There is a very old proverb that the road to hell is paved with good intentions. It
has various meanings and has been attributed to various sources. For my purpose here, suffice to say that I fully intended to wrap up my musings around our trip to the Holy Land on the Bus called Hope some while ago, but other busy-ness and business has intervened.
The last post about the trip that I put up on the blog described our penultimate day, spent in Nazareth. So now I must pick up the threads and bring our pilgrimage to a close:
It is the last day - Monday - and I manage to get up early enough to see something of the famous pink hue over the Sea of Galilee from our bedroom window - before we leave our hotel in Tiberias for the last time - driving along the Mediterranean coast to the airport in Tel Aviv.
We visit the magnificent ruins of Caesarea on the way, the grandiose city founded by Herod the Great in 37 - 34 BC on the old fortified town known as Strato's tower. (It is not to be confused with Caesarea Philippi, located at the extreme northern tip of Israel.) Here was the capital of Palestine for almost 600 years, and later it was a Crusader port. Pontius Pilate lived here in the time of Christ, and it was the provincial headquarters of the Roman administration. Here also St Peter baptised Cornelius, a centurion in the Roman Army, who was the first Gentile convert.
We have plenty of time to explore the enormous site but first we have a very special and moving service on the beach, the glistening water of the Mediterranean as a backdrop, where we are all anointed with the Oil of Gladness to send us on our way. Two young lads are playing on the beach under the watchful eye of their mother and are somewhat curious as to what is going on, as we sing two hymns and say our special Faith, Hope and Love prayer.
There are the well preserved ruins of a magnificent aqueduct dating back to the time of Jesus Christ, built by the Romans to bring water to the city from the foothills of Mount Carmel. But it is so sad to see shocking litter piled up against the ruins, a complete eye-sore.
Lunch at a local restaurant near Old Jaffa where we enjoy classic Arabic Mezze on a terrace looking towards the sea sets us up for the final drive to the airport and home…
This has been an amazing week - there have been highs and lows emotionally. We are not all moved by the same things. Sites which have reduced some to tears have left me unmoved, and vice versa. We are all different, all unique, coming from many different backgrounds, and with a range of physical abilities. But we have all supported one another along the way. I cannot speak for the other two coaches, Faith and Love, but on our Bus called Hope we have all bonded by the end of the pilgrimage in a way we might not have thought possible and we continue to have reunions to this day where we share food, fun, friendship and reminiscences.
Throughout our week I have nothing but praise for our wonderful spiritual leaders, our local guide, and our driver - who with their own individual skills have enabled us to take such a wonderful trip - with only the smallest of mishaps. And a huge thank you must go to McCabe who are so experienced in this field and who masterminded the whole week. Thank you to you all.
There simply is not enough time to take everything in over the course of one week in the Holy Land. I fully intend to go back again, at least once more, to fill in some of the gaps. I think with the knowledge gained this time I will be able to gain so much more out of the many experiences next time around.
For further reading I can recommend the following books which informed me as I travelled and later in writing this blog:
Every Pilgrim's Guide to the Holy Land by Norman Wareham and Jill Gill Canterbury Press 4th edition 2011
The Holy Land: An Oxford Archaeological Guide by Jerome Murphy-O'Connor Oxford University Press 5th edition 2008
My book Why Religions Work explores religious tolerance issues. It could not be more relevant at the moment with the world in its present state.
This blog has concentrated recently on the wonderful pilgrimages I have been on - to the Holy Land and to Turkey and more recently to Holy Georgia , Greece "In the Steps of St Paul" , Ethiopia and most recently my experiences in Iran.
"If I was allowed another life I would go to all the places of God's Earth. What better way to worship God than to look on all his works?" from The Chains of Heaven: an Ethiopian Romance Philip Marsden