Led by Robin and Jane SeQueira.
Wednesday, 5th December I am writing this blog from a very manic Ben Gurion airport
lounge in Tel Aviv awaiting our flight home as alas our pilgrimage is at an
Earlier today on the way here we visited the Israeli museum
in Jerusalem following which we had the privilege, if rather daunting and
emotional, of a visit to Yad Vashem, the Holocaust museum. That man’s
inhumanity to man can be so depraved and brutal does prompt one to despair but
we can only live in hope that that kind of history is never ever repeated. It
is too gruesome and cruel for words.
This has been an amazing journey of discovery, renewal and
inspiration. To have walked near or in the footsteps of Jesus and to have seen
many of the buildings and artefacts that existed when he did, was truly
Jane and I have been so lucky having led the group of
pilgrims that we did. Whilst we also prayed and paid homage to God, we also had
fun. Wit and humour abounded. Our guide Sonia, an Arab Christian, and driver
Abu Morad were our perfect hosts, our driver delivering us safely to our
destinations through anarchic traffic!
Sonia, well versed in the bible and its history was a perfect
blend of knowledge and humour and she made friends of us all. We can relax at
last with our wonderful memories of a pilgrimage that will live with us to the
Robin and Jane
Tuesday, 4th December (see five photographs below)
Today was different. We spent it in the south
of Palestine, in the wilderness. John the Baptist was here, just south of
Jericho. The Jews escaped here from the revolting Romans, but were beaten at
Masada where Herod the Great built his state of the art fortress in a
At En Gedi we saw where David escaped from Saul and spared
his life too (1 Samuel 24). At Qumran we saw the spot where the Dead Sea
Scrolls were found, the importance of which was to show that the text of the
scripture is proven and not just passed down orally.
In the desert we saw how God provided (despite the lack of
water) for birds, goats, Ibex, butterfly’s and all. We ended with the hardy
types venturing into the Dead Sea for their inevitable floating photo
opportunities. Robert J
The Dead Sea from our coach. It’s reckoned that in 50 years the Dead Sea
will be dry if it continues to be starved of water from the Jordan and other
The view over the desert from Masada
Part of Herod’s fortress at Masada
This model of Herod’s fortress at Masada depicts its precipitous
position as well as the amazing architectural and construction ingenuity some
2000 years ago
Jane S conclusively proving the salt content in the Dead
Monday, 3rd December (with six photographs below)
Today has been a little different as we have
had free time to really soak in the atmosphere of Jerusalem, spend some money
in the little, narrow, bustling streets that make up the old quarter with
thousands of market stalls, and also to visit parts that we didn’t fit in on
We had the privilege at the start of the day to pay a very
special visit to the Consulate General to the Palestinians (in effect a UK
ambassador). He spoke very honestly and insightfully about the complex
political situation in this land. I think we all felt impressed by his
extraordinary grasp of the realities on the ground and his genuine personal
compassion for all the peoples.
Highlights for us have been climbing up to The Dome of the
Rock, (golden domed pictures below), enjoying seeing Heather appropriately
dressed for this strictly Muslim area, watching the world go by over lunch amongst the
traders, and revisiting the beautiful garden tomb at the end of our day, which
happens to be right near the hotel where we are staying.” Sue de G
Heather in strictly Muslim area in Jerusalem
S de G
Dome of the Rock, Jerusalem.
S de G
Market traders in Jerusalem.
S de G
Our group with the
J de G
Damascus Gate of Jerusalem
J de G
beautiful Garden Tomb - empty of course!
J de G
Sunday, 2nd December
Our start today at Christchurch (Jerusalem) communion
service was intriguing and inspiring. A packed congregation partook of a
service which was primarily in English but had major tracts in Hebrew
too. The sermon was delivered by the visiting pastoral head of CMJ ( Christian
Mission to the Jews) a Christian UK based charity which delivers aid and
mission in Israel. A great start to our day!
Following the service we began our journey on the Via
Dolorosa, stopping for prayer at a number of the 14 stations, stopping too at
the Western Wailing wall and ending at the pool of Bethesda and the church
venerating the birthplace of Jesus’s mother Mary.
We often stop at convenient
locations for prayer, meditation and singing which helps us to experience the
senses of pilgrimage and privilege.
Jerusalem is a real mix of cultures, races and religions all
of which add to the bustle of the city. The presence of armed military
everywhere jolts one back to the reality that it is also a city of tension and
strife. Nevertheless it manages to convey the glory and wonder of Jesus and his
Crown of Thorns
Sonia, our brilliant guide!
The pillar at which
Jesus was scourged.
The western Wailing wall, Jerusalem.
