The First Palm Sunday

April 8, 2014

palm sunday

 

It was, as it usually was, a blazing hot day in Jerusalem. There were a fair few more people in the city than usual as pilgrims came from around the country to celebrate Passover and the streets were busy. The crowds were swelled by those who were hoping to catch a glimpse of the latest winner of the prestigious Temple (Wood) Turner prize for Carpentry, a certain Jesus from Nazareth, who was rumoured to be coming to the city to collect his prize.

The competition, whilst prestigious, was also mired in controversy with a number of previous winners having been discredited. Noah had been awarded the prize for his sculpture ‘A Big Boat’ but the general feeling was that, as the judging panel consisted of his wife and sons (due to nobody else being alive) the voting was possibly biased in his favour. Joshua was discredited when his sculpture ‘A Tree in wood’ turned out to be, well, a tree that had just grown rather than been carved.

Still Jesus’ entry into the competition “Loaves and Fish in Olive Wood” had been generally well received by the judging panel. The workmanship was naïve, certainly, but that lent a certain air of authenticity to the piece and, so long as he didn’t make a meal of winning…

Anna was polishing the buttons on her uniform. She was proud of the fact that she was the only woman currently serving in Blue Watch of the Jerusalem Municipal Fire Brigade. Actually, she was the only woman serving in any Watch of the JMFB and she knew she had to work twice as hard as a man would in order to be accepted but she had proved her value time and time again.

Her shift had started mid-morning and had been unremarkable so far. A couple of flat-bread ovens that had been left unattended had needed attention but, other than that, attending to her uniform was all that was occupying her time. And it needed to look good because, traditionally, the JMFB provided the guard of honour for the winner of the Temple (wood) Turner prize for Carpentry as he (or potentially she – but it had always been a ‘he’ for as long as anyone could remember) arrived in the city to receive the plaudits and the Golden Lathe trophy.

Just after one o’clock, she gathered with the rest of Blue Watch and marched in formation down to Lion’s Gate. It was certainly hot and uncomfortable in her full dress uniform and she was carrying the ceremonial bucket which was heavy but, thankfully, not as heavy as the ceremonial hose that was being hauled along on its trolley by Samuel and Aaron.

When they reached Lion’s Gate the crowd was even more populous than it had been in previous years – ten or fifteen deep in places with people hanging out of windows and on rooftops, too.

As the Watch members stood to attention it was clear that some of the crowd were being overcome by both the heat and the occasion, with ladies swooning quite regularly. If the situation carried on, and the crowd numbers continued to swell, it was quite likely that Jesus would be damned with fainting praise as he walked to the Temple to collect his prize.

And it was not just the crowd who were being overcome – after the exertions of hauling the ceremonial hosepipe through the City, Aaron and Samuel had been given leave to go and refresh themselves as they were looking decidedly peaky.

Captain Fadi, a wise and experienced man, knew that the crowd needed to be cooled down. He could hear the cheers of the crowd as those further down the slope of Mt Moriah got their first glimpse of the prize winner and the excitement reached boiling point. He ordered Anna to splash the crowd with water from the ceremonial bucket to cool them down – but it was having little effect.

“It’s not enough, Captain,” cried Anna, “we need to do more.”

Captain Fadi knew that the situation could quickly get out of hand and took a brave decision – despite Samuel and Aaron not being back yet, and although Anna was, as yet, untrained in its effective use, he yelled over the tumult “Hey, Anna, grab the hose – we’ll use that to spray the crowd.”

As is often the case in these situations (Matthew 18.2, John 6.9) there was a small boy nearby and he took up the Captain’s cry: “Anna, the hose”… soon all the crown joined in yelling

“Hose, Anna, Hey Anna, Anna, Anna, Hose, Anna Hey Anna, Hose, Anna”

“We need to get the spray over more people, Anna,” cried Captain Fadi, “climb onto the roof of the tallest building and spray from there”.

