fifth annual Spiritual Care conference in Israel opened today with an emotional and intensely personal keynote address by Rona Ramon (pictured above), the widow of Ilan Ramon, Israel's first person to travel into space, who was killed tragically in 2003 during the re-entry of the shuttle Columbia to the Earth's atmosphere.
It is amazing that this is only the fifth such conference in Israel. This nation of contrasts is, one one hand, a highly modern economy fueled by a high-tech industrial sector that is still thriving amid the world-wide recession. And, in many other ways, it is yet an infant nation, still building institions, like chaplaincy (and environmentalism, as I wrote a few weeks ago), that we take for granted in the United States. I feel so privileged to have a chance to be present among the 150 or so pioneering professionals who attended Ramon's talk this morning and who will be at the conference over the next two days.
As I write this, I am listening to a lecture by a true pioneer -- a woman who is working to not only bring Spiritual Care to this young nation, but to bring it to a relatively new and sometimes challenging population to care for: immigrants from the former Soviet Union. Tomorrow, I will be a presenter, myself, giving a workshop on techniques for offering spontaneous prayer.
I am so excited to be here at the conference at the Ma’ale HaHamisha Conference Center in these beautiful hills on the western outskirts of Jerusalem!
[X-posted to smamitayim]