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...

  • Arts and Culture Middle East Hamas Commander Reportedly Urges Hezbollah to Join Forces Against Israel

    Hamas Commander Reportedly Urges Hezbollah to Join Forces Against Israel

    JNS.org – Five months after Israeli forces tried to assassinate Hamas military commander Mohammed Deif in Gaza, Deif appears to have signed a letter that the terrorist group claims he wrote in hiding. The letter, addressed to Hezbollah chief Hassan Nasrallah, expressed Deif’s condolences for the death of Hezbollah terrorists during Sunday’s reported Israeli airstrike in Syria. Deif is said to have survived multiple assassination attempts, but he has not been seen in public for years. According to the Hezbollah-linked Al-Manar [...]

    Read more →
  • Jewish Identity Theater Shlomo Carlebach Musical Has the Soul to Heal Frayed Race Relations

    Shlomo Carlebach Musical Has the Soul to Heal Frayed Race Relations

    JNS.org – The cracks that had been simply painted over for so long began to show in Ferguson, Mo., in November 2014, but in truth they had begun to open wide much earlier—on Saturday, July 13, 2013. That is when a jury in Sanford, Fla., acquitted George Zimmerman of culpability for the death of a 17-year-old black man, Trayvon Martin. The cracks receded from view over time, as other news obscured them. Then came the evening of Aug. 9, 2014, [...]

    Read more →
  • Theater US & Canada ‘Homeland’ Season Finale Stirs Controversy After Comparing Menachem Begin to Taliban Leader

    ‘Homeland’ Season Finale Stirs Controversy After Comparing Menachem Begin to Taliban Leader

    A controversial scene in the season finale of Homeland sparked outrage by comparing former Israeli Prime Minister Menachem Begin to a fictional Taliban leader, the UK’s Daily Mail reported. In the season 4 finale episode, which aired on Dec. 21, CIA black ops director Dar Adal, played by F. Murray Abraham, justifies a deal he made with a Taliban leader by referencing Begin. He makes the remarks in a conversation with former CIA director Saul Berenson, a Jewish character played by Mandy [...]

    Read more →
  • Arts and Culture Spirituality/Tradition Placing Matisyahu Back Within a Life of Observance

    Placing Matisyahu Back Within a Life of Observance

    Shining Light on Fiction During the North Korea-Sony saga, we learned two important lessons. The first is that there are two sides to this story, and neither of them are correct because ultimately we should have neither inappropriate movies nor dictators. The second is that we cannot remain entirely fixed on the religious world, but we also must see beyond the external, secular view of reality. It’s important to ground our Torah-based thoughts into real-life activism. To view our act [...]

    Read more →
  • Arts and Culture Blogs Nine Decades of Moses at the Movies

    Nine Decades of Moses at the Movies

    JNS.org – Hollywood has had its share of big-budget biblical flops, but until now, the Exodus narrative has not been among them. Studios have brought Moses to the big screen sparingly, but in ways that defined the image and character of Moses for each generation of audiences. The first biblical epic In 1923, director Cecil B. DeMille left it to the American public to decide the subject of his next movie for Paramount. DeMille received a letter from a mechanic [...]

    Read more →
  • Arts and Culture Blogs Exodus on Screen (REVIEW)

    Exodus on Screen (REVIEW)

    JNS.org – The story of the Exodus from Egypt is a tale as old as time itself, to borrow a turn of phrase. It’s retold every Passover, both at the seder table and whenever “The Ten Commandments” is aired on television. But the latest adaptation—Ridley Scott’s epic film, “Exodus: Gods and Kings”—fails to meet expectations. Scott’s “Exodus” alters the source material to service the story and ground the tale, but the attempt to reinvent the biblical narrative becomes laughable. Moses [...]

    Read more →
  • Jewish Identity Lifestyle ‘Jewish Food Movement’ Comes of Age

    ‘Jewish Food Movement’ Comes of Age

    JNS.org - In December 2007, leaders of the Hazon nonprofit drafted seven-year goals for what they coined as the “Jewish Food Movement,” which has since been characterized by the increased prioritization of healthy eating, sustainable agriculture, and food-related activism in the Jewish community. What do the next seven years hold in store? “One thing I would like to see happen in the next seven years is [regarding] the issue of sugar, soda, and obesity, [seeing] what would it be like to rally the [...]

    Read more →
  • Blogs Education Seeds of ‘Start-Up Nation’ Cultivated by Israel Sci-Tech Schools

    Seeds of ‘Start-Up Nation’ Cultivated by Israel Sci-Tech Schools

    JNS.org – Forget the dioramas. How about working on an Israeli Air Force drone? That’s exactly the kind of beyond-their-years access enjoyed by students at the Israel Aerospace Industries (IAI) industrial vocational high school run by Israel Sci-Tech Schools, the largest education network in the Jewish state. More than 300 students (250 on the high school level and 68 at a two-year vocational academy) get hands-on training in the disciplines of aviation mechanics, electricity and energy control, and unmanned air [...]

    Read more →



Sign up now to receive our regular news briefs.