Tag Archives: St Peter

The Homeward Trek – Day Thirteen, 26th May

As I mentioned in the early posts our flights outward and home were meant to be with El Al, but for some reason I am not clear about we were moved to BA flights.  Outwards that meant a very early start, and it would have been similar going home, but our BA homewards flight was not until 16.40, which meant that we had an extra half day, and McCabe very kindly arranged an extra tour for us.  We were delighted that we had Ali back to drive for us as it was like meeting an old friend.

Once we had all the luggage sorted out and checked onto the coach we moved off for our bonus journey.  Our immediate objective was the Muqraka, otherwise Mount Carmel where, traditionally, Elijah had his contest with the prophets of Baal.  It’s about an hour’s drive from Tiberias but it took us a little longer as we made a couple of diversions to see other places as we passed by in the coach.  After Tiberias much of the area we drove through was good agricultural land, and it was amazing to some of us to see that already the wheat harvest had been gathered in.  We discovered that this was the first harvest and there would be a later one.  Fertile ground indeed!

Our route took us around the port city of Haifa, where, apart from the dock area, one of the landmarks is the Baha’i World Centre, with  splendid gardens and a panoramic view over the city.  Ali took the road up the mountainside and we were able to get off the coach briefly for the spectacular view.

The Bah'ai World Centre, and part of Haifa

The Baha’i World Centre, and part of Haifa

Unfortunately in the picture you can’t get much sense of the magnificent gardens which have a restricted access.

Onwards to Mount Carmel, passing through a couple of Druze villages.  Here the land is much more stony and difficult to cultivate with machinery, and was a vivid reminder of the Parable of the Sower (Mark 4, 1-9).

On the summit of Mount Carmel is a convent of the Discalced

Elijah at Mount Carmel

Elijah at Mount Carmel

Carmelites (i.e. they don’t wear shoes) <http://tinyurl.com/pacjkz8> and a rather fierce statue of Elijah slaughtering the prophets of Baal (1 Kings 18).  The Chapel there was simple and relatively plain, and there was a courtyard garden in which it was a pleasure to sit for a while.  It was possible to go up to the flat roof of the monastery and look at the view, and particularly down the Jezreel Valley.  On a clear day it is possible to see Nazareth and Mount Tabor from this vantage point.

From Mount Carmel we had a panoramic drive through parts of Haifa, during which we saw other major landmarks like the University of Haifa  and the Technion, or University of Technology, which is the oldest university in Israel.

Our drive then took us on to Jaffa, the  ancient city known as Joppa where Peter lodged for a while by the sea with Simon the Tanner after healing Tabitha (Acts 9, 36-43).  Here we had lunch, and some of the party took the opportunity to make a quick trip down to the seashore and paddled in the Mediterranean!

And then it was back to Ben-Gurion Airport to check in for our flight.  Fortunately we were able to go through as a party rather than as individuals, but nevertheless I was one of the few who were called aside for a stricter examination of the luggage.  It turned out that what had raised suspicion was my folding walking stick which was interpreted as potentially a dismantled rifle.  On the way out this had been in my hand baggage in case of need, and in a fit of absent mindedness I had packed it in my hold case!  Fortunately we found out before I had to unload all the dirty washing for examination, and I have to say that the young lady who dealt with me was very courteous and pleasant, unlike my experience in 1999.

The flight home was uneventful, but the cloud cover prevented us from seeing much of the terrain below.  We arrived slightly early and eventually found our coach back to Ely, and we finally arrived home just before midnight ready to fall into bed.

So ended our pilgrimage, and in the days that have followed we have been mentally processing our experiences and making sense of the frenetic days.  We have made some new friends, and got to know others better.  And I don’t think that process will stop!

Chapel at Mount Carmel.  The altar is made up of twelve stones

Chapel at Mount Carmel. The altar is made up of twelve stones


Festival! – Day Two, Wednesday 15th May 2013

Despite the long day yesterday as our coach entered Jerusalem I found myself mentally reciting the opening of Psalm 122:

I was glad when they  said to me / Let us go to the house of the Lord:            And now our feet are standing / within your gates O Jerusalem;

and no sooner had I got to that part when Bishop Stephen started reading the Psalm at the front of the coach.  It was quite exciting, but it added to the sense of slight unreality of the day!

But now after a night’s sleep and breakfast we are assembling on the coach for a 8.00 am start to today’s tour.  We meet for the first time our local guide Saeed, who tells us that his name means ‘Happy’ and our driver Ali who, we quickly realise, is a really expert driver.  Although, as Saeed explains, today’s traffic is relatively light as it is the Feast of Shavuot, the third of the major Jewish Festivals which celebrates the giving of the Torah, and the first harvest.  We note crowds of Orthodox Jews making their way to worship, and also some of the differences in dress.

This morning we are due to go to the Mount of Olives and walk down to the Garden of Gethsemane, but by the time we arrive there the rain is so heavy that it would be unsafe to attempt the walk so, after a brief orientation talk we get back on the bus for a tour to Bethany, where we encounter the security wall for the first time.

DSC_0019The direct walking route from Jerusalem to Bethany is about 2 miles, but the wall means that we have about 35 minutes drive to get from one to the other.  We hear of the probems encountered by those who live outside Jerusalem but work in the city, and of those who have been separated from their land by the wall.  The stories are told factually, not emotionally which adds to the impact.

Our next stop is the Church of St Peter in Gallicantu, traditionally the High Priest’s house where Jesus was taken for questioning and Peter denied him.  Saeed explains to us what, in the context of the Holy Land, “traditional” means – clue: it does not mean ‘certain’!  However, right by the Church is a road which was certainly there in the first century CE and, since it is the ancient route from Bethany to Jerusalem it is one place where we can be sure that Jesus walked.

We move to the Old City for lunch at a restaurant in the Armenian Quarter then, suitably restored, visit Mount Zion and walk through the Jewish Quarter to the Western Wall.  The area in front of the Wall has been significantly enlarged since my brief visit in 1999, and there is now an area where women may go to pray. DSC_0072 (This is on the far right in the photo below.  There are also crowd barriers to allow access and there is a large number of people on the approach as well as at the Wall.

The weather is now fine, though not as warm as expected, and we return to the Mount of Olives for our visit to the Dominus Flevit Church, where Jesus wept over Jerusalem and down to the Garden of Gethsemane.  I was interested to see, at the top of the Mount of Olives, one of the many archaeological sites in and around Jerusalem.  This dig was relatively recent and had discovered some first century tombs cut in the rock.  One thing this trip is already doing is dispelling the images left over from the Victorians  that  were so popular in our childhood!DSC_0015

In this context it was rather a shock to some of our companions that the way down to the Garden of Gethsemane was not a stony track but a tarmac road, albeit rather narrow, but cars were a hazard.  The oldest olive tree  currently  in the Garden is about 800 years old, so none of those that are here now were in place at the time of Christ, but what was very interesting was to see how new growth came from old wood, and a tree that had apparently died was putting out new shoots.  There must be a sermon in there somewhere!