We did so much in the 10 days that we were there that I will need several posts to cover it all. It was brilliant; very moving and spiritually awakening.
The Holy Land is a troubled country; it was very sad to hear in detail how the communities are so different and the mistrust that lies between them. There is no obvious solution to the problems that exist between the Palestinians and Israelis; although the first step must be for all sides to recognise the right of the other to exist. In many ways the saddest aspect was to learn that the different Christian "sects" that look after the Holy Places cannot agree amongst themselves. Six groups look after the Holy Sepulchre and they do not trust each other so the keys to the church are held by a Muslim family - so much for the Prince of Peace. If fellow Christians cannot sort out their differences what chance have the Palestinians and the Israelis?
Our guide who was a Palestinian Christian handled,in my opinion, the current situation in a reasonably balanced manner. His knowledge of the history, religion and the geography of the country meant that he was able to put the places we visited into their Christian context. The two priest who led the party, Father Tom and Father Vincent spoke eloquently and gave insights in how the places and the scriptures are related.
Pilgrimage Party at the Church of the Holy Sepulchre
After all the "stuff" that has been bouncing around the Church for the past weeks it was really good to get away and reflect on what truly matters. I would urge all Christians to try to make this pilgrimage at least once in their lives.