Visit to the Holy Land 2015
I had a wonderful experience in the Holy Land with a party of 22 lead by our then locum minister, Iain Paton, and his wife, Marjorie. It was both spiritual and fascinating. We had an extraordinary guide with us whose knowledge knew no bounds.
We were based in Tiberias for the first four nights which is at the Sea of Galilee.
From there we were able to visit Nazareth, Capernaum, and the sites where Jesus carried out some of his miracles and preached “The Sermon on the Mount”. We had a moving communion service on the shore of the Sea of Galilee and also were able to sample “Peter’s Fish” which is a typical catch. It was a nice lunch but I felt sorry for the fish with his big sad eyes looking up at me from the plate!
My favourite place in this area was Capernaum where there is a huge excavated synagogue towering over the disciple Peter’s house. The house has an extra “extension” to it and this is where the fledgling Christian Church began in Jesus’ time. Capernaum is a very special place and I felt an atmosphere there that I didn’t feel anywhere else.
On our way to Jerusalem we visited Jayyous in the West Bank. The Guild project was there from 2009 to 2012 and it was great to see that the project was going from strength to strength.
For the next 6 nights we were based in Jerusalem. From our base there we went to Bethlehem, the river Jordan, Masada (Herod’s desert fortress, temperature around 100 degrees and reached by cable car!) and Qumran where the Dead Sea Scrolls were found.
We also floated in the Dead Sea which is the lowest point on earth and has such a high concentration of salt that you CANNOT sink. These places are all in the West Bank.
The rest of the time was spent in and around Jerusalem with its many diverse churches and of course the Moslem shrine “the Dome of the Rock” which is high above the city with a huge gold dome which you will have seen in most pictures of Jerusalem. A lot of the churches are very ornate and while I found them overpowering others were moved by them.
We visited Golgotha, Gethsemane, The Garden Tomb, Ciaphas’s house, (the high priest), and the Western Wall where the Jews all go to pray which is often seen on television.
Jerusalem is a very divided city where there is discontent simmering below the surface but it is a city of many different cultures and beliefs and is absolutely fascinating.
The place that will stay with me most in that area is The Mount of Olives. It is overlooking the city and there is a beautiful church there called “Dominus Flevit” which means Jesus wept. He was weeping because the Jews would not turn to Him and instead would shortly crucify Him. Matthew 23 verses 37 and 38 tell us that Jesus wanted to embrace the Jews like a mother hen keeps her brood safe under her wings and in the church there is a beautiful mosaic of the chicks sheltering, safe ,with the hen.
As I stood there on the Mount of Olives looking down over Jerusalem I could only feel that Jesus would still weep over the situation today.
I have only scratched the surface of our visit, but I can truly say it was an experience that I will never forget.