Holy Land Pilgrimage -Day 2
I hope this entry reads ok but I am finding the right compensation that Blogger understandably utilises in Israel, produces some strange effects tha can be seen in my last post. I hope this will not detract too much.
Destination Bethany - described by Said as Jesus' home from home. Just a ten/fifteen minute walk to Jerusalem - for Jesus and his followers but now a 30/35 minute coach ride for us to travel round the Wall of Separation. Israel's way of dividing its Arab inhabited territories from its Jewish areas.what will posterity make of it? But more, how much misery has that construction engendered? However, others
will tell of the lives the wall has saved.
will tell of the lives the wall has saved.
We cannot possibly answer the question posed above, but the stories of Palestinians with a home one side of the wall and the means of living the other are harrowing to say the least, as are the descriptions of the difficulty for those the Palestinian side to access work and good services the other side. Long queues in the morning to get through check points.: highly restrictive passes and a host of restrictions designed to make life difficult. It is a daily fact of life for those living in Jesus' 'home-from-home. And, we are assured, the problem is worse in Bethlehem where passports will be necessary tomorrow.
So our visit to the church and the site of Lazarus' tomb is near-overshadowed by the modern-day considerations of life in this place, highlighted by a visit to a desolate corner beneath the wall. Graffiti spreads messily out from an area which is scorched by a sometime large fire which to me emphasises the futility that must be felt to make meaningful protest.
Thus we come to the church and tomb of Lazarus - a place where the miracle of the raising of Jesus' friend is authentically placed. There is a communion taking place in the church so we can see comparatively little but we get to the tomb where the restriction of 6 at a time means the next party will have a long wait - but that is catered for by a tourist shop and 'The tomb of Lazarus Kebab shop! Brenda tries a Camel- she is acquiring a reputation among us:someone, I guess has to!
From there we visit Jeel al-Amal school where Palestinian children who have been abandoned are cared for -the boys as boarders and the girls on a day basis. We were given an overview by the daughter of the founder who took over on the death of her mother and acts as marketeer and fundraiser. We were in haste as the church at Bethesda closes at mid-day but we would have heard more of the.
From there we travel back to the Israeli side but not without being pulled over by the police for being in the wrong lane: fortunately our driver Ali knows the policeman on duty!
We disembark and walk through a thoroughly messy part of the Outskirts of the City to arrive at the Lion Gate and from there to the Pool of Bethesda. We sing in the church which has a startling acoustic then Pam is invited to partner with the Bishop in praying for anyone who would like prayer for healing.
Lunch at Ecce Homo convent is another feast and views over the city are stunning (a word that in danger of becoming seriously overused). The yellow-gold hues are dazzling in the sun and the old is mixed with the new in a town layout that would perplex anyone who is not local.
The convent is only a few steps away from the beginning of the Via Dolorosa and we gather first to be briefed by Saeed, our excellent Palestinian Christian guide who is at every stop demonstrating not only his depth of knowledge of the City but also a most impressive knowledge of Scripture - both Old and New Testament. He is also showing a reassuring concern for our safety making regular use of information from other locals to steer us away from any difficulties - and feelings are running high with the being a protest against a proposed law which would mean religious Jews will have to submit to the conscript. This issue is also of concern to the Christians in the community who also have exemption under the current law. A demonstration pulled 13000 on to the streets and was reported internationally.
We processed in pairs or in single file most the length of the Via Dolorosa after a visit to the church where Pilate used the phrase 'Ecce Homo'. There is a carving in the stone that just might be a game that would have been similar to the 'sating of lots'. The route weaves around between a tangle of shops and kiosks - a sad but perhaps symbolic commercialisation of a sacred path. We stop at each station, with appropriate readings and prayers for each station - and some singing.
We joined a throng at the Church of the crucifixion and burial and queued to get to the last two stations. The Orthodox presence was overwhelming. This response to the honouring of God is difficult for those of us with simpler views of what pleases God and what gives him honour.
Similarly puzzling for me was the press to venerate the rock where Jesus may have been laid before being placed in the tomb and the inevitable crush and queue to visit the Sepulchre. At 5.30 the following morning, Peter and Jerome assured us it was a wholly different experience.