Jorgen Nilsson, an officer in the Swedish military and a Knight Hospitalier in the Order of St. Lazarus, has arrived in Israel after a six-month journey on foot from his home in Sweden, Israel Hayom reported.
Nilsson arrived in Jerusalem on Sunday, where he was given a medal of honor on behalf of the city. He took more than 7 million steps in a walk through Denmark, Germany, France, Italy and Greece on his way to Israel, and timed his journey so that he would arrive for the start of the First International Jerusalem Symposium on Green and Accessible Pilgrimage.
The purpose of the walk, Nilsson said, was raising money for charities, increasing awareness against xenophobia, and highlighting the need for peace. “I just want a more peaceful world to live in,” he wrote on his website, “and the only thing a single person can do to achieve that is to try and talk about it. Trying to change how people talk and feel and act towards each other is my way to be a part of a solution for a safer world.”
The Military and Hospitaller Order of St. Lazarus of Jerusalem was founded in 1098. At the time, its brothers were monks who fought wars on horseback and healed the sick. They left the Holy Land in 1291 when the Christian Kingdom collapsed and decamped to France. In the intervening 700 years, the order has transformed itself into a charitable organization focused on good works. The order recently returned to Jerusalem’s Old City, where it has spearheaded a project to make the Old City more accessible for the handicapped.
“After several hundreds of years we are now finally back to the place of the Orders origin,” Nilsson wrote. “Celebrating this is a part of Pilgrimage for Peace — Towards Jerusalem. I have chosen to walk under the colours of my Order because I feel that, both the Christian way which we cherish and the contemporary work that we do, suits this cause very well.”