Once again, the crowd echoed his cries “Hose, Anna, in the highest!”

And THAT’s when Jesus entered Jerusalem.

So now you know.

 


Holy Land 2012 – Day 12

September 3, 2012

Heading to the airport today, but not before taking in 2 more important religious sites in Jerusalem. Having put our bags on the bus, we walked down to the Damascus Gate before walking through the old city to Haram esh-Sharif, better known to us as the Temple Mount. Security was tight but we eventually made it through and climbed up the wooden walkway overlooking the Western Wall. Reaching the top, Brian gave a brief explanation of the Dome of the Rock, the Al Aqsa mosque and the (sadly covered) Dome of Chains before we took the exit at the Eastern corner and headed down to the Church of St Anne (Crusader church built around 1140 on the site of a chapel built by the Byzantine Empress, Queen Eudoxia in AD438, allegedly over part of the home of Mary’s parents: Anne and Joachim). The site also contains the archeological remains of the Pools of Bethesda at which Jesus performed a healing miracle.

Leaving the old city by the Zion Gate for the last time we picked up our coach and headed to Abu Ghosh and the church of St Mary of the Resurrection. A resting place both of the ark of the Covenant and the crusader army before taking Jerusalem the site has a marvellous crusader church with an intriguing crypt built over a fresh water spring.

Our final visit before the airport was to Sataff. It was a poignant end to our pilgrimage journey as the group walked through the Israeli National Park to the ruined village of Sataff – one of a number of Arab villages cleared and destroyed in the 1948 ‘land grab’ campaign of Israeli terrorists. Lunch was shared in the cafe overlooking the village remains …

And so to the airport. A brief scare when security took issue with a photo being taken by a member of the group (no names; but her initials are Helen Chappell… Oops!). After deleting the photo we made our way to the terminal ready for our flight.

Thanks are due to all who made our visit memorable and to the many friends we met along the way.

I hope the group enjoyed the, at times arduous, experience – thanks to all of them for not complaining too much!

Major thanks are due to our friends in the Holy Land: Jack and Tamara Giacaman and, of course, Khalil and Eliane Abdinnour who made so many of the arrangements.

And a final ‘thank you’ to Brian who worked tirelessly to ensure the smooth running of the trip both before and during… What a ‘jolly’ good guide :)

That’s all, Folks!!!!

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Holy Land 2012 – Day 10

September 1, 2012

Almost a leisurely breakfast this morning as we were meeting Angela Godfrey-Goldstein at our hotel at 9am. Angela has set up an organisation (www.jahalin.org) which is working with Bedouin villages for education rights, amongst other things. On the way to the Jahalin village Angela gave us a more thorough tour of Ma’ale Adummim – the 3rd largest settlement in the ‘Greater Jerusalem’ area. Angela explained the process of ‘Judaising’ the West Bank and East Jerusalem. She gave us fact after fact – far too many to remember but one that stuck in my mind is that there are 36 municipal swimming pools in Jerusalem – in either West Jerusalem or East Jerusalem settlements. There are NO municipal swimming pools open to Palestinian people living in Jerusalem.

6 x the amount of water is made available to settlements compared to local Palestinian villages.

Ma’ale Adummim itself is built on 86% privately owned Palestinian land which has been confiscated, stolen or ‘bought’ using forged documents.

We headed towards Jericho for a few miles until we came to the Jahalin village. There we were welcomed by Eid, the spokesperson, advocate and village Elder. He told us of his life and struggle, translated for us by Angela and, in particular, the struggle to provide education for the local Bedouin.

The nearest school for the village children (5 – 12 years old) was in Jericho, 22km away. Over the years, on the way to or from school, 5 children had been killed on the road, 6 severely injured and many more traumatised by seeing the accidents happen and their friends killed or injured – clearly they no longer wanted to go so far to a school which involved such a dangerous journey.

