Where to start? How can I possibly convey in words the awe and wonder? I’m still holding it, and can feel it in my body five days after landing back in the UK from my Pilgrimage to Jordan and Israel. I’m finding it hard to write down and express the magnitude of feelings, the power and emotion, the startling revelations, and the energetic presence that still exists today, in that place we call ‘The Holy Land’. So, I’m going to do it in bite-sized chunks, and here’s the first.
Among our group of 23 we had many varied experiences. The common theme amongst most of the group, at various points, was that of ‘remembrance’. A memory, whether of a past lifetime, or perhaps of the cellular memory of our race – who knows for sure – we felt it. What a coincidence then, that we should arrive in Jerusalem during the preparations for their national Remembrance Day celebrations. Israel mourns its dead soldiers on this day, all the thousands killed in various wars with Palestine, and beyond. They also celebrate a national Independence Day at the same time (the next day). And there we were, right in the middle of it all. Flags flying, sirens piercing the air – as we made our way around the sites remembering the Prince of Peace. (There is certainly irony in there somewhere, and it’s not so subtle.)
Jerusalem has a very excitable energy. Like all big cities the traffic is hectic and noisy, streets bustling, trams crowded, building works vibrate, and people of different social and religious backgrounds rush past each other with hardly a glance. The difference between say London and Jerusalem is that in London we have a tremendous story written into History – but in Jerusalem we not only have History, we have the Bible too.
Whether you have been brought up with stories of the Bible, or not, the entire socio-political nature of our lives in the West have been underpinned by it. In Jerusalem religion is everywhere. Even though our guide, Gila, describes herself as a ‘secular Jew’, she was a very knowledgable Biblical scholar. Her knowledge of the local ancient history and her ability to relate it to references from both the Torah (Jewish Bible of the Old Testament) and the New Testament was impressive, and she made some profound suggestions in many of the sacred laces we visited. The group emotion was absolutely extraordinary as Mary, one of our group, read Psalm 88 as we all stood in the ‘pit’ where Jesus was kept on the night before his crucifixion.
On my previous pilgrimage, two years ago, everywhere was crowded. This time we were so blessed with small groups, or no crowds at all. In the Church of Saint Ann (Mary’s Mother – and grandmother of Jesus) we had the whole place to ourselves and were able to sit together to sing “Alleluia” in a round, listening to the 11 second echo at the end of every bar. We persuaded Debbie to lead it, and what an experience as we all sang together in that special place, right by where miracles had occurred at the pools of Bethsada. Here, as in many more of our stops, we stood in a circle holding hands as we anchored the Light and sent healing love to all our friends, relatives, and the rest of the world.