Musings from the Manse

A PILGRIMAGE TO THE HOLY LAND

Rev Helen Higgin-Botham

Dear Friends,

As you may know, on the 5th June 2012, I will embark on what has been a long awaited trip for me. From being a small child listening to Bible stories, to being an adult training for Ministry, I’ve wanted to see if the pictures painted in my mind as I read the Scriptures, will match up to reality.

However, I’m under no illusion that things won’t have changed, of course they will have. But if I’m to believe the pre-reading material suggested by our Tour Operator McCabe, my life is about to change, as I visit places associated with Jesus’ birth, life and public ministry.

So that you can follow along with where I will be visiting, here is the proposed daily programme – all I would ask is that you will hold me and my fellow pilgrims in your prayers each day.

Tuesday 5th June:

We meet at London Heathrow Airport. EL AL flight LY 316 departs at 1535 hrs arriving in Tel Aviv at 2220. Transfer on arrival to our hotel in Jerusalem – the Golden Walls Hotel close to the Old City and the Biblical sites we shall be visiting.

Wednesday 6th June: An introduction to Jerusalem

We drive to the Mount of Olives where we have a panoramic view of the walled city. As we look across the Kidron Valley we see the Golden Gate, the Dome of the Holy Sepulchre. On the Mount of Olives we visit the Pater Noster Church, Dominus Flevit Chapel (Holy Communion) and the Church of All Nations in the Garden of Gethsemane. We also visit the Church of St Peter in Gallicantu (possible site of the High Priest’s house). We drive out to West Jerusalem and the picturesque village of Ein Karem where we lunch at the Sisters of Sion convent and spend time visiting the Church of John the Baptist. We continue to the Israel Museum to visit the model of Ancient Jerusalem. We also see the Dead Sea scrolls (housed within the Shrine of the Book).

Thursday 7th June: Jewish Quarter, Temple Mt. & Via Dolorosa.

We enter the Old City through Zion Gate and walk down through the Jewish Quarter to the Western Wall (where we also see the Bar-Mitzvah ceremonies) and ascent the Temple Mount to view the El Aqsa Mosque and the Dome of the Rock. We finish our morning by the Pool of Bethesda and the Church of St. Anne’s. After lunch at the Ecce Homo convent (above the Lithostrotos) we follow the Via Dolorosa through the lanes of the Old City to the Church of the Holy Sepulchre. We end the afternoon at the Garden Tomb. This evening we plan to have a speaker to tell us of the current situation for the Christians in the Holy Land.

Friday 8th June: Masada and the Dead Sea

We drive into the Judean wilderness to Herod’s desert fortress of Masada, which we ascend by cable car. We have an opportunity to float in the therapeutic waters of the Dead Sea before lunch in the Lot Hotel. On our return journey to Jerusalem we call at Qumran (where the Dead Sea scrolls were discovered). The final part of our journey is to Wade Qelt, for a spectacular view of St. George’s desert monastery.

Saturday 9th June: Mount Zion & Bethlehem

We drive to Mount Zion and call at the Dormition Abbey and Upper Room. We then cross into Palestinian territory to visit Bethlehem. We visit the Fields of the Shepherds (Holy Communion) and have time to shop in the olive wood co-operative. We lunch at the Shepherds Tent close by near Beit Sahour. In the afternoon we enter Manger Square and visit the Basilica and Grotto of the Nativity and St Jerome’s Caves. We also visit the al-Shurooq blind school and hear of their work.

Sunday 10th June: Meet the people

An opportunity to visit the Church of the Holy Sepulchre in the early morning to witness the variety of liturgy, followed by an opportunity to join with the local Arabic speaking congregation at St George’s Cathedral. We then journey to Bethany to briefly call at the church and the tomb of Lazarus and the Jeel al-Amal Boys Home, which is supported by the McCabe Educational Trust. After a late lunch we visit the moving Yad Vashem Memorial to the Holocaust.

Monday 11th June: Caesarea, Tabor & onto Galilee

We leave Jerusalem, stopping at Abu Guosh (site of Emmaus) and drive to the Mediterranean coast to the Roman capital of Caesarea, where we visit the ruined city, restored amphitheatre and aqueduct. We lunch at Kibbutz Givat Haim. In the afternoon we drive to Mount Tabor and ascend in minibuses to visit the Basilica of the Transfiguration and enjoy the magnificent views over the plain of Armageddon before continuing to Galilee and our hotel by the Sea of Galilee.

Tuesday 12th June: Sepphoris and Nazareth

We drive to the ancient Sepphoris (Zippori) to visit the ruins and to see the marvellous mosaics. This was the major city in Galilee at the time of Christ. We continue to Nazareth where we call at the Nazareth village (a reconstruction of 1st Century Galilean life) and have lunch at el-Mejana Restaurant. We visit St Gabriel’s Church (Mary’s Well), the Synagogue Church and the Basilica of the Annunciation. We return to Tiberias stopping en route to visit Cana, scene of Jesus’ first miracle.

Wednesday 13th June: The Lakeside Ministry

Today we visit the sites associated with Jesus’ life around the Sea of Galilee. We drive to the north of the lake and visit the ruins of Capernaum, Jesus’ Galilean base. We continue to Mensa Christi (where Jesus’ appeared to his disciples after His resurrection) and celebrate Holy Communion on the shores of the lake at Tabgha beside the Church of the Loaves and Fishes. Lunch is at the Convent of the Beatitudes. We visit the church and garden which commemorate the Sermon on the Mount. After lunch, we return to the lakeside and sail back across the Sea of Galilee from Kibbutz Nof Ginnosar (where we see the 1st Century fishing boat exhibition) to Tiberias, returning by mid afternoon to allow time to relax and swim.

Thursday 14th June:

Homeward bound after an early start!

Whatever this pilgrimage holds for me or my fellow travellers remains to be seen. I can only speculate – but no doubt you will hear how things went in the next magazine!

Yours in Christ,

Helen

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