So, in 2009, with help from organisations such as ‘Rabbis for Human Rights’ along with European and Muslim volunteers Eid helped the village build a school out of discarded tyres and other refuse. Last year there were 85 kids in the school (up to 12 years) with 102 due to enrol when the school year starts tomorrow. However, the local illegal Israeli settlement has complained that the school is ‘a threat’ and a demolition order has been placed on it which means that IDF soldiers will come in the morning and prevent pupils and teachers accessing the school.

The area across the road, on which the Jahalin traditionally grazed their flock has been designated a military area by the Israelis. However, there are no soldiers patrolling the area, instead there are booby traps placed which mutilate rather than kill. A pen, a pair of spectacles, some sweets … Treasure to a child – but potentially fatal if disturbed due to the hidden explosives.

Bedouin lived on the produce of their livestock The village used to have 1600 sheep and goats, and 25 camels. But the market at which they could sell their produce has been closed down. Now there are just 140 animals, no camels – it is just not viable. If it were not for the basic supplies provided by the World Food Programme the village could not exist and the Israelis would have achieved their aim of moving the Bedouin away from their traditional lands leaving the area free for the expansion of the illegal settlements. Angela, as near to an avenging angel as I have met, will be at the village tomorrow morning to help confront the soldiers in their attempt to close the school. We wish her well and offer her our prayers. Because the school is not just a school – it is also used as a medical clinic and to provide literacy classes for adults.

Leaving the Jahalin camp we returned to Jerusalem and made a short stop at the Sunbuna store; a cooperative for Palestinian craft which, due to travel restrictions, the women who make them cannot sell in Jerusalem.

Just before lunch, we stopped briefly at the Chapel of the Flagellation (another Barluzzi design – this one from 1929) and the Chapel of the Condemnation – with its altar Bas Relief of Jesus being led away from the fortress of Antonia, and including some ‘gaming stones’ – game boards carved into the stones of the pavement (lithostratus).

We had lunch at the Austrian Hospice – I can’t deny that they do a pretty good cheese and ham toastie – before climbing to the roof to look out over Jerusalem.

Continuing along the Via Dolorosa, we stopped off at the Armenian pottery shop run by the Karakashian brothers – money was spent :)

On to the Church of the Holy Sepulchre – this time coming down from the roof via the Ethiopian monastery.

We continued to St James’ Armenian cathedral. Although we knew it would be closed, we hoped we could sneak in – we couldn’t, although the custodian did let us into the courtyard.

We had left Dormition Abbey off the agenda yesterday so decided to visit today. Built in 1911 at the place of the tomb of Mary (if you’re a Latin Catholic that is – we visited the Orthodox site yesterday and neither take much account of Ephesus!). The church was very busy – with lots of people scribbling furiously in notepads. We have no idea why.

Walking back to our hotel via the bullet holed Zion gate and through Jaffa gate we felt that we had done as much as could be expected. There had been so much to take in and we needed time to assimilate facts and rationalise our responses.

Tomorrow could be more of the same …. We’ll see!

Hotel

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Holy Land 2012 – Day 9

August 31, 2012

Our morning started, after breakfast, with a visit to Yad Vashem – the holocaust memorial museum. It is impossible (for me, at any rate) to visit here and not feel, in some way, ashamed and somehow culpable when I revisit the horrors that were actioned against Jews and others by a supposedly civilised nation – and how little notice, at times, other nations, and the leadership of the Churches, took. I am constantly struck by the bravery of the Resistance fighters, and given hope by the way Denmark stood, four square, behind their Jewish citizens and ensured their escape and freedom. “I do not know what a Jew is, we only know what human brings are” Pastor Andre Trocme, August 1942 – Denmark.

