This morning we packed up and left Tiberius, heading for the seaside at Caesarea. We spent a short time sunbathing and paddling before I broke out the frisbee and we had a chuck about. I've spotted some potential talent for 'Methodiscs'. I did manage to cut my foot at shred the knee of my trousers due to a dedicate dive for the disc, landing on some pebbles. But I got the disc, which is the important thing. We ate our picnic lunch under the arch of the aqueduct built by Herod the Great, before boarding the bus for the final time and setting off down to the airport in Tel Aviv.
We had our first goodbyes there, as we said farewell to our driver and to Kate, who is staying on in Palestine for another week. Then we ended the interesting system that is Ben Gorion airport. Rather than the standard check-in, security, passport control seen in most airports, Israel added another step. Before check-in you have to queue up to have your hold luggage x-rayed. There seemed to be no logic to the process, as we were sent to three different queues. There was also some in depth questioning for some. Meg got asked how many pairs of shoes were in her bag. Apparently it's six! The rest of the system was fairly standard, and when we made it to the departure lounge we were a little hungry, so we shared some pizzas for Pizza Hut! Unfortunately, my colleague discount card isn't valid outside the UK.
And now I'm writing this at 40000ft somewhere between Prague and Nurnberg. I'm not looking forward to landing, and saying goodbye to Nive, Sam, Tim, Meg, Anna, Alison, Sharon and Becky. Over the last eight days, the 10 of us have really bonded, sharing plenty of laughs, a number of tears, some inspiring moments and plenty of in jokes. And I think we will all land at Heathrow different people to those who left.
So that's it, my Holy Land experience. I will probably blog a bit more over the next few weeks as the things I've seen and heard properly sink in. But I'd like to finish this with a prayer I wrote while sitting it the wind on the Mount of Beatitudes. (A little aside, I was listening to Great is He who's the King of Kings while I wrote this.)
We stand now on holy ground,
And as we do, we pray for those who are mourning.
Mourning for loved ones, for lost houses, land an livelihoods.
We mourn with them and ask that you give them comfort and hope.
We pray for those who hunger, for food and water,
But also for peace, justice and love.
We too hunger for all these things.
We pray for the peacemakers, working for peace around the world.
Help us to also build peace,
At home, in the church and in the world.
Bless us now, and let us be your hands
As we build your kingdom in this broken world.