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 – 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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Using t’ interweb..

February 20, 2010

So, here we are in Leeds (Hinsley Hall)  for a weekend of training with Stewart Cutler (the CYDO for the Synod of Scotland)

Stewart is something of a techie and this morning’s session was all about the relevance, or otherwise, of the internet to our roles. Needless to say, every now and again the wireless signal dropped and we lost all connection to the web, most of the time it was a slow connection, but we all got there.

Stewart talked about Tim Davies and his 5 reasons for using the internet to develop your youth work. I failed to take notes, but hopefully Stewart will post something!

For those who are not as technically competent as others the session was quite challenging. but it was clear that the internet (and its social networking applications) can be a useful tool in our support of young people, and those who work with them.

so, a question … what is your favourite resource site for working with young people?