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Home > Secteur-English > General > The Martin Luther King Jr. Pilgrimage to Israel That Never Was. By Sam (...)

The Martin Luther King Jr. Pilgrimage to Israel That Never Was. By Sam Kestenbaum

The plans for Martin Luther King Jr.’s pilgrimage were ambitious. King was slated to lead thousands of pilgrims to the Holy Land, where he would preach on the Mount of Olives and at a specially constructed amphitheater on the Sea of Galilee. He would preside over a series of “multi-racial interfaith services” at the region’s sacred sites.
“I count this a rare privilege in my ministry to lead this Pilgrimage,” King wrote in a release on May 15, 1967, describing the visit to the “land from which our faith burst forth.”
But the pilgrimage would never materialize — the Six-Day War that broke out weeks later interrupted King’s plans.
Details of the would-be journey surfaced on Martin Luther King Day three years ago, when the Israel State Archives released a batch of documents from the mid-1960s about a possible King visit. Martin Kramer, author of “The War on Error : Israel, Islam, and the Middle East,” wrote a post showing his own research into the pilgrimage.
In the beginning, King was enthusiastic.
The idea came from Reverend Sandy Ray, King’s friend who was a Baptist pastor from Brooklyn. King told the New York Times his trip would be a spiritual journey, unrelated to his activism in the United States. “I am first a minster of the Gospel,” he said.
A flier for the event quoted the book of Numbers : “Come Thou With Us, and We Will Do Thee Good.”
But the war that broke out on June 5 put King in an odd position. He had hoped to glide above fraught Middle East politics. Instead, the battles forced him to take a stance.
In just six days of fighting, Israel roundly defeated Egyptian, Jordanian, and Syrian forces and found itself in control of vast new stretches of territory, including the West Bank and the Sinai Peninsula. Israel was now seen by many as holding the upper hand, a military power occupying conquered land. Could a civil rights leader offer his tacit approval by visiting ?...


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