Room with a view

July 24, 2010


For all the faults of Maison D’Abraham, chief of which is no air-conditioning, not even a fan, in my bedroom, the view does make up for it a little bit!


Things Ain’t What They Used To Be

July 23, 2010

And just in case you’re wondering how I’m able to blog from Maison D’Abraham …. It’s 5 shekels for 15 minutes on the old Pentium 386 in reception, but I was able to bribe one of the French nuns into giving me the wireless key for “Father’s computer”

That’s the thing about nuns, you can kiss them once, even twice … So long as you don’t get into the habit.

It’s grim up North…

July 23, 2010





I never learn, honestly, I never do … the agreed plan was that we would wake the kids at 05:45, do that they could shower and have breakfast before leaving for Galilee at 7. Well, the kids were all up but we still didn’t manage to set off til 7:45. Best laid plans and all that!

One benefit of being away from Maison d’Abraham is that I don’t have to see the floor. Honestly, it’s like an Escher print and makes me quite dizzy.

But we get to Haifa eventually to visit Elijah’s cave at Stella Maris before reading off to Tiberias and Lake Galilee to visit numerous churches and have a trip on the lake. Then it was back home via Nazareth.

It was a long, hot day. But good to be out and, because we didn’t get back til 9pm the kitchens were shut – so we had to get a pizza 🙂

Youth work roles

July 22, 2010

the Kalandia checkpoint is a soulless, desperate place. A windswept, dusty point of greayness where people say hello and goodbye to each other and, all too often, wait in blistering heat to enter Jerusalem only to be told that they cannot.

In my career as a youth worker I have fulfilled many roles: cook, bottle-washer, confidante, games organiser, social secretary … but today I added two more roles to the list: decoy and passport!

Entry back into Jerusalem, having picked up the kids from the checkpoint is alweays fraught with, not quite danger, but a feeling of tenseness. Will we be allowed through? will the soldiers make it difficult for us? Will they stop us and search the bus?

So I sit at the front with my “I am from Europe” hat and a badge that I made myself on the computer and talk into the microphone on the bus as if I were a tour guide and just hope that the soldiers will take me at face value and let us straight through. Today they did, tomorrow they might not! It is that unpredictable. And so we made it. All of us. Safe and sound from Nablus, Jenin, Ramallah, bet sahour and villages I have never heard off, ready to work, play and learn together – Christians in the land where Christianity was born.

I just hope that tomorrow goes as smoothly.

Priests and other holy folk

July 21, 2010

One of the things you can’t help but notice as you walk around Jerusalem is the abundance of liturgical dress. Greek Orthodox, Egyptian Optic, cassocks, robes and suits in all shapes and sizes from tiny Korean priests to impressively-girth American priests.

But one of the most commanding I have seen is young Fr. Julian, the curate at the Pontifical Institute Notre Dame of Jerusalem Centre. Young (by which I mean younger than me!) and slim he is also 2.1 metres tall – not sure what that is in old money – and cuts quite a dash with his Argentinian tan. Unfortunately, he’s also young enough to have not yet learned the art of compromise so when, on Sunday, the kids attend Mass here, only the Catholics will receive communion. Frankly, it’s enough to make you weep sometimes.

Still, that’s a battle for another day. Tonight there are pretzels and a draught Maybe on the table in front of me, there is a lovely cool breeze on the verandah, God is in her heaven, and all is good with the world…

Ready to roll

July 21, 2010


Not a bad view from my room – the New Gate into the Old City of Jerusalem.

It’s off to the Kalandia checkpoint in the morning to try and facilitate the entry into Jerusalem of the kids taking part in  this year’s camp. They are all under 15 years old so, technically, it shouldn’t be a problem but you can never tell.

There are kids from Ramallah, Jenin, Beit Sahour and Bethlehem amongst other places and, for the first part of the camp we’ll be staying at Mason d’ Abraham on the Mount of Olives before heading off to a monastery about 40 minutes outside Jerusalem for the last 3 days. For many of the kids it will be their one and only chance to visit the holy sites in Israel, places they have read or head about in the Gospels that may only be an hour from where they live but to which access will be denied because of their racial heritage.

And the world, and some churches, look on and say nothing…

Jerusalem at night

July 20, 2010

What to do on a hot, sultry evening in Jerusalem?

Well, if you’re staying at the Notre Dame Centre on thing, in fact just about the only thing, you can do is climb the stairs to the roof terrace and count the mosques.

Shining out like beacons in the darkness because of their green neon lights I counted 8 from my viewpoint, mostly in East Jerusalem but not all.

I wonder how they feel, the people who worship here? Do they recognise that they are one of three abrahamic faiths that claim Jerusalem as one of the cradles of their faith? Or do they choose to ignore Judaism and the many brands of Christianity that can be found in, or near, the Old City?