As a youth and children’s worker I am all too conscious of the perceived wisdom that many abusers where themselves abused in childhood. Israel seems to fit this pattern perfectly. Having seen how the ‘separation wall’ has affected Palestinian Christians and Muslims alike, and having heard eye-witness testimony of how Palestinians in West Jerusalem were forced to leave their homes and possessions and have their property confiscated by Israelis it is impossible not to be struck by the irony of these words from the information boards in Yad Vashem relating to the way the Nazis responded to the ‘Jewish problem”:

“The Nazis in Poland took special measures against the Jews intended to isolate them from their surroundings, stealing their property…they forced the Jews to live in severely overcrowded ghettos, behind fences and walls. They cut the Jews off from their surroundings and their sources of livelihood and condemned them to a life of humiliation and poverty”.

It was a quiet group that got back on the coach and headed to the Israel museum.

Having found, eventually, the correct entrance (and asked the potentially embarrassing question of if anybody would own up to being a pensioner in order to get a discount) we headed straight for the Shrine of the Book which, dedicated to the display and study of the Dead Sea Scrolls, and the Essene community who wrote them, linked back to our visit to Qumran. The full length facsimile of the Isaiah scroll forms the centrepiece of the exhibition housed in a contemporary building the roof of which is designed to look like the lid of the pot jars in which many of the scrolls had been stored 2000 years before. The scale model (1:50) of Jerusalem at the time of the second temple helped us to orientate ourselves with much of what we would be seeing tomorrow afternoon when we walk the Via Dolorosa through the old city.

We bought some lunch at the museum to take with us to the Augusta Victoria hospital where we had arranged to meet Margot, the director of the international kindergarten which is based at this hospital compound and is run by the Lutheran World Federation. Margot had also arranged for us to gain access to the church tower so that we could take in the spectacular views of the countryside around Jerusalem. Despite the lift not working all but 2 of the group climbed the steps up the tower. I was one of the ‘sensible 2′ as I knew what was coming next and decided to conserve my energy….

Picking us up at 2, the bus dropped us off again at the Church of the Pater Noster – site of one of the 4 churches in the Holy Land constructed on the orders of the Roman Emperor Constantine at the behest of his mother, Queen Helena, who was instrumental in ensuring the conversion of the Roman empire to Christianity. The church commemorates Jesus teaching the Apostles how to pray giving the example of the words in the Lord’s Prayer. Only the ruins of the crypt remain of the original church and, indeed, the magnificent basilica which was planned to be built on the site in the 1920s has never been completed as money ran out…

Passing the tomb of the prophets we then began the steep walk down the Mount of Olives stopping at Dominus Flevit with its 1st century ossuary store, chalice window, Byzantine and Crusader mosaics and the ‘hen and chicks’ (from Luke’s gospel) altar mosaic.

Carrying on down the mount, passing the Jewish cemetery on our left and the Russian Orthodox Convent of Mary Magdalene on our right we reached Gethsemane and The Church of the Agony – also known as the Church of All Nations – our second Barluzzi church of the day (Dominus Flevit bring our first).

Crossing over the Mt Olive road we went down the steps to the Franciscan Cave of the Olive Press with its altar featuring 2 sleeping disciples) before going through the Crusader doorway and down the 44 steps to the Eastern Orthodox church of Mary’s tomb.

Walking along, down and then back up the Kidron Valley, past Absalom’s tomb (and the tombs of the 2 other people we couldn’t remember!) we entered the Old City by the Dung Gate and made our way to near the Church of the Holy Sepulchre for a well earned rest, and refreshment, on the rooftop terrace of Papa Andrea’s restaurant.

We forewent visiting the Church of Peter In Gallicantu, and Dormition Abbey, as the group were clearly drained. So, instead, we chose to take the short walk up to Jaffa Gate and, following the walls of the Old City, back to our hotel at Notre Dame centre for dinner and, we hope, a relaxing evening!

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Holy Land 2012 – Day 8

August 30, 2012

No such luxury of a lie-in this morning as we had a full day of travelling, with a few stops, ahead of us.

So, we said goodbye to the Mount of the Beatitudes Pilgrim Guest House and its nice breakfasts and dodgy dinners and headed towards Tiberias before taking a sharp right (well, it felt like a sharp right!) and took the Nazareth road.