Praying at the
50 & 51
Dave P praying at the Wailing wall.
Jean de G
praying at the Wailing wall.
Our journey down
the Via Dolorosa.
The reputed birthplace of Mother Mary
The pool of Bethesda where Jesus healed the disabled man.
Outside courtyard to the Church of the Holy Sepulchre,
Saturday, 1st December
Hi to everyone back in Dorset.
We left Bethlehem
this morning and drove through the border checkpoints which again highlights
the difficulties that fellow Christians face on a daily basis (Photo 1)
We started the day with a visit to the Mount of Olives where we found a copy of the Geordie Lords Prayer (Photo 2).
After a short walk
we came upon some amazing views of Jerusalem (Photo 3).
We then followed the path taken by Jesus on Palm Sunday (Photo 4) PHOTO 4
on our way to the Gardens of Gethsemane which was full of old, yet beautiful, olive trees (Photo 5).
The church there, the Basilica of the Agony, was home to some stunning frescos (Photo 6).
A trip to the Garden Tomb followed where we saw the area it is believed that Jesus was crucified and then the Tomb where Joseph of Arimathea is thought to have taken Jesus's body (Photo 7). Our guide here, Graham, once lived in Blandford Forum, such a small world we live in. We held communion here, which was, once again, an amazing experience, in a simply breathtaking setting.
We had lunch at a
kibbutz before heading on to Mount Zion where we visited the site of the Last Supper (Photo 8) and David's Tomb. A few of the male members of our party had to wear skull caps but unfortunately photography was not allowed!
We ended the day with a visit to St Peters Church, built on the site of Caiaphas' Palace where Jesus was imprisoned, and where Peter thrice denied him. Jean read Psalm 88 (Photo 9) in the dungeon Jesus was lowered into. I urge you to remind yourself of the words of this Psalm.
We have now arrived in our final hotel, St George Hotel, in Jerusalem, and we are all looking forward to the next four days of spiritual adventures. Mark P
Friday, 30th November (see photographs below)
We’ve had another long but
fascinating day! First off we traveled to Herodion (a castle / palace / tomb)
for a real arch-baddie! Think Corfe Castle but 2000 years old built by the
Herod who killed all the children once he’d heard a king was born.
Christian faith really does call us to engage with politics - how people behave
towards others. Very sharply brought in focus by 2 other meetings we had - one
a Palestinian Christian teacher in a West Bank Bible school for whom life is
incredibly difficult. The other was a chance meeting at the Bethlehem
“Shepherd’s Field” cave. A small group started singing in Aramaic (Jesus’ own
language). They turned out to be Iraqi Christians who’d escaped Baghdad. Made
our visit to Jesus’ birthplace especially poignant.
Guess we’ll be praying for
“Peace on earth” with greater urgency this Christmas. Pax et Bonum. Jean de G
Another day (30th Nov) of tunnels and many, many
This morning we visited the ruins of
Herod the Great's fortress-palace at Herodian, which later housed his tomb. Our
trip round this archaeological site involved descending into the tunnels to the
After Herodian we travelled to the Shepherds'
Fields, the site where it is said that the Angel of the Lord visited the
Shepherds with news of Jesus' birth. The shepherds' cave is now a shrine, which
we visited at the same time as a group of Aramaic Christians, originally from
Iraq but now living in California. Both of our groups sang praises; they sang
in Aramaic and we sang While Shepherds Watched Their Flocks.
After a spot of souvenir shopping and
a lunch of delicious falafels we moved on to the Bethlehem Bible College to
hear about the plight of Palestinian Christians.
Our day ended with a visit to
Christ's birthplace, a cavern now underneath a Greek Orthodox Church.
Unfortunately this involved a very long queue, but we finally made it to the
cave where Jesus was born.
Onwards to Jerusalem! Dave W
26 & 57
J de G
Fresco in Shepherds Field Chapel
J de G
Tiny door through which pilgrims need
to stoop and humble themselves to enter the Church of the Nativity.
J de G
S de G
S de G
S de G
S de G
Thursday, 29th November (see 10 photographs below)
We started our day at Jesus’s baptismal site in the River Jordan.
Quite something and we were joined by pilgrims from all over the world. Most of
us dangled our feet in the Holy waters whilst other brave, younger ones (from
other countries) went for the full immersion! Not sure if this was wise given
the muddy state of the water!
Following that we went to ‘Temptation’ mountain in the desert
where Jesus was ‘tempted’. We were assailed by vendors and shopkeepers- and a
camel- adding novelty to the day, following which we went to the barren rocky
summit of Wadi Quelt ( St George) where we saw the bleak and rocky road taken
by Jesus from Jerusalem to Jericho, a journey which was dangerous as it was
long and challenging.
