I went on a pilgrimage to Israel/Palestine September/October 2019. It was superbly led by Fr Bob Holmes aka “Hobo”.

On one of the “Bethlehem” days, we has Mass in St Catherine’s Chapel, a small chapel associated with the Church of the Nativity. There was a Muslim lady on our trip named Ensaaf. She was very nice but she muttered things about the Jews which were entirely inappropriate. Anyway, during the Mass, she ate/drank the Eucharist, ie body and blood of Christ. Some people were incensed but I found it astonishing! The Catholic in me didn’t flinch because the world traveler in me just found it full circle and hilarious.

Later on at 7pm we gathered for our usual dinner. As the  Palestinian waiters were passing around the plates, I KNEW, absolutely KNEW, that the meat was pork. These were clearly very nice pork chops. Others in the group insisted it was chicken or lamb. Again, I just laughed at what was to transpire. Ensaaf, having taken the blody/blood of Christ at 9am, good Muslim lady that she is, was now about to eat a pork  chop.

I’m watching and waiting for her reaction. I say to her : “So Ensaaf, you’ve had quite a day. Eucharist in the morning, pork in the evening”.

“It is not pork, it is chicken!”, she insisted.

“Ok, let’s ask the waiter” What is it?

“It is pork Madame”, said the waiter. Ensaaf scolded him a bit in Arabic but it was not his fault. The throngs of Russian Orthodox pilgrims wanted pork and that’s what they got. You don’t mess around with the Russians. They basically fund the Holy Land with their constant pilgrimages. If you don’t time it right, you could end up in a 2 hour Russian Orthodox lineup to see the baby Jesus manger.

I could tell Ensaaf wanted to be sick and I understood, but I said…….

“Well Ensaaf, look at it this way. You confused the heck outta God today. He figured at 9am you started batting for our team, so he thought “Oi vay, let’s give the girl a pork chop to seal the deal!”

She was not amused. I hope she finds it funny now. For me, it was a delightful Saudi full circle moment. I would love to see this happen in downtown Khobar. Oh my!

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