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Sunday, 19 May 2013

HOlLY LAND VISIT - Day 3 Holocaust Memorial, Bethlehem and the Shepherds Fields


Holy Land Pilgrimage -Day 3

First stop today Vad Yasheem, the Holocaust memorial. Nothing could prepare one for the shock of the Children's Memorial. We enter a dark, dark place and are first stopped in our tracks by a 3 metre high glass mural of beautiful children's faces. We know on the instance that all this beauty and promise was cruelly cut down long before they reached the threshold of their potential.


We then move into a black void, for our eyes are still not accustomed to the dark in which mirrors reflect one and a half million candle images - one for every child that died. Yes, one and a half million. As we edge our way forward, as if we were stumbling incomprehensibly through a star field, voices slowly read out the names of murdered children and their country of origin. All of us emerge at least red-eyed, some weeping and all I think numbed. Later among the memorial trees, whilst The shock of the numbers remains, comes also a horrific realisation of just how far the evil of Nazi-ism  spread its tentacles across Europe.


Other parts of the garden were also moving (we did not go into the museum), among these the transportation-train wagon balanced on a single, stark  metallic bridge-arch was for me particularly poignant as trains had been objects of fascination for me in a boyhood not 
far removed in time from the period that children, women and men were being shunted into death camps by train.


From there to Bethlehem, now, as it was described, an open prison, surrounded by the Israeli security wall and being deliberately squeezed in all manner of ways. We were made aware of this as the Christian Co-operative manager told us we were the only coach they were expecting today: the Israeli tour-guides apparently maintaining this was too dangerous a place. So the shepherds fields are not attracting the number of visitors they have in the past which is obviously bad news for all the businesses which surround the site.

 We sung 'O Come Al Ye Faithful' in a shepherd's cave and then in the Church of the shepherds fields, after the Peruvian Gloria had been sung, Maureen, our tour leader kindly allowed me to sing my carol, 'At Bethlehem in borrowed cattle stall' (which can be found in the A - Z index in the right hand column of this page) which  I would never dared to have thought it might be sung in such an apposite place - but remarkably we had the church to ourselves throughout.



Lunch is at the Tent restaurant and with a bit of imagination we could describe our experience as lunch in a Bedouin tent: the structure of the restaurant certainly corresponds closely to the Bedouin tents we have seen elsewhere. It is also a good vantage point for seeing how new Israeli settlements dominate hilltops and tower over Palestinian villages. Also roads constructed solely for settlement dwellers can be seen.


Manger Square is our next destination for the Church and grotto of the Nativity. The availability of modern transportation places burdens on such places never experienced before cheap air flights. So we have to queue four and five abreast then funnel down to a single entry doorway to enter the holy place where it is believed Christ was born. With a touch of sad irony, our very experienced tour guide had advised us to keep tightly packed together to deter those who might attempt to queue jump! Sure enough, a woman in purple skirted round about a dozen groups of those queued five abreast. Many of us were delighted to see her sent to the rear of the queue - yet astonishingly she appeared at the grotto entrance at the same time as us. It is difficult to conceive what formative or subsequent factors shape an individual to be so aggressively pushy - and in such a place. Even common courtesy has been lost along that life's path. We discussed the incident later over supper with Bishop Stephen as it happened and recognised just how much anger that woman had aroused. I was for publishing the picture I have of her on Facebook - but I was swiftly and rightly admonished by Pam. So I will pray for her - but fear even that such a prayer will be lacking in grace!


What is also sad is how that incident near-dominated the manger site sense of reverence, which, in any event, for me was marred by what I regarded as excessively ornate surroundings to the grotto. For others this is clearly an aid to worship but for me, sadly, a barrier.  Happily after the visit to the grotto we were guided to a corner just beyond the grotto and sung 'OCome All Ye Faithful' which had obvious appropriateness and it was good to hear voices in other tongues singing with us which spoke the message of Christ's reaching out to all people.


A quiet corner in the grotto until we start to sing!

Within the same site is the cave of Saint Jerome and the cave of The Innocents. At this end of a long day, the latter became a victim of our weariness though there was time to view the rather wonderful bronze Jesse Tree at the exit.

