Our final day in Jerusalem began very early with a wake up call at 5 am! By 5:30 am all of us were outside the hotel and beginning to walk to the start of the Via Dolorosa. It took us about an hour and a quarter to walk stations 1 to 10, which brought us to the entrance to the Church of the Holy Sepulchre.￼￼
We walked in the dark through slightly quieter streets, for most of our walk, pausing only to read the Scriptures at the various stations and keeping silence as much as possible. One particular moment stood out for me: going through the gate where Jesus would have seen his cross for the first time￼, And reading how the women Wailed for him￼ – A group of stray cats provided wailing sound effects.￼
When we arrived at the church, we were grateful that our early start meant that we could visit the sights of Golgotha surrounded by a quiet and prayerful group, rather than noisy tourists with a greater interest in taking pictures rather than being present to God.
The early start also meant that we were in line early to visit the empty tomb and only had to queue for half an hour.
While we waited we learnt about the Greek orthodox tradition of “holy fire” an annual event which is worth googling!￼￼￼
I for one, came out of the tomb wanting to shout “he is not here he is risen”.
We walked back to our hotel and enjoyed our late breakfast together. After a little rest, we set off for the pools of Bethesda where we had a beautiful service of holy communion in one of the new chapels alongside Saint Annes.
After snack lunch, our group divided. Some of us spent a free afternoon in Jerusalem and some of us went to the dead sea and to see the place where the dead sea scrolls were discovered.
In the evening we enjoyed our final meal together in the hotel followed by a competitive but fairly silly word game, in the meeting room.
Today is our travelling home today, I am writing this sitting in Tel Aviv airport.It has been the most amazing experience, with a wonderful group of pilgrims. Most importantly each of us have come away with a clearer understanding of the land of the Holy One and I’m sure all of us have had different moments when we have felt the Holy One draw near to us.￼￼￼￼￼