|"As the mountains are round about Jerusalem, so the Lord is round about his people" (Psalm 125:2). The pilgrimage for me was very much different from the 2004 experience. Many of the holy places we visited this time were new to us.|
We began our opening session on Monday, July 20th, 2009 with Evensong at 6 p.m. at St. George's Cathedral At 6:30 p.m. there was an Official Reception at the College for incoming students. At 7 p.m. dinner in the Collge's Dining room took place. (For the duration of the course that was where all meals would be served). At 8 p.m. we had an introduction of all 33 course members in the Lecture room. All of the above was the fun part. After that it was the business at hand.
On Tuesday, 7:30 p.m., we began with Eucharist at the Cathedral. That was followed by breakfast. After breakfast we were introduced to the Staff of the College and we were shown where to find the Office, Library and Bookstore. We then departed to the conference room for the Opening Lecture: "Jerusalem, Yesterday and Today." I was intrigued and fascinated by the history surrounding this ancient city. Canon Mayes spoke about the Roman Empire accepting Christianity in 324 (and later becoming the Byzantine Empire), and Jerusalem became an important city again. The sites connected with Jesus' life and death were located and declared holy, and many magnificent churches were built, including the Church of the Holy Sepulchre (the Church of the Resurrection) and the "Mother of all the Churches," on Mount Zion.
In 638 the Muslims conquered Jerusalem and built the Dome of the Rock and the Al Aqsa mosque over the next few centuries. following the Muslim conquest the Jews returned to Jerusalem and around the 10th century the city again became the spiritual capital for the Jews of the Land of Israel.
The Crusaders also wanted to rule Jerusalem. They conquered the city in 1099, massacred the Jewish and Muslim residents and made Jerusalem their own capital. Less than 100 years later, in 1187, the Crusaders were defeated by Saladin in a battle at Khitin. At that time the Jews returned to Jerusalem and have been there ever since.
In 1250, the Mamluk dynasty rose to power in Egypt and its rulers conquered this region and became the new lords of Jerusalem. In 1517 the Ottoman Empire spread to Jerusalem and for 400 years was under Turkish rule. During the first 100 years the city flourished and its walls were rebuilt. In the second half of the 16th century, as the Ottoman Empire began to decline, so did Jerusalem's fortune.
After the lecture we boarded the coach to depart for the journey outside the walled city which took us through the Kidron valley up to Mt. Olives where we had lunch at Beit (House of) Abraham, which is operated by the Catholic Nuns (French). The house can accommodate about 300 persons, looking for lodging. We had a delicious meal cooked and served by the Nuns. This was followed by a wonderful viewing from the roof of the house which overlooked the whole city of Jerusalem. The Kidron Valley, Mt. Olives, the City of David and the cemetary for the Jews. The view reminded me of the hymn, "For the Beauty of the Earth."
For the beauty of the Earth,
For the beauty of the skies,
For the love which from our birth
Over and around us lies hill and vale and tree and flower,
Sun and moon and stars of light.
from Astrid Adderley