On the way we passed through Cana. Had there been any weddings we might have stopped for a drink but all was quiet so we pressed on to our first stop of the day – the largest Arab town in Israel: Nazareth.

Loay dropped us off by the Orthodox church of the Annunciation. The church is built over the only fresh water spring in Nazareth and, as such, would certainly have been a place visited daily by Mary. There was a service being conducted in the church and Brian invited us to reflect how we would react if, on a Sunday morning, coach loads of tourists wandered around our church, whispering and taking photographs…. Probably not with the equanimity and good grace of the churches we have visited so far.

Walking through the market we next came to the Latin Catholic Basilica of Annunciation, consecrated in 1969 and the biggest church built in the Holy Land for 800 years. Built over 3 tiers, the first being the cave level, contemporaneous with the level of the town in the first century. Ground level is a huge, open basilica whilst, above it is the local ‘parish’ church used by the Latin Catholic congregation of Nazareth today.

Picking up the bus again (once we’d found it – parking isn’t easy in Nazareth!) it was on to Qesaryya (also known as Caeseria Maritima) passing Mt Tabor in the distance on our left, along the plains of Jezreel with Megiddo (or Armageddon) on our right to the Mediterranean coast along the Via Maris.

Despite everything I’ve done for them the group would not let me slope off for a game of golf so it was more amphitheatres, bath houses, amphorae and a hippodrome …. still, after a walk along the promenade and a lovely lunch overlooking the harbour, Brian made up for my disappointment by letting me buy him a double scoop ice cream from Bella’s on the harbour before taking the bus a short trip up the coast to see the remains of the double aqueduct which Herod had constructed to bring fresh water to Caesarea from Haifa.

And from there to our final hotel: 4 nights in the beautiful Notre Dame hotel opposite New Gate in the Jerusalem city walls. Waiting for us there were Khalil, Eliane and their eldest son, Fayez. It was good to see them again and they, well, Eliane (she works here) gave us a potted history of the building. After an evening meal of wonderful tasty, well cooked food (Beatitudes Pilgrim House take note) we walked down to the Damascus Gate and up to the Church of the Holy Sepulchre (or Church of the Resurrection, if you prefer – which I do). There were no queues for the ‘tomb’ so we all took the opportunity to see inside the ugly structure which commemorates the spot at which Jesus was laid to rest.

The evening being pleasantly cool we walked over to the Western Wall expecting it to be quiet. We were wrong. It wasn’t. Well, the wall was obviously, walls may have ears but mouths are significantly lacking but there was a huge celebration going on as those conscripts who had started their military service in 2010 were being demobbed at the Western Wall. The place was heaving with soldiers happy to be reunited with their loved ones.

A short walk back up through the Muslim and Christian quarters brought us back to the New Gate and our hotel.

Please note: WiFi is no longer free at Notre Dame unless, apparently, you’re a Reverend. The remaining instalments if this blog have cost me $10.

I accept PayPal donations ;)

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Holy Land 2012 – Days 1&2

August 24, 2012

Day 1

A small, but eminently select group left a damp and cool Manchester airport on Thursday 23rd August for a visit to the Holy Land. I am co-leading the trip with Brian Jolly (Altrincham United Reformed Church).

For some it was a return visit but, for most, it was their first experience of the land in which our faith was made flesh and lived amongst us.

With no delays to the flight we arrived in Ben Gurion airport to be met by our old friend Khalil Abdinnour and our driver, Loay.

Arriving at our hotel in Bethlehem an hour later (the creatively entitled Bethlehem Hotel) our rooms were allocated and we had a late dinner before heading out for a walk up to Manger Square to meet with Jack Giacaman, an olive wood carver who has been a friend of Brian’s and mine for many years. We shared a drink in the Square Cafe before Jack shuttled us back to the hotel.

Day 2

An early start meant that we could get to Heridion before the sun got too hot for the steep climb to the top of Herod’s summer palace between Bethlehem and Hebron.

