Dr Mohsen Sharfayee, a researcher with the department, expanded on the semantics of pilgrimage in the talks, saying: "The Hebrew word 'Olya', which means 'ascend' is used in reference to pilgrimage to a sacred land. The word has been long used for the Hebrew 'Shalosh Regalim', which are three major festivals in Judaism. However, the concept of pilgrimage is a trip for religious purposes that has both external and internal facets. On the outside, it is to visit a sacred place while on the inside, it is undertaken to gain spiritual insight into a hallowed truth".
The religious expert continued about the centrality of pilgrimage in Judaism: "Pilgrimage is, in fact, a dynamic phenomenon held in a very high regard among people. According to statistics, an estimated 6-7 million pilgrims visit 120 holy sites annually".
The researcher further remarked: "Pilgrimage phenomenologists have pinpointed and investigated three elements of sacred act, sacred time, and sacred site. From a social, historical and anthropological standpoint, a sacred site is a place that has been worshiped over time and hosted religious rites. Accordingly, the pilgrims visiting these sites determine their sanctity, which could be a commandment, memory, or behavior".
Sharafayee added that pilgrimage had been mostly viewed as a religious practice prior to the growth of technology, and trips had primarily been undertaken for religious or economic purposes. "However, we are currently talking about religious tourism with the advent of modern technology".
Elsewhere in his talk, the scholar pointed to the most crucial aspects of theoretical and practical pilgrimage: "Being recognized and described are features of theoretical pilgrimage whereas planning, preparation and contemplation constitute the practical features".
"Pilgrimage in Judaism has ancient formidable roots delineated in their holy scriptures", concluded the expert.