The flight home was a relative doddle – apart from checking in!
My pre-printed boarding pass told me to go to Terminal 1 at Ben Gurion but, when I got there, security told me I had to go to Terminal 3. So, I hopped on the shuttle bus and went to Terminal 3 … Where the departures board told me I had to check-in at Terminal 1!
Those of you who know me will be aware that I like to get to places early and it was as well I did because the bus back to T1 seemed to take ages. But, eventually, it arrived and I got to check in with 25 minutes to spare after security checks. Guess what? We then had to get a shuttle bus BACK to T3 for the actual plane!
Never mind, all was good although, as ever, boarding was late and we got numerous announcements that if people didn’t take their seats quickly we would lose our slot and suffer a “lengthy delay of several hours due to industrial action in European airspace”
Apparently, that didn’t seem to bother a number of black-suited gentlemen with big hats and ringlets who happily blocked the aisles whilst they stowed bags which, I’m sure, were too big for the overhead lockers! The cabin crew were going mental and shouting (almost politely) at them to get a move on and there was an audible sigh of relief when, with less than 2 minutes to spare, the plane taxied to the runway.
I’ve never flown Jet2.com before and had made the mistake of pre-ordering the in-flight meal.
Chicken Piquante was duly served. Now, I don’t speak French, but I have to assume that ‘piquant’ translates as “formless, tasteless lump of unappetising, reconstituted protein”.
Still, the flight was on time, it wasn’t raining when I got back, and there were birthday presents and cards to open when I got home 🙂
Will I fly Jet2 again? Probably – but I’ll not have expectations next time!
The flight home was a relative doddle – apart from checking in!
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?
The Abdinnours are wonderful hosts and, in my last night in the Holy Land, they took me to Pasha’s Restaurant in East Jerusalem.
The table was loaded from a magic tray – the food just seemed to keep on coming!
And, like a fool, I ate my fill…. only to be asked what I wanted for my main course. The main course, which I won’t even attempt to spell, consisted of what looked like a whole lamb atop a ton of rice.
Delicious… and finished off with a hubbly-bubbly.
A great end to a satisfying, but tiring, fortnight.
The car is loaded with the leftover snacks, the laptops, screen, projector and other resources.
The coaches are due shortly and I have been presented with a lovely memento of my time with Kids4Hope and Youth4Hope.
I just hope and pray that funding is available from somewhere to maintain these valuable programmes that seek to strengthen the skills base of the young people who are part of the Christian minority in the land where our shared faith began. God bless them all.
Not eschatologically speaking of course or, rather, I hope!
It’s the last day of the camp. Breakfast has been had – and there are one or two young people who are feeling the effects of dancing into the early hours.
Moving from here requires 3 coaches… one for the German group who are continuing their visit with a few days in Galilee. One for the West Bankers to get them to Bethlehem bus station so that they can catch local transport to Ramallah, Zebabdeh and other West Bank villages and one bound for Jerusalem for those few folk with a Jerusalem ID – and me!
It’s been a good camp, although it has suffered from falling between 2 stools: training and cross-cultural encounter but, nonetheless, the young people will return to wherever they are from knowing a bit more about life in another part if the world, and with friends there.
For me there are meetings to finalise plans for the September FURY visit and to look at what Youth4Hope might try to develop over thd next 12 months….
Last year, John Brown and I walked up the Mount of Temptations with the Palestinian young people only to be denied entry by a bolshy orthodox priest who wouldn’t let us in because some of us were Roman Catholics, protestants or, worst of all, Episcopalians
I was not happy to see that the walk was on the programme again… and argued against us doing it.
But Alex Hawwad (one of the Palestinian young people) had a cunning plan… whilst in Bethlehem he visited the local orthodox church, he attends an orthodox church in Jerusalem, and bought a great big flag 🙂 So, we walked up the Mount behind this flag and, Lo and behold, we were granted entry. As it turned out, the flag wasn’t needed – it was a different priest who could not have been more kind and generous, but top marks to Alex for using his initiative in trying to ensure that the walk (more of a climb really!) wasn’t wasteful.
I didn’t take any photos from the top – I get dizzy! But, trust me, it’s quite a height and, in 39 degree midday sun, there’s quite a sense of achievement when the summit finally levels out.
Whilst in Bethlehem, although staying at the Casa Nova, we’ve been meeting at the convent if the Sisters of Emmanuel (although, as nuns, I’m not sure it’s legal to be a bride of Christ AND a sister of Emmanuel!)
This Greek Catholic order have their convent in the shadow of the Separation Wall. There are only 3 nuns here now, offering help and support to local women with activities, education and prayer.
As for us, well, we had some newspaper left over from K4H… you can guess the rest!
As part of the encounter sessions, I asked each group to teach the other a phrase that would be useful should they ever visit the other country… there are now 9 German young women who know the Arabic for “get your hands off my ass” 🙂