One small problem was that the lift got stuck on the way down to breakfast. I’m not at my best in enclosed spaces and, as Brian, Kath and I got on at the top floor, it wasn’t US that overloaded the lift. I reckon it was the 2 French women who got on at the 6th floor (I don’t actually know if they were French, but I’ll blame the French anyway!) Thankfully, Brian presses the alarm button and the lift started moving before I succumbed to total panic!

I hadn’t been to Herodion for 10 years and was pleasantly surprised at how much the excavations had developed including, 2 years ago, the site of Herod’s tomb…

Leaving Herodion we first visited the Greek Orthodox site which commemorates the angels appearing to the shepherds to announce the birth of Jesus. We then moved onto the Franciscan site which commemorates the same event and includes the Chapel of the Angel – the first of many Antonio Barluzzi churches we will visit over the ensuing 11 days.

Lunch was at the Tent, a restaurant stylised like a Bedouin tent, before heading up towards the main checkpoint gate to visit the Caritas Baby Hospital. This hospital, established in 1952 by a Swiss pastor, provides the only specialist paediatric care in the whole of the West Bank. Costing $10,000,000 a year to operate, 93% of its funding comes from donations. We took the opportunity to see, up close the section of the ‘separation wall’ which encloses Rachel’s tomb.

We then passed through the gate to get views of Jerusalem Old City from the Haas Promenade, Mt Scopus and the Mount of Olives.

Heading away from Jerusalem, down the other side of the Mount of Olives we stopped off at Bethphage – from where Jesus began his triumphant entry into Jerusalem on a donkey on Palm Sunday.

Carrying on, as if we were going to Bethlehem before the barrier was built, we came to Abu Dis; a town completely bisected between Jerusalem and the West Bank. We could see the way the wall cut straight across what once was the main route from Jerusalem to Jericho The journey now is much, much longer.

Getting back to the hotel we decided, after dinner, that we had done quite enough walking for the day so a meeting in the hotel bar and a sociable drink afterwards ended the day on a very pleasant note. I am a big fan of Taybeh beer :)

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A Visit To The Holy Land

November 17, 2011

“I’ve always wanted to visit the places I hear of in the Gospels  ….”

“I’d like to experience what it means to live in Israel/Palestine today …”

“I want an opportunity to deepen my faith and understanding ….”

A visit to the Holy Land provides opportunities and experiences that, as well as lasting a lifetime, can develop your understanding of faith.

Revd. Brian Jolly (Altrincham United Reformed Church) and Leo Roberts (CYDO) are leading a small group (20 members) on a 12-day visit to the Holy Land from 23rd August 2012 to 3rd September 2012. Places are strictly limited and will be allocated on a ‘first come; first served’ basis.

We will not only be visiting the Gospel sites (starting in Bethlehem, visiting Nazareth, then Galilee before spending time in jerusalem) but will also have the opportunity to meet with members of local faith communities – Christian, Muslim and Jewish. Hearing their stories and learning a little of their lives will inform us about the Holy Land and help us to begin to understand what it means to live in the Holy Land today.

The cost of the trip, including flights, accommodation (twin rooms, en-suite) on a half-board basis) and all internal transport is £1375.

For further information, or to get an application pack, please get in touch

Thursday, 23rd August

Meet at Manchester Airport 0700, departing on flight LS907 at 10.00.

Arrive Ben Gurion Airport, Tel Aviv

at 17.15. Transfer to Bethlehem.

Dinner and overnight in Bethlehem, at The Bethlehem Hotel

Friday 24th August  Jerusalem/Bethlehem orientation

Today we travel around Bethlehem and Jerusalem to get our bearings. In the morning we travel east from Bethlehem into the desert to Herodion, the summer palace and burial place of King Herod. Later we travel a short distance to the north to circle the Old City of Jerusalem, stopping for lunch and spectacular views from Mount Scopus and the Mount of Olives (to the east), and the Haas Promenade (to the south).

