Revd Elizabeth Rundle and Revd Linda Chester recently led a party to the Holy Land.
Here is their overview of the trip, followed by individual memories of some who participated. More photos can be found in the Gallery
We have led pilgrim groups to the Holy Land since 1995; each group is special and the whole experience of being in iconic places like Jerusalem, Bethlehem, Nazareth and Capernaum is something that will always remain in the heart.
We try hard to cover as many contrasting aspects within the constraints of our 10 days and an evening coach trip offers a totally different perspective to the city of Jerusalem. By day, we walk the ancient Via Dolorosa – in the dark we see lights of the vibrant, modern city spread over the hills. The picture shows the floodlit Dome of the Rock Mosque. This building stands on the same site as the Holy Temple of Jesus' day.
When we transferred from Jerusalem to go north to our Hotel in Galilee, we stopped for a while in the Judean Wilderness. Here Elizabeth posed with the book she compiles for each pilgrim containing the daily itinerary, Bible readings and hymns.
The Ron Beach Hotel in Tiberias is magnificently situated by the water's edge. Keen photographers can be lazy and capture the dawn sun from their bedroom balcony.
Pilgrims are struck by the timeless views around Galilee. It's such a privilege to look out on a land and sea-scape unchanged since Jesus walked along the shore.
The Sea of Galilee lies in the migration path of thousands of birds. A kingfisher rests on a branch in the hotel grounds to digest his breakfast.
Where the river Jordan leaves the Sea of Galilee, a site has been set aside for Baptisms. It is wonderful to sing the words: "When I tread the verge of Jordan..." and share in a service of renewal. The contrasts seem endless – the barren wilderness to the lush mango orchards, the dazzling limestone of Jerusalem with the black stone of Capernaum, the ornate Basilica of The Holy Sepulchre with the peace and natural setting of the Garden Tomb, the turquoise Mediterranean sea at Caesarea to the distant Golan Heights turning pink in the sunset to name just a few.
10 days of joy and blessing. Thank you to everyone for the happy memories.
Elizabeth and Linda
Having recently returned from my pilgrimage, I have had time to reflect and think about the many wonderful places and experiences during this time and for me some of the highlights were visiting the Mount of Olives and seeing the panoramic view of the Old City of Jerusalem, walking along the Via Dolorosa through the lanes of the Old City and seeing the Stations of the Cross. In addition, watching Bar-Mitzvah ceremonies at the Western Wall, walking in the Garden of Gethsemane, travelling through the Judean Wilderness en route to Jericho and stopping at Wadi Qelt to marvel at the monastery of St George and seeing a young Bedouin shepherd boy with his flock – could have been 2,000 years ago!
And finally sailing across the Sea of Galilee to Kibbutz Ein Gev, singing and praying as we sailed.
The trip was simply a most marvellous experience and all the places we visited lived up to expectations. Would I go again? Yes absolutely!
Thank you Elizabeth and Linda for leading the pilgrimage and sharing with us your knowledge and experience of this wonderful place.
We too were on the wonderful pilgrimage to the Holy Land and with Mary Wyatt made up the Wimborne contingent. We felt very privileged to be part of the group and were so fortunate to have as our leaders Elizabeth and Linda whose careful planning and organisation ensured we gained the most from our trip. We prayed and read Bible passages and sang in many beautiful churches and open spaces and were as close as possible to the very spots where Jesus was born and lived and died. We spent the first few days in Jerusalem where in addition to Mary's highlights we gazed on the steep steps up which it is probable that Jesus was brought from Gethsemane to the House of the High Priest. We visited Bethlehem and the church of the Nativity in Manger Square and received a warm welcome from staff and pupils at the Al Shurook school where wonderful work is being done with young children who are blind or have low vision.
The second part of our trip was spent in Galilee but on the way there we stepped back in time in the barren and inhospitable desert. We stayed in Tiberius right on the shore of the Sea of Galilee and from our rooms we looked across to the Golan Heights and were saddened to think of Syria on the other side. In Galilee we swam and sailed and we travelled to Cana where, with other couples, we accepted the invitation to renew our marriage vows before visiting Nazareth now a busy modern town and Mount Tabor acknowledged as the place of the Transfiguration. The end of our pilgrimage came much too soon but we shall never forget the experiences and fellowship of our time in the Holy Land. If you ever have the opportunity – go.
Jennifer and Gordon Jenkins
You can see by the smiles, that we were very happy. David said that the whole trip was not only informative, but also extremely enlightening.
We were each touched, by a closeness to the wonder of our maker/Jesus/ God at different times – the Western wall, the Garden of Gethsemane, the Sea of Galilee, plus the wonderful services, led by Linda and Elizabeth, and the quiet times, when we could reach out in the silence. The group was tremendously supportive, our guide, Salim, was knowledgeable, and also helpful, pleasant to all.
Mary and David Marsh