Thursday, 7 September 2017

Turn right for Mount Zion

The weird thing about travelling around in Jerusalem is seeing all those biblical names like Mount Zion and the City of David appearing on the road signs.

There are seven of us from Bermondsey joining a party of 32 others for an eight day tour entitled 'Israel, the Land of the Bible.' I'm kind of the chaplain. I am giving talks each evening, and leading prayers and readings at various points during our day.

Yesterday was our first full day in the Holy Land and we spent the day in Jerusalem, visiting the Western (or Wailing) Wall, touring the Old Town, and visiting the archaeological excavations of the City of David.

The adventurous members of the party went on a half mile walk through Hezekiah's Tunnel in the pitchblack (they needed torches), with water up to their knees. The rest of us took the shorter, dryer tunnel.

Temple Mount, Jerusalem
Orthodox Jews Praying at the Western Wall

TODAY our focus was to be Bethlehem and for that we had to head into the occupied territories, on the way we stopped at Ein Karem, where John the Baptist was born. His father's triumphant song of praise on the birth of his son, was displayed on the walls (of the courtyard at the church commemorating John) in many different languages.

It was a moving moment for our party to join in reading these words of the Benedictus out loud: 'Blessed be the Lord, the God of Israel, for he has come to his people to redeem them.'

Church of the Nativity, birthplace of Christ

Next it was to the bustling Palestinian city of Bethlehem, to Manger Square, the Church of the Nativity, and the commemoration of the birth place of Christ. Whether or not Jesus birthplace was actually here (ie in this particular spot)  is not the most important thing at all. The really important thing is that Jesus has a birthplace - the miracle that the Word became Flesh.

Next up was a visit to the Shepherd's Fields. Here in the little church on the sight we read Luke's account of the Nativity and we filled the little church with praise as we sang ''O Come let us adore him. Christ the Lord.'


After lunch in Bethlehem and a visit to a shop run by a co-operative of Palestinian Christian craftsmen, we proceeded back to Jerusalem, to walk the Palm Sunday walk, to visit the Garden of Gethsemane, and to finish our day in Jerusalem hearing the Gospel account of Jesus's agonised prayer in Gethsemane before giving his life to save the world. It was them time to head back to the hotel after another full day

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