Dinner and overnight in Bethlehem, at The Bethlehem Hotel

Saturday 25th August 

In and around Bethlehem

This morning we visit Dheisheh Refugee Camp, to hear from residents about the history of the camp and life today. Later we view the Separation Barrier and hear from other residents of Bethlehem about living under occupation. After lunch we visit the Shepherd’s Fields in the village of Beit Sahour, to the east of Jerusalem Bethlehem, before walking through Bethlehem Old City to the Church of the Nativity.

Today includes a meeting with  Jack Giacaman and his family, and a visit to their olive wood factory & shop.

Dinner and overnight in Bethlehem, at The Bethlehem Hotel

 Sunday 26th August 

Bethlehem & Jericho

We join the Lutheran congregation at Bethlehem Christmas Church for morning worship, and afterwards visit the Lutheran International Centre of Bethlehem.

In the afternoon we transfer from Bethlehem to the desert oasis of Jericho, situated at the lowest point on the earth’s surface. We visit Tel Jericho and view the hills of Jordan to the east, before arriving at Jericho Resort Hotel.

Dinner and overnight at Jericho Resort Hotel

Monday 27th August 

Beside the Dead Sea

An early morning start to drive south along the western shore of the Dead Sea to Masada, King Herod’s Winter Palace. After an audio-visual presentation explaining the history of Masada, we ascend the mountain by cable car to tour the archaeological excavations and enjoy spectacular views of the Dead Sea.

Late morning and early afternoon provide opportunity to experience the facilities of the Dead Sea Spa at Ein Gedi (including Dead Sea mud, the Dead Sea, mineral & fresh water pools). Later in the afternoon we return to Jericho, stopping en route to visit the archaeological excavations at Qumran, the 1st century desert centre for the Essene Community, where the Dead Sea scrolls were written.

Dinner and overnight at Jericho Resort Hotel

Tuesday 28th August 

The Jordan Valley and Nazareth

Today we travel north along the Jordan Valley to Nazareth to visit Mary’s Well, the Basilica of the Annunciation and Nazareth village before making our way to Kibbutz Ma Agan, situated on the south eastern shore of the Sea of Galilee.

Dinner and overnight at

Kibbutz Ma Agan, Sea of Galilee

Wednesday 29th August 

The Sea of Galilee

Today is spent beside the Sea of Galilee, and includes visits to Kursi, Bethsaida,  Capernaum, Mensa Christi, Tabgha and the Mount of Beatitudes, and a boat ride.

Dinner and overnight at

Kibbutz Ma Agan, Sea of Galilee

Thursday 30th August

The Mediterranean Coast

This morning we head west to the Mediterranean coast, for a morning visit to Caeserea Maritima. In the afternoon we make our way up to the Holy City of Jerusalem.

Dinner and overnight at the

Notre Dame Centre, Jerusalem

Friday 31st August

The Old City of Jerusalem

Today begins with visits to the Church of the Pater Noster and Dominus Flevit on the Mount of Olives, and the Garden of Gethsemane. Later we cross the Kidron Valley to enter the Old City of Jerusalem and walk the Via Dolorosa (the Way of Sorrows) to the Church of the Holy Sepulchre. Other visits inside the Old City include The Church of St Anne, the pools of Bethesda, St James’ Armenian Cathedral and the Western Wall.

Dinner and overnight at

Notre Dame Centre, Jerusalem

 Saturday 1st September  -  The Temple Mount, Bethany and West Jerusalem

This morning begins with a visit to Harem-esh-Sharif (Noble Sanctuary) to view the Al Aqsa Mosque and the golden Dome of the Rock. Later we visit Bethany, the home village of Mary, Martha and Lazarus.

Ain the afternoon we visit the memorial to the Holocaust (Yad Vashem) and an extensive model of 1st century Jerusalem at the Israel Museum.

