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On Tuesday 2nd April 2013 twenty-six members of St. Margaret’s met at the Vicarage for the journey to Heathrow for our flight to Tel Aviv and our pilgrimage to the Holy Land.

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Our Hotel for the first six nights was the Golden Walls Hotel, close to the old City of Jerusalem

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On Wednesday we drove to the Mount of Olives for a panoramic view of the walled city, across the Kidron Valley to the Golden Gate. We visited the Church of all Nations in the Garden of Gethsemane and the Church of St. Peter in Gallicantu. Later we visited West Jerusalem and the village of Ein Karem. Our final visit that day was to the Memorial to the Holocaust.

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On Thursday we entered the old city and visited the Western Wall (formally called the Wailing Wall) and were able to witness a Bar-Mitzvah ceremony, the expressions of happiness on the faces of the family was a joy to see. Later we visited the Pool of Bethesda and the Church of St. Anne’s. Walking through the lanes of the old city
Holy Land April 2013 - Jerusalem 291 (how narrow and crowded they must have been) we visited the Church of the Holy Sepulchre before ending the afternoon at the Garden Tomb where we celebrated Holy Communion.

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Friday saw us ascend by cable car to Herod’s desert fortress of Masada, we visited Qumran where the Dead Sea Scrolls were discovered. After lunch, many of us took the opportunity to float in the waters of the Dead Sea (an amazing experience)

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Saturday began on Mount Zion and a visit to the Upper Room. We then travelled to Bethlehem to the Fields of the Shepherds where we sang “While Shepherd’s Watched their flocks by night” we actually saw a shepherd in the field with his sheep. In the afternoon we visited Manger Square and the Grotto of the Nativity and St. Jerome’s caves.

Holy Land April 2013 - Jerusalem 597 On Saturday evening the Sultan’s Feast gave everyone a relaxing and enjoyable evening and the chance to meet other pilgrims from around the world.

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On Sunday we worshipped at St. George’s Cathedral, it was interesting having the service in Arabic and English.

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On Monday we left Jerusalem and headed toward Bethany and the Jordan valley, after visiting the tomb of Lazarus we arrived at the Jeel al-Amal boys home supported by McCabe Educational Trust. We had all brought gifts and Judy presented the headmaster with a cheque which had been collected by the congregation of St. Margaret’s. We were shown around the school which provides primary education to 350 boys and girls (the girls are not boarders) from Bethany and the surrounding area, providing orphans the opportunity to learn and interact with other children. The children were certainly pleased and excited to see us and most of us would probably have quite happily stayed all day!

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Leaving the home we continued to Jericho and ascended the Mount of Temptation by cable car before going on to Tiberias and our hotel by the sea of Galilee.

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On Tuesday we looked around Cana scene of Jesus’ first miracle visiting Mary’s well we went to Nazareth village, a reconstruction of 1st century Galilean village, complete with a baby donkey (who was the main attraction for some including the parish photographer) and actors living out the scenes.

Travelling by taxi to the top of Mount Tabor (an interesting drive!) we visited the Basilica of the transfiguration with views over the plain of Armageddon

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Wednesday was spent around the sites associated with Jesus’ life around the Sea of Galilee, we started at the Convent of Beatitudes’ Church and garden commememorating the Sermon on the Mount and then celebrated HolyHoly Land April 2013 - Nazareth & Galilee 494
Communion on the shores of the Lake at Tabgha beside the Church of the Loaves and Fishes.

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After a visit to the ruins Capernaum we sailed back to our hotel across the Sea of Galilee, pausing halfway across to sing “Dear Lord and Father of Mankind” arriving in time for some of the party to take a dip in the hotel swimming pool.

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Beside the Sea of Galilee

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On our final day Thursday we went to the Roman capital of Caesarea to the restored amphitheatre and the aqueduct, before heading back to Tel Aviv and our flight home.

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A big “thank you” to our guide David, our driver Riad and Judy and Frank for a wonderful and inspiring visit.

To see many more pictures of our pilgrimage follow the link to our picture gallery here

Some observations from those in the trip:

Bethlehem – beth is house and lehem means bread in Hebrew and Meat in Arabic.

“The doorway leading into the Church of the Nativity was very small, so that everyone had to bow down to get inside, therefore we were humbled, but a child could just run in – we must accept the Kingdom of God as a child.

This was also what Jesus meant when he said that it is easier to go through the eye of a needle than a rich man enter the kingdom of God.

The word synagogue is from the Greek, – to meet together.

It is a tropical climate at the Northern end of the sea of Galilee so they grow mangoes, olives and bananas there.

The narrow streets and many steps leading to the crucifixion and crowded with people – what must it have been like!

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