|Pilgrimages, visits to holy places, have long held interest for people of faith. They go to the holy places as an act of obligation or devotion, for prayer, worship or interest as a tourist. Jerusalem is a holy city for people of three faiths: Jewish, Christian and Muslim. Pilgrimages to the Christian holy places go back to the fourth century A.D. as we can see from the Travels of Egeria. The Church of the Resurrection/Holy Sepulcher is the centre of the Christian world.|
Our pilgrimage to the Holy Land - 18th July - 4th August - was, to a large degree, at the urging of Mrs. Astrid Adderley who along with me had attended the North American Deans' Conference in Jerusalem in the spring of 2004. It was such a joy for us that we wanted to share with others the deeply moving, wonderful experience we had at St. George's College and in the Holy Land. Those who have visited the old city Jerusalem will attest that the city continues to beckon and to call one back. We had previously intended to travel with our friends, the Very Reverend and Mrs. James Zotalis and a group from the Cathedral of Our Merciful Saviour, Minnesota, Easter 2007 but that fell through.
With Mrs. Sandra Collie ably serving as our travel co-ordinator and liaison person with the College we spent a year putting things in place. Travel to the Middle East for obvious reasons is often viewed by some with some degree of skepticism and misgiving. So pretty much until the end the number of our group was constantly changing. We finally narrowed it down. Over the course of many months the group met regularly at our residence or in the Chapter Room to get to know each other, familiarize ourselves with course requirements and travel details and to be assured that any risk would be minimal.
The group of 18 pilgrims - Astrid and myself, Sandra Collie, Cdre. Leon & Helen Smith, Billy & Magaret Lowe, Edison & Eulphemie Cartwright, Myrtle Jennings, LaGloria & Zelpha Davis, Cynthia Holmes, Mara Bethel, Pandora Sawyer, Beverly Smith, Shena Williams, Agatha Cumberbatch - made up largely from members of Christ Church Cathedral traveled to Jerusalem to participate in the Palestine of Jesus Course sponsored by St. George's College. Our Itinerary took us to Philadelphia and from there a nine and half hour flight to Tel Aviv. We arrrived mid afternoon on Sunday coming in over the Mediterranean and over a whitened, limestone appearing landscape, dry and hot. As we know, much of Israel is partly desert.
After immigration and custom formalities at Ben Gurion Airport, we boarded our bus for the one hour journey to Jerusalem. It was a joy to be back again. The climate is similar to ours but much hotter and drier. Along the way we passed olive groves, citrus orchards and fields and, yes, a number of those controversial "settlements" so often referred to in the international news media. One was reminded of that saying, "the desert shall bloom." It is to be noted that for most people in Israel Sunday is a regular work day. On arrival at St. George's College, East Jerusalem, we were greeted by the Warden of the College an American, Barbara Flannagan, our Course Director, Canon Dr. Andrew Mayes, from England, and the Venerable Lois Symes, Course Assistant from new Zealand. Brother Mark Brown SSJE (Society of St. John the Evangelist), was our Chaplain. We were briefed and given our room assignments. The rooms were not numbered but named after places in the gospels or events in the life of our Lord. As the evening was free we made dinner arrangements at the Christmas Hotel, a five minute walk from the college. After a delightful buffet meal we made our way back to the college. With time on our hands we embraced the opportunity to take a stroll and to do a little sightseeing.
The Old City Jerusalem is surrounded by a great wall built in the time of Suleiman. There are nine gates - Herod's Gate, Damascus Gate, Jaffa Gate, New Gate, Dung Gate, St Stephen's Gate, the Golden/Eastern Gate (now sealed up), Zion Gate and Tanner's Gate. The Old City is divided into four quarters (bazaars, markets, holy places, etc.) - Jewish, Muslim Christian and Armenian. Depending upon one's interest or business, one enters or exits through that particular gate.
With St. George's College as our base for the next two weeks we had a glorious time attending lectures, engaging in reflection, quiet times, research in the well-equipped library, field trips, visiting the holy places, exploring the Old and the New City and learning a tremendous amount about our faith, the ministry of Jesus, the Bible and Palestine, its history, people, life and politics and the tensions that shape and move it. There were fifteen other course members , mainly clergy and seminarians from the United States, Canada, England and New Zealand. There was daily worship in St. George's Cathedral which is on the same compound as the college and the bishop's residence. Armed with hats/caps, sun block and our precious bottles of water we would venture out each day most days by coach. Then there would be the walking, walking everywhere! Most evenings ended with fellowship in the Common Room. Sadly, one of our members Mrs. Cynthia Holmes had to return home within a few days due to the death of her husband, Glen Holmes. We were very sorry to lose her.
Places visited include: the Western Wall, Church of the Resurrection, Christ's Tomb, Golgotha, the Via Dolorosa (the Way of the Cross), the New Tomb, the Four Quarters of the Old City, the Kidron Valley, Ein Kerem, the birth place of John, the Baptist, in the hill country, Bethlehem, Shepherd's Field, the Basilica of the Nativity, Galilee, Nazareth, Caesarea Maritima, Herod's Palace, the Mount of Beatitudes, Capernaum, Cana, Magdala, Tabgha, the Sea of Galilee, Tiberias, Yardinit, the Jordan River, Meggido, Mount Tabor, the Mount of Temptation, the Judean Wilderness, Jericho, the desert, the Al-haram Ash Sharif, Al Aqsa Mosque, the Pool of Bethsada, Ecce Homo, Gabbatha (the Pavement), the Southern Wall Excavations, the Chagall Windows, the Shrine of the Book and the Model of Jerusalem, The Holocaust Museum (Yad Vashem), Masada, Qumran, the Dead Sea, Mount Zion, the Cenacle (Upper Room), the Syrian Orthodox Church of St Mark, the Church of St. Peter in Galicantu (Cock Crow), the Mount of Olives, the Garden of Gethsemane, the Church of Dominus Flevit (Jesus Wept), Emmaus, Old Jaffe (Joppa), Tel Aviv and much, much more.
We are grateful to almighty God for a truly inspiring, wonderful experience and for his grace, goodness and protection during our pilgrimage. Thanks to all who supported us with their good wishes, messages and prayers. I encourage you to visit. The time and money invested are well worth it. Kindly remember the Anglican Diocese of Jerusalem, and the work of St. George's College in your prayers. Pray, too, for the peace of Jerusalem.
from Dean Patrick L. Adderley