Finally we went to the City of David in Jerusalem
(traffic jams notwithstanding) where we saw the old City of David and some of
us even negotiated the the watery Hezekiah’s tunnel ( a novel experience given
its depth and narrow gulley underground!).
Again the day was inspirational and
inspiring. Our group has really gelled. We are in Bethlehem for three nights
now and comfortably ensconced in St Gabriel’s Hotel. Robin
Mount of Olives, Jerusalem
J de G
Mount Moriah... also
called the hill of Zion in Jerusalem
J de G
Dave P blesses pilgrims
in the River Jordan
S de G
Dave P uses the waters of the River Jordan to bless pilgrims
Dave P – River Jordan
S de G
Dipping our feet in
the waters of the River Jordan at Jesus’s baptismal site. Awesome!
St George – the barren and desert
road travelled by Jesus between Jericho and Jerusalem
Some more photos from Dave and Liz
Yesterday, Thursday 29th
we left Tiberius and
the Sea of Galilee, travelling south to Jerusalem and Bethlehem.
Our first stop was the River Jordan
, which forms the border with the Kingdom of Jordan. Most of us paddled in the river, along with Christian groups
from around the world (some of whose members underwent baptism by full immersion in the cold and brown water).
This experience affected some of our group particularly strongly.
Onwards via Jericho, we came to understand the real meaning of the Wilderness
so often referred to in the Bible and which evoked a sense of fear at that time.
Our coach stopped near the
top of a ravine, into whose walls was set the 4th century monastery of St George
. In this inhospitable land the Good Samaritan performed his act of mercy. On seeing the barren landscape a number of us immediately thought of Psalm 23, which includes the words "Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death".
In the afternoon we reached Jerusalem
and it's traffic congestion, where we had our first sight of the walls of the Old City and the early history of the City of David was explained to us.
After this, some of us traversed knee-deep water by torchlight in the 488m long Hezekiah's tunnel, the 8th century BC man made underground water course supplying the city (photos of this will follow when I can download them from my 'old technology' camera).
At the end of the day we arrived safely at our new hotel in Palestinian Bethlehem.
Dave and Liz Wilson
Wednesday, 28th November (see three photographs below)
We started today with a visit to coolish Mount Tabor, the reputed site
of the Transfiguration followed by visiting the Catholic Church on the site of
Mary’s home and the appearance of the Angel Gabriel to her. This Church is very
much a reflection of the esteem paid by Roman Catholics to the Virgin Mary.
Close by was St Joseph’s Church.
After lunch we enjoyed a very informative
and eye opening visit to ‘Nazareth Village’ which was a recreation of the town
of Nazareth at the time that Jesus lived there. Rod, the Brazilian guide ( who
spoke perfect American English!) was the accomplished guide who made real the
harsh conditions of life at the time but also exhibiting the very original and
novel methods of oil and wine production all those centuries ago. A very
humbling experience for all of us who enjoy the trappings of modern life!
ended our day in the underground church at Cana (site of the conversion of
water into wine at the wedding celebrations) where we also observed a real live
wedding and the renewal of marriage vows by a number of couples.
All breathtaking and indelible experiences. We are so lucky
to be here. Robin
Mount Tabor: site of the Transfiguration
Church of the Annunciation: Mary’s house and
site of the appearance of the Angel Gabriel
Church at Cana: site of Jesus’s first miracle
turning water into wine.
Tuesday, 27th November
(see twelve photographs below)
Today gave us our first full on experience of the
Pilgrimage - and what a day it was.
Refreshed from a comfortable night’s sleep we
began our day at 8am with a wonderful sail on the Sea of Galilee. It was a truly spiritual beginning in warm sunny
conditions, uplifting to feel that we were tracing Jesus’s path on the lake.
We worshipped on the boat, sang Gods praises and even danced
to ‘Hava Nagila’, footage of which is available for a fee!
After our sail we
visited a museum which displayed a 2000+ year old fishing boat unearthed some
years ago and which Jesus would surely have seen having spent so much time in
We then went on to celebrate Communion at the Mount of Beatitudes
with readings and hymns. It was memorable.
We went on to Magdala to visit the excavated
ruins of a 1st century synagogue and market place followed by a traditional
In the afternoon we went first to Tabgha to the Church of the 7
springs (the feeding of the 5000), to the Church of the Primacy of St.Peter,
then Bethsaida where we literally walked in Jesus’s footsteps and finally to
Capernaum reputed to be Jesus’s home town.
It’s been quite an amazing
start, very full and quite tiring but very emotional and fulfilling for us