As we are all still digesting, reflecting and trying to come to terms with the effects this Pilgrimage has had on us, we feel, at this stage, we can only provide an overview of our wonderful trip. Maybe, in next month’s magazine (or over the next twelve months?), we will be in a position to share with you our own personal story of our time in the Holy Land.
Alastair, Becky, Margaret and Val left Burley early on Sunday 27th March with PCR certificates and PPF3 masks in our hand luggage. We did not know what our forthcoming Pilgrimage would offer us.
We were excited, not having travelled abroad for such a long time.
Apprehensive, because we were unsure if we were all going to continue to be Covid safe for the duration of our tour. Two of our party couldn’t join us at the last minute because their PCR tests were positive. Was Israel and Palestine a safe place to be visiting at this time? We had to put our trust in God. How would we gel as a group? Little did we know at the beginning of our tour, of the positive impact our travelling companions would have on us and maybe, hopefully, of our impact on them.
There were 12of us (dare we make a comparison?), four Cof E from Burley in Wharfedale, Clayton Bradford(3 CofE), Wakefield (1 CofE a musician, singer and our unofficial photographer), Chesterfield(a Methodist minister and her husband) and Lincoln(1 Baptist) and our intrepid Group Leader, Gordon Dey (Low Moor Bradford). Gordon has led many of these pilgrimages in the past and his knowledge of the HolyLand, his confidence, his faith, stamina, fitness and sense of humour, impressed, sustained and exhausted us in equal measure. Gordon, who is 76, was aided and abetted by Suzi our Australian, Jewish Tour Guide, who at 70 had exactly the same attributes as Gordon! She had us laughing at her jokes and her stories as we travelled between locations. We four can be confident in letting you all
know that, on behalf of the 12 of us, we have a genuine love for Gordon, Suzi and our Muslim driver, Jalil. They contributed so much to our happy memories and experiences throughout our 11 days. We only mention the different faiths here because we can all live and experience love and togetherness regardless of our culture and beliefs.
Gordon introduced us to two communities where Palestinian Christians are working with young people from all faiths to instil an understanding of love and peace for one another.
Every morning as we set off in the mini bus at 8.30am, Gordon or Alastair would lead us in a prayer. Then Gordon would start us off singing. He had provided us with little songs books before we left Bradford. Gordon was very impressed with the harmonies that were produced by some very talented singers. Consequently, we have some beautiful recordings from locations where the acoustics were just perfect. Spine tingling moments and memories were made and songs sung that will never to be forgotten.
Everywhere we went, Gordon and Alastair had a bible reading and a prayer that enhanced our experience of that particular location. How this will impact on our Bible reading in future. Then we would all sing. We visited places that took us through locations mentioned in both the Old and New Testaments, archaeological sites, dates, dates and more dates in history and the effects of the various rulers from Rome, the Byzantine Empire, Muslim, the Crusaders etc. up to the current situation in Israel. Some of our enduring memories include; visiting Bethlehem and singing in the Church of the Nativity, boarding a fishing boat and sailing out into the middle of a very calm Sea of Galilee, being baptised in the River Jordan, floating in, or on, the Dead Sea, the Dead Sea Scrolls. We were transported in a cable car to the top of Mount Hermon, where two of our congregation (naming no-one!) started a snowball fight, joined by quite a few of our group including Jalil, our driver. Some of the scenery was spectacular. We walked in the desert and looked over to where Jesus would have stayed for forty days and forty nights, another ‘wow’ moment.
Our last four days were in Jerusalem where we experienced sitting in the very peaceful Garden at Gethsemane, walked the Ten Stations of the Cross, visited the Garden Tomb where Tracey, the Methodist Minister led us in prayer and Communion. This time in Jerusalem has had a huge impact on us all as we returned to celebrate Holy Week then Easter.
Gordon and Suzi commented on more than oneoccasion what a ‘special group’ we were. We all feel the same and we cannot explain this feeling! We all related to one another so well, showed compassion, love and genuine care for one another and we laughed so much. Apparently, the tourist locations were very quiet. Where there are usually queues that can take up to two hours to get into places, they were non existent. Churches that are usually packed, were quiet. The weather was perfect. How lucky were we! But, the biggest thing is, there is something else happening to each of us and as yet, we can’t explain what that is. Hence, why there is more to come.
Our last day leading up to getting to the airport included yet more sites and it was Alastair’s birthday.We were left at Tel Aviv airport at 5.00pm (3.00pm BMT) on Thursday 7th April where we said our ‘goodbyes’ to Suzi. We returned to Burley at 5.00am on Friday 8th April, tired, exhilarated, a brain full of so much information and memories but I’m sure we all fell into bed anyway!
We never did need to show our Covid certificates to anyone and we still have quite a few unused PPF3 masks!
There are yet more places we’d like to share with you and stories to tell. I hope that we have whetted your appetite for the next instalment?
Dear Lord, thank you for guiding us and giving us this opportunity to join this Pilgrimage to the Holy Land. Thank you for giving us the resources that have enabled us to make this journey and to make new friends. While we pray, give thanks and reflect into everything that we have heard and seen and for everything that we experienced on our journey and are still experiencing, we wait for your guidance. You know how You want to use us. We are all so excited. In Jesus name. Amen.
Alastair, Margaret, Becky and Val