Sign up now to receive our regular news briefs.

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. Comments written in all caps will be deleted.

Current day month ye@r *


  • Arts and Culture Beliefs and concepts What’s That Huge White Bridal Dress Floating Over the Tower of David?

    What’s That Huge White Bridal Dress Floating Over the Tower of David? –  “What’s that huge white bridal dress floating over the Tower of David?” That’s what visitors to Jerusalem’s Old City asked last week. The wedding gown, created by leading Israeli artist Motti Mizrachi, is part of the 2nd Jerusalem Biennale for Contemporary Jewish Art, an event that blew into town as the Sukkot holiday got underway. Mizrachi, who lives and works in Tel Aviv, created the dress that floats majestically over the Tower of David, the main exhibition site […]

    Read more →
  • Features Opinion The Top 10 Places to Visit in Israel

    The Top 10 Places to Visit in Israel

    Israel is a holiday destination on many travelers’ bucket lists. No matter the style of holiday you are after, Israel has the answer. Whether you prefer to relax by the beach, hike up mountains in the desert, visit religious and historical sites, eat your way through the country or just enjoy some retail therapy, your journey through Israel will be one to remember. While there are obviously so many things to see and do, here is a list of 10 of […]

    Read more →
  • Pioneers/Philanthropists US & Canada Jewish American Fashion Mogul Ralph Lauren to Step Down as CEO

    Jewish American Fashion Mogul Ralph Lauren to Step Down as CEO – Jewish American fashion mogul Ralph Lauren announced his plan to step down as chief executive officer of the renowned fashion brand. The head of Gap Inc’s Old Navy brand will take over the position. The 75-year-old Lauren, who founded Ralph Lauren Corp. in 1967, will continue to serve as executive chairman and will continue leading the fashion house’s design team, according to a statement by the company. After the announcement, Ralph Lauren shares rose 3.79 percent while Gap shares […]

    Read more →
  • Featured Sports US & Canada Jewish Boxer Dustin ‘White Tiger’ Fleischer Scores Fourth Knockout Victory

    Jewish Boxer Dustin ‘White Tiger’ Fleischer Scores Fourth Knockout Victory

    Jewish boxer Dustin Fleischer, who said his quest is to become the first world champion descended from a Holocaust survivor, stayed unbeaten with a first-round knockout. Fleischer, nicknamed “The White Tiger,” moved to 4-0 with the defeat of Ira Frank on Saturday night in Beach Haven, New Jersey, near his home, he reported after the fight on his Facebook page. The 26-year-old welterweight has won all his bouts by knockout. Read full story at JTA.

    Read more →
  • Featured Israel Pioneers/Philanthropists Meet Israel’s Santa Claus, the Trustee Tasked With Handing Out Leona Helmsley’s Billions (INTERVIEW)

    Meet Israel’s Santa Claus, the Trustee Tasked With Handing Out Leona Helmsley’s Billions (INTERVIEW)

    Renowned New York attorney Sandor (Sandy) Frankel, one of four trustees of the Leona M. and Harry B. Helmsley Charitable Trust, was in Israel earlier this month to look at additional philanthropic options and to observe the progress of those endeavors already funded – to the tune of multi-millions. Frankel, who recently joined the prestigious Park Avenue law firm Otterbourg P.C., met with Israeli politicians and other bigwigs to get a sense from them about which projects in the country […]

    Read more →
  • Book Reviews Food Spirituality/Tradition ‘Pastry Secrets’ Arrive Just in Time for Rosh Hashanah

    ‘Pastry Secrets’ Arrive Just in Time for Rosh Hashanah – Babka. Strudel. Stollen. Danish pastry. Not to mention Gugelhopf and Charlotte. The names set the mouth to watering and conjure up lovingly concocted pastries that feed the body and comfort the soul. If you didn’t have a grandmother who baked these delicacies, you wish that you had. George Greenstein was never a grandmother, but his life as a baker provided his children and grandchildren with memories infused with the smell of fresh baked bread and rugelach. His daughters, Julia […]

    Read more →
  • Book Reviews Spirituality/Tradition Fusing Israeli and Holocaust History, Novel Offers a ‘Middle Eastern Western’

    Fusing Israeli and Holocaust History, Novel Offers a ‘Middle Eastern Western’ – There is a game that all of us have played at some time in our lives. We ask ourselves: What would my life be like if I had gone to this school instead of that one, or if I had married this girl instead of that one? In their newly published book The Ambassador, authors Yehuda Avner and Matt Rees play that game with modern Jewish history. Avner — who died earlier this year, and was a speechwriter, secretary and adviser to […]

    Read more →
  • Israel Lifestyle A Toulouse Fashion Student Finds Style and Harmony in the Holy Land

    A Toulouse Fashion Student Finds Style and Harmony in the Holy Land

    A unique group of young fashion bloggers and designers recently visited Israel to learn more about the country’s fashion industry and diverse culture. Hailing from the Philippines, Korea, Kenya, Japan, Brazil, Spain, France, Germany, Russia, and the U.K., the 10 participants toured the country and met with top Israeli fashion designers throughout last week. “It was an amazing experience,” said Meissene Maghni from Toulouse, France — one of the participants of the program. “I’m Muslim and I really wanted to see Israel […]

    Read more →