Another good day, mixed in parts, but overall good. We began the day up bright and early at 6.00am as we wanted to get to the Wailing (or Western) wall and to the Temple Mound before morning worship at St George’s Cathedral. If you remember the word I used yesterday was “wow”: well, it’s the only word I can think of now.
Unfortunately the internet here is refusing to talk to my phone camera so I can’t upload the photos at the moment.
Nothing can prepare you for this experience. Security was intense and men and women separated both going through th x-ray scanners and also at the wall itself. On the men’s side of the fence our heads had to be covered with a skull cap and then we entered the area to see all the Jewish men praying at what for them is their holiest site: the only remaining wall of the Temple beneath which may yet be the missing Ark of the Covenant. Even though our thinking may be different I couldn’t deny the sincerity and devoutness with which they prayed. Oh, how I wish more Christians could have this level of commitment. After this we went through another security check in order to enter the Temple Mount, the sight of the original Jewish Temple, now long gone. However the land was acquired in the Middle Ages by the Muslim faith and they built a glorious Golden domed shrine to Mohammed alongside a Mosque.
The reason for the security? The Jews and the Muslims now both observe this area as holy, and often there is fighting on this site.
The moving part was towards the end of the visit when we began to leave via a different gate, for this afforded us the view across the Kudron Valley into the Chapel of Dominus Flevit, where we began our journey last Wednesday. On our last day in Jerusalem we were able to look back to the start of the journey and reflect on how far we’d come in our pilgrimage.
We then went to the Anglucan Cathedral of St. George for Eucharist. Afterwards someone remarked it had been the Anglucan version of “where are we now?” As it had all been in Arabic, even though the setting was familiar, most of us got lost. Even the final hymn by Charles Wesley, ‘Jesu, lover of my soul’ had a different tune and repeated the last line twice. I cannot say it was a spiritually uplifting experience (esp after our earlier moments at the Wailing Wall and the Temple Mound), but the coffee was good !
Then it was setting off on our journey north. We stopped off at the River Jordan which was absolutely packed out with pilgrims. Why ? Because this is the end of Epiphany here and many are baptised at this time. It’s the first time I’ve seen a Palestinian Scout marching band ! It was a real crush and you couldn’t see much, but we did find a small corner for a five minute Renewal of our Baptismal Vows before it was confirmed by Simon with a liberal spraying I’d Jordan water! I found that very personal. I’m undecided about this visit
On the one hand disturbed by the crush, the superstition which seemed to surround the water, the lack of opportunity for reflection at the site, but on the other hand tremendously excited at the sheer number of folks going under the water in their baptism and the sheer sense of joy. It was a loud, boisterous occasion and it has left me unsure of how to respond, but I am grateful for the opportunity to renew my own baptismal vows.
Near disaster as we began to leave, as I pulled out my camera. One of my SIM cards came out and went under the decking. Thankfully we could see it sitting on a rock but just out of reach for our fingers were too thick to squeeze between the slats. Out came team work. Someone produced some chewing gum, someone popped it into their mouths to chew it in readiness. Someone else then produced a bamboo shoot from a nearby tree, stuck the chewing gum in the end anden by poking it through the slats used the gum to stick the SIM card to it and raise it up close enough to the edge for someone with smaller fingers to reach in and grab it. Such ingenuity and team work comprising at least 5 different people. Very grateful.
We travelled further onto Jericho for lunch and a quick stop at the foot of the Mount of Temptation where photographs of a camel were taken and Aluson bought some dates.
I have to say I wasn’t impressed by Jericho at all. In short it’s a dump ! The only redeeming feature was the Sycamore tree allegedly climbed by Zacchaeus. Remy pointed out to us it couldn’t be the original as Sycamore trees don’t last 2000 years, but it gave us an impression and it was a lovely tree.
And now here we are in our new hotel on the shores of Lake Galilee, at Tibetius. Believe it or not but these photographs are from our hotel balcony a few feet from the edge. Someone once said that of all the lakes in the world Galilee was the most beautiful. Well on today’s evidence I can agree. It’s so calm, and peaceful with the hills on the other side adding to the beauty. As the hymn writer puts it “………… Still, small voice of calm.” Tomorrow another early start as we set off but I’m not too sure where to! Alison thinks it might be Nazareth, Mount Tabor with the Church of the Tranfiguration. Wherever it is I’m sure it will be very special. As soon as I can get more photos uploaded I will do.