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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Kids 4 Hope

July 20, 2010

It’s 30 degrees outside and I’m sitting in the air-conditioned comfort of the Notre Dame Centre opposite Jerusalem’s New Gate putting the finishing touches to the programme for Kids4Hope, a summer camp organised by Jerusalem Ark. I was first involved with the programme in 1996 (during Israel’s war with Lebanon) and have stayed involved ever since, thanks to the generosity if the United Reformed Church and North Western Synod. This year the camp is smaller than usual (only 28 kids instead if the usual 40) because Jerusalem Ark has not been able to get sufficient funding and have had to leave some children disappointed. The programme is focussing on 3 areas:
1. The children as individuals
2. The churches from which they come
3. The situations and communities to which they will return.

With a mixture of Bible studies, games, discussions and activities, along with visits to the holy sites in Israel, it will be hard work for all involved but, hopefully, fun, too.

Some of the children with whom John Brown (URC Youth Development Officer) first worked now help out at the kids camp as young leaders. If proof was ever needed as to the value if this work; that is it.

Acknowledging the value of the young people, but constrained by the travel restrictions placed upon them by the Israeli authorities, Jerusalem Ark have developed a further camp, Youth4Hope, to develop young leaders from towns and villages in the West Bank. Funding for this venture, now in its 3rd year, has always been difficult and we have been extremely grateful to a charitable trust in Cheshire the last 2 years. This year, the programme is receiving financial support from a Catholic Diocese in Germany. Next year? Who knows? If your church is looking for a project to support (with even a small donation) that helps develop community leadership amongst young Christians in the Holy Land then I hope you will get in touch with me do that I can out YOU in touch with Jerusalem Ark! Your prayers are, as ever, very welcome, too.