Finally we were taken to the Blind school in Nazareth wher Doreen, the Principal for twelve years showed us how they help with the education of blind children. This is a foundation supported by McCabes, our tour operator and all we saw spoke of a loving and effective environment. Only two children were present, it being a holiday (Sabbat) but they seemed very responsive to us and entertained us with a poem (Wordsworth's 'Daffodils) and a song. I spoke personally with Doreen and in response to my suggestion it must have sometimes been harrowing, she said there had been many, many tears.

Toys to feel

A very weary group of pilgrims returned to the hotel only shortly before supper time.
Move on to Day 4
OR Return to main pilgrimage index

Ten thousand billion suns - A scintilla of God’s Universe

Ten thousand billion suns - A scintilla of God’s Universe
It is currently thought that the Universe has at least 1,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000 stars! Hence the use of the word ‘scintilla’ for a mere ten thousand billion.

Cross and Particle Accelerator (CGI)

Cross and Particle Accelerator (CGI)
Cross and Particle Accelerator. The words of 'A Prayer for Understanding' can be viewed by clicking on this image

Nebula (Embroidery)

Nebula (Embroidery)
Nebula (Embroidery) to accompany the poem 'Invitation' which can be found by clicking on the image.

Orange Galaxy

Orange Galaxy
'Orange Galaxy' posted to accompany 'Bounded and Boundless'. Go to the poem by clicking on the image.

Cosmic Icon 7 Summerflower

Cosmic Icon 7 Summerflower
Cosmic Icon 7 - Summerflower Nebula (Acrylic)

Cosmic Ikon 8 Moth

Cosmic Ikon 8 Moth
Cosmic Ikon 8: Moth Nebula(imagined-acrylic) The Gold field of deep space is intended to convey the Lordship of Christ over the whole of the Cosmos

Surprise garden rose (Photo)

Surprise garden rose (Photo)
This beautiful head of roses in our garden, which are giving off a delightful perfume in the morning sun, seems a fitting picture to link to the sonnet 'Evolution and Beauty'. Let the picture take you there. It is a surprise because it is growing high on a bush of otherwise pure yellow roses: amazing!

Cross and Vortex

Cross and Vortex
'Cross and Vortex' to accompany 'Stars and Planets Sing Your Glory'. Click on the image to go to the poem/hymn.

Gaseous Cosmic Threads (Mixed media)

Gaseous Cosmic Threads (Mixed media)
Gaseous Cosmic Threads: Mixed media - acrylics and painted threads

St Francis’ Sky (Photo)

St Francis’ Sky (Photo)
Warm Umbrian Hills: Click image to take you to the poem St Francis' Sky

Cosmic Labyrinth (CGI)

Cosmic Labyrinth (CGI)
'Cosmic Labyrinth' - This icon is a symbol of the path through the near reaches of the Cosmos with its 'Havens' where current advances in science (2012/13) are celebrated. By clicking on the picture you will be taken to the latest version of the poem of the same name.

Cross of Autumn Leaves (cropped Photo)

Cross of Autumn Leaves (cropped Photo)
Time, perhaps to consider a restorative break before the approach of Advent/ Christmas. Let this image take you to 'On Drawing Apart'.

IONA: The Marble Quarry (Photo)

IONA: The Marble Quarry (Photo)
On the South shore of Iona is a bay which shows the industrial scarring of a beautiful place. Read of it by clicking on the picture

Butterfly Nebula (CGI)

Butterfly Nebula (CGI)
The Imaginary Butterfly Nebula . Anything like this would be a real Curiosity! The image will link you to the reflection titled 'Curiosity' which is actually a celebration of the achievement of landing the Mars Rover of that name

Light of the World amidst stars (CGI)

Light of the World amidst stars (CGI)
'Light of the world' posted to accompany 'To Light'. Find the poem by clicking on the image.

Iona from Fionnphort (Watercolour)

Iona from Fionnphort (Watercolour)
Iona from Fionnphort. At this point of the Isle of Mull, the end of a pilgrimage or trip to Iona is in sight. Click on this picture to take you to the poem 'IONA - The Pilgrim Way'

Cross and simple Prayer rope (Photo)

Cross and simple Prayer rope (Photo)
Cross and simple prayer rope: make one like this to use as an aid to using ‘The Jesus Prayer'