsson left Sweden in November, trekking through Denmark, Germany, France, Italy, and Greece before taking a boat to Cyprus and onto Haifa. In Israel, the 39-year-old Swedish engineer did some more walking, from Haifa to Jerusalem, in time for the green symposium.

“I’m so happy to be in the Holy Land – I love the people and food, especially the hummus and falafel,” Nilsson added.

“I would love to come back again to the Holy Land, but next time not by foot.”

Leave a Reply

Please note: comments may be published in the Algemeiner print edition.


Current day month ye@r *

More...

  • Education Why We Should Invest in Jewish Children

    Why We Should Invest in Jewish Children

    JNS.org – My wife Suzy and I will never forget our wedding day. It was not just the uplifting ceremony and beautiful party that left an indelible mark. Some life-altering advice that we received from one of our guests informed and shaped our lives from that day forward. My high school teacher, Rabbi Moshe Yagid, pulled us aside just before the chuppah and challenged us to choose one mitzvah that would be the foundation of our marriage and our lives. He explained [...]

    Read more →
  • Jewish Identity Sports LeBron James’ New Coach Shaped by Summer on Kibbutz and Jewish ‘Life Lessons’

    LeBron James’ New Coach Shaped by Summer on Kibbutz and Jewish ‘Life Lessons’

    JNS.org – Influenced by his Jewish upbringing and a summer on a kibbutz, basketball coach David Blatt is embarking on his highest-profile challenge yet: coaching LeBron James, the four-time National Basketball Association (NBA) Most Valuable Player who has made waves for returning to his hometown Cleveland Cavaliers. After guiding Israel’s storied Maccabi Tel Aviv basketball franchise to its 51st Israeli league championship and 6th Euroleague title this past season, Blatt landed the Cavaliers head-coaching job in June. Just weeks later, [...]

    Read more →
  • Food Jewish Identity Young Syrian Jewish Restauranteur Continues a Family Legacy

    Young Syrian Jewish Restauranteur Continues a Family Legacy

    JNS.org – At the turn of the century, a young Jewish immigrant arrived in New York. So begins the history of many American Jewish families. It is 27-year-old Albert Allaham’s story, too, with a few unusual twists. Albert’s “century” is the 21st—he arrived almost 100 years after the massive waves of European Jewish immigration. Rather than coming from a small town along the Danube river, his shtetl was Damascus. His first American business was not a pushcart on the Lower East [...]

    Read more →
  • Book Reviews Jewish Identity A Holistic Look at the Rebbe’s Life and Career (REVIEW)

    A Holistic Look at the Rebbe’s Life and Career (REVIEW)

    Did you know that in the entire Bible, only one birthday is mentioned and it is that of Pharaoh? And did you know that according to some scientists, by accepting Einstein’s Theory of General Relativity, it is impossible to prove or disprove that the sun is the gravitational center of our solar system? In his new book, REBBE, best-selling author Joseph Telushkin reveals many surprising and sometimes shocking details as he chronicles the life and teachings of the charismatic Rabbi [...]

    Read more →
  • Food Mitzvos New Jerusalem Eatery’s Uniform Pricing Seeks to ‘Help People Make It’

    New Jerusalem Eatery’s Uniform Pricing Seeks to ‘Help People Make It’

    JNS.org – Omelet sandwich: 5 shekels. Iced coffee: 5 shekels. Tuna sandwich: 5 shekels. Fresh-squeezed orange juice: 5 shekels. Cheese bureka: 5 shekels. There’s plenty more on the Cofizz menu, but you get the idea. Dani Mizrahi and Amir Amshalm, two Israeli men in their early 30s, asked themselves: Why not launch a take-out food joint in busy neighborhoods around Jerusalem where everything—and that means everything—goes for five shekels, or about $1.50. They’d seen the concept take off in Tel Aviv, where [...]

    Read more →
  • Arts and Culture Israel New Primetime Drama ‘Tyrant’ Filmed Entirely in Israel (VIDEO)

    New Primetime Drama ‘Tyrant’ Filmed Entirely in Israel (VIDEO)

    The new FX Network drama Tyrant was shot entirely in Israel, just 10 miles north of Tel Aviv, Bloomberg News reported last Tuesday. Tyrant follows the life of an Arab dictator’s second son Barry, played by Adam Rayner, who reluctantly returns home to the Middle Eastern nation of his birth to join the family business away from his suburban life in America. The elaborate set production for the primetime drama included a crew of 300 and a reported cost of over $3 million [...]

    Read more →
  • Arts and Culture US & Canada Supermodel: Jewish Mothers Are Constantly Trying to Set Me Up With Their Sons

    Supermodel: Jewish Mothers Are Constantly Trying to Set Me Up With Their Sons

    Skokie, Il-born 25-year-old Erin Heatherton (Erin Heather Bubley) is rocking the modeling world. And in a new interview accompanying a cover spread for Miami’s Ocean Drive magazine, she says Jewish moms are “constantly trying to set her up with their sons.” Imagine that – who would have thought? “The moms, they’re doing what they do. It doesn’t matter what country they live in, what city – grandmothers, too,” she admitted. “But I’m probably going to do that too one day.” Heatherton was [...]

    Read more →
  • Education Israel First Ever: Turkish Academics to Visit Israel Holocaust Museum for Seminar

    First Ever: Turkish Academics to Visit Israel Holocaust Museum for Seminar

    Some 15 Turkish university professors and lecturers will take part in a first of its kind seminar at Holocaust museum Yad Vashem’s International School for Holocaust Studies starting next week. The trip is especially significant as Holocaust denial is rampant in the Arab world. A Palestinian professor was recently forced to resign after he led a trip to the Nazi extermination camp Auschwitz. Participants in the week-long program at Yad Vashem will experience in-depth tours of the museum’s archives and [...]

    Read more →



Sign up now to receive our regular news briefs.