Today was been such a great day. It began with the religious side of things, moved through the political and ended in the personal
We took the bus through the checkpoint into Jerusalem (having to show our passports), where we met Simon, our guide for the day as Iyad is not permitted to travel through the checkpoint. He took us up to the Mount of Olives, and went to the Church of the Ascension, where it is believed by some that Jesus ascended to Heaven, inside the church is what is believed to be the footstep of Jesus. We then moved to the Pater Noster, where they have the Lord's Prayer on the walls in 165 languages. We found Welsh, Scotish Gaelic, Cornish and English among others. From there we headed to the Church of Domino Flavit, on the site Jesus wept over the city. From here you get the famous view of the old City of Jerusalem, with the golden dome of the Dome of the Rock mosque shining. We read the passage from Luke where he reports the words Jesus said in that spot. We also saw what is called 'The valley of the cheese makers', and three of us simultaneously said 'Blessed are the cheesemakers'! Turns out that Monty Python was more geologically correct that I thought.
We then moved into the Garden of Gethsemane. It was quite moving being on the site where Jesus asked for the cup to be taken from him. There are olive trees there which botanists believe are over 3000 years old! Also Megan caught the eye of a local man, and got a kiss.
We continued down the hill and into the city, through a security point and to the Wailing Wall. Then we arrived at the Basilica of the Holy Sepulchre, which is believed to be the site of Calvary, the anointing and tomb of Jesus. This was very moving, being at the site where our Lord was crucified and died for me. I went outside, listened to 'Once again' by Matt Redman and prayed. I think that song will have a different meaning for me from now on.
The grabbed a lunch of falafel before exiting the old city. There Simon left us, and we were joined by Imber, of ICAHD (the Israeli Committee Against House Demolitions). ICAHD are Israeli citizens fighting the demolitions of Palestinian houses by the Israeli state. She gave us a tour some settlements, which made me so angry. The discrimination, and systematic anti-Palestinian policies seem to be so blatant, how is it allowed?. Israeli Settlements get fountains and swimming pools, while Palestinian neighbourhoods get get water maybe a few times a week, and have to collect rainwater. This is just one example of many. It was amazing, an inspiring, to hear from an Israeli citizen who is working for the rights of the Palestinians.
For this evening's dinner we split into three groups and went to dinner with local families. Alison, Megan and I joined the Sleili family. We had lovely meal of fish, sausage and rice, finished with the most amazing chocolate cake I've ever had, made by Hanan's own hands. Zakki! ('delicious' in Arabic, though I don't know if that's the right spelling...).
The mix of the spiritual, political and personal stories has made today one that I know I'll remember for ever.