And so I come to my final day in the enigma that is the Holy Land.
In his classic novel ‘The Gulag Archipelago’ Aleksander Solzhenitsyn writes “it takes just one sip to taste the whole of the ocean” (I’ve paraphrased that!). The same cannot be said of this most beautiful and haunting of lands. Each time I come, and I am lucky enough to have been a regular visitor since Rev Brian Jolly first invited me to accompany him on a trip in 1997, I have learned something new about the land, the peoples, the culture or myself.
This visit has been one of recognising the development of the young people with whom John Brown and I have worked in recent years. To see Miral, Alex, Christine, Joudeh, Fayez, Fadi and Julie putting into practice some of the leadership skills we have tried to impart has been wonderful to see. I am only sorry that JB could not have been here with me so that he too could recognise that, despite the occasional ‘local difficulties’ raised by working with a different culture, we have, in a small way, made a difference. And, talking of local difficulties, I want it noted that Eliane and I have not had a single argument all fortnight – a first for the both of us!
I should no longer be surprised at the positive attitude of my young friends here in the Holy Land. Despite the political, cultural and social issues they face they just get on with life, optimistically looking to the future and willing, and wanting, to be part of the generation that helps bring peace to this divided land. There are too many young folk to mention by name here – but you know who you are and you know that you are in my prayers.
The camps are over and, having used up all my resources, my case was considerably easier to pack and is also much lighter (despite the addition of yet another olive wood lion carved by my friend Jack Giacaman in Bethlehem – sorry, Sara!)
And so I sit in the lobby of the Notre Dame Center (sic) waiting for Fadi and Khalil. Fadi has agreed to develop a Youth4Hope blog which will be used to keep supporters in other counties appraised of developments and events. His only condition? That his Dad doesn’t interfere and just let’s him get on with it!
I am not ashamed to use this blog to again appeal to potential sponsors/donors (however small) to consider the Kids4Hope and Youth4Hope programmer as potential beneficiaries of your charity and largesse. For details of what that might mean (a Sunday collection or a whopping grant!) please feel free to contact me.
Khalil and I are meeting to finalise arrangements for my next visit in September when Stewart Cutler (my colleague from the National Synod of Scotland) and I are leading a small group of young people from FURY (Fellowship of United Reformed Youth) on a pilgrimage/encounter visit. I come back exactly 1 month today. I wonder what I shall learn this time?