Dinner and overnight at Notre Dame Centre, Jerusalem

Sunday 2nd September  - Jerusalem/Hebron

This morning we worship with the Palestinian congregation at St George’s Anglican Cathedral in East Jerusalem

In the afternoon, we will visit Hebron with a member of the Israel Committee Against House Demolitions to visit the Tombs of the Patriarchs and meet with the Christian Peacemaker Team.

Dinner and overnight at Notre Dame Centre, Jerusalem

Monday 3rd September

Emmaus …. and home

This morning we will visit one of the 4 traditional sites of Emmaus where we will celebrate Communion to end our visit, before transferring to Ben Gurion Airport, Tel Aviv.

Depart Tel Aviv on flight LS908, arriving in Manchester at 22.00


Oh me of little faith

September 4, 2010

So, an early morning trip to the Church of the Resurrection (or the Church of the Holy Sepulchre – depending upon your tradition) and I wondered how many of the group would meet me in Reception at 6:30 to explore the church before it got too crowded… I should have known better – all but 1 were ready and waiting!

A short walk down deserted streets, shops still shuttered and early enough for the streets to still be wet from the overnight cleaning brought us to the Holy Sepulchre. There weren’t too many others there – but enough to mean we had to queue to visit the tomb itself – which is, for me, an entirely underwhelming experience!

As more pilgrims arrived we headed back to our hotel for a shower and breakfast. The early morning is the only time a pilgrim has any chance of experiencing even an iota of spirituality at the Church. For most of the day it is just a scrum so I was pleased that so many took the opportunity to join me. Why did I ever doubt that they would?

Now, off to the via Dolorosa…

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Day 1 – afternoon and evening

September 3, 2010

Having walked the Mount of Olives this morning, we left the hotel mid-afternoon to visit the Garden Tomb near the Damascus Gate. It is a peaceful contemplative place – particularly as we had reached the Damascus Gate just afternoon prayers finished – it was a bit of a scrum and the tranquility and space afforded us in the Garden Tomb enclosure was very welcome!

We continued up Nablus Road Street (sic) and spent some time playing “hunt the URC kneeled” in St George’s Cathedral before walking back up to our hotel. On the way back we were stopped by a couple of young western women who told us that they were “looking for a demonstration” did we know where one was? The last Friday of Ramadan and the start of Shabbat meant that the Old City was pretty much wall to wall demonstration (which is why we avoided it today) but we pointed them in the right direction and wished them the best!

My good friend Miral was waiting for us when we got back. She has been to all of the Youth4Hope training camps and had agreed to come and meet with our young people to share a bit about herself. Unfortunately this included revealing that her favourite band is Westlife! It was lovely to see her again.

After tea, Khalil Abdinnour came to speak to us about Jerusalem Ark and, in particular, the kids and youth programmes they run. I was delighted that they were able to spend time with us.

Tomorrow is an early start for some – I’m taking anyone who wants to go down to the Holy Sepulchre at 06:30 – before it gets too crowded. A few have said that they want to come – we’ll see :)

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FURY visit to the Holy Land

September 3, 2010

Apart from my work with the Jerusalem Arc organisation, the other joy I am lucky enough to experience in the Holy Land is bringing young people to visit the places if which they have heard in the Bible.

This visit was originally intended to follow the chronological life of Jesus – start in Bethlehem, go to Galilee and end in Jerusalem but the hotels weren’t able to accommodate us in that order so we’re doing it in reverse :)

This morning, we got a lift from our minibus to the Church of the Pater Noster and then walked down to Gethsemane via Dominus Flevit.

A stop at the Cave of the Olive Press and the orthodox Tomb if the Virgin Mary before skirting the walls of the Old City (dodging the stone throwing child – or trying to!) up to the Dung Gate where we found time to visit the Western Wall – once we’d got through security!

Lunch was in the Jewish Quarter before walking back to our hotel through the Armenian Quarter.

It was good to be able to do the ‘Tour Guide’ stuff again – probably bores the young people rigid, mind you!

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