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...

  • Music Personalities Twenty Years On, the Real and Radical Legacy of Rabbi Shlomo Carlebach

    Twenty Years On, the Real and Radical Legacy of Rabbi Shlomo Carlebach

    JNS.org – “He was part hippie, part yippie, part beatnik, and part New Age,” wrote Elli Wohlgelernter in a Jerusalem Post eulogy in 1994, following the Oct. 20 passing of Rabbi Shlomo Carlebach. Twenty years later, more robust accounts of Carlebach’s life have come to the surface. Earlier this year, Natan Ophir published the book Rabbi Shlomo Carlebach: Life, Mission & Legacy. This past summer, Rabbi Shlomo Katz’s The Soul of Jerusalem hit the shelves. But even the authors will admit [...]

    Read more →
  • Blogs Music Beatlemania Invades the Gaza Strip (SATIRE)

    Beatlemania Invades the Gaza Strip (SATIRE)

    As Hamas loses its grip on power in the Gaza Strip as a result of war, poverty and disillusionment, the Islamist terrorist group has developed an ingenious way to raise the moral of the 1.7 million Palestinian Arabs it was elected to serve. While currently focused on delivering a rocket into every Israeli home, Hamas has not left its own people behind. To gently wipe away the tears of children strategically placed inside kindergartens as human shields, the Hamas Interior Ministry has [...]

    Read more →
  • Arts and Culture Spirituality/Tradition Removing Jesus’ Jewish Identity From Artwork

    Removing Jesus’ Jewish Identity From Artwork

    In a strong statement that challenges the historic divide between Christianity and Judaism, Pope Francis recently proclaimed, “Inside every Christian is a Jew.” But if you look at Renaissance artworks that depict Jesus, you will not find any evidence of a Jew inside the Christianized Jesus — even though the Gospels in the New Testament tell us that Jesus was Jewish to the core. Getting that point across to the public is a daunting task, as I learned in interviews I [...]

    Read more →
  • Music Personalities Recycling His Roots

    Recycling His Roots

    JNS.org – Having started his career playing on his family’s pots and pans, Jewish musician Billy Jonas has maintained this homemade performance ethic while spreading his messages of simple living and environmentalism to a shared home throughout the world. After beginning in the kitchen, Jonas soon moved to the music room, where he picked up the piano, guitar, and trombone. These days, the multi-talented multi-instrumentalist plays on with pretty much anything he can find, including cans, bottles buckets, and other recycled-object [...]

    Read more →
  • Book Reviews Personalities Jewish Renewal Movement Founder’s Insights Form a New Guide for Senior Living

    Jewish Renewal Movement Founder’s Insights Form a New Guide for Senior Living

    JNS.org – Sara Davidson’s The December Project is a new book that should be read by all senior citizens, and by those who hope to live a long life, for it raises a question that most of us have not been taught how to answer: What should we do in that final stage of our lives? Many of us continue working past the traditional retirement age of 65, not because we need the money and not because we find the [...]

    Read more →
  • Book Reviews Jewish History Why the Holocaust Occurred in Germany, and Why So Few Resisted (REVIEW)

    Why the Holocaust Occurred in Germany, and Why So Few Resisted (REVIEW)

    It’s hard to make a new contribution to the field of Holocaust studies,  but German historian Götz Aly accomplishes just that in Why the Germans, Why the Jews? His premise is that the origins of the Holocaust were rooted in the specific anti-Semitism found in Germany in the decades and centuries before World War II. Aly (who is not Jewish) seeks to prove his theory by studying only pre-Holocaust history, and tracing how the German people’s envy and hatred of [...]

    Read more →
  • Arts and Culture Blogs Looking at Anti-Israel Celebrities and Their Brands

    Looking at Anti-Israel Celebrities and Their Brands

    JNS.org – During the current conflict in Gaza a number of celebrities have voiced their opinions in support of either the Israeli or Palestinian positions. But others—be it during Operation Protective Edge or at other times—have gone further than simply supporting the Palestinians by actively supporting the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) movement against Israel, making false accusations about the Jewish state, ignoring Israel’s position on the conflict, or justifying the actions of the terrorist group Hamas. Many of these [...]

    Read more →
  • Blogs Sports Israeli UFC Fighter Returns to Jewish State to Rejoin IDF

    Israeli UFC Fighter Returns to Jewish State to Rejoin IDF

    JNS.org – Days after winning his Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) featherweight bout against Steven Siler on July 26, Israeli-born mixed martial arts competitor Noad Lahat boarded a plane for his native country, choosing to temporarily exit UFC’s octagonal cage to rejoin the Israel Defense Forces (IDF) as a paratrooper for its operation against Hamas in Gaza. Except he didn’t actually consider it a choice. “When [our] home is in danger, there is no other way for us [but to serve [...]

    Read more →



Sign up now to receive our regular news briefs.