It is an early start as we begin the day which sees us move from Jerusalem to Galilee. Our bags are to be outside our rooms by 7.30am if we want someone from the hotel to carry them for us. Then it is an early breakfast so that we can be ready to go to the Latin Patriarchate for 9am. We had hoped that Dean Naoum would be able to join us for breakfast, but this wasn’t possible as something cropped up at the last minute. Dean Naoum is from St George’s Cathedral and is soon to be made a Bishop. It is sad not to see him.
Onto the coaches for the brief trip to Jaffa Gate and then the short walk to the Latin Patriarchate, which is the Episcopal See in the Holy Land. The rooms that we are led through to the place where the audience will take place are impressive, with very high ceilings and full of paintings on the walls. Everything is, as you would expect, beautifully kept and gleaming. We enter this big room with six chairs alongside the bigger more significant chair for the Bishop that we are to meet. I am the only female cleric to be wearing a cassock and to sit in these chairs. Our two Bishops, Fr Phil, and Andrew Nunn and our youngest cleric, curate David Adamson, are also robed. I feel privileged and a bit daunted.
We wait for a few minutes for the audience to begin and Bishop Christopher encourages us to sing a song from Taizé. As we do this Bishop Emeritus Kamal Hanna Bathish enters the room and we stand to greet him. He is diminutive and full of energy. Bishop Christopher invites Bishop Paul to greet Bishop Kamal on our behalf, which he does explaining about our visit. Bishop Kamal responds and speaks about the work of the Patriarchate with the other churches in Jerusalem and of his hopes for greater unity as Jesus says that we should all be one. He brings greetings from Archbishop Pizzaballa who was unable to see us.
Bishop Christopher thanks Bishop Kamal and then we sing ‘Dear God and Father of Mankind’ for him before having our photograph taken with him. A few of our Pilgrims take the opportunity to speak to Bishop Kamal before it is time to leave. He has given us a long time and as we leave, we have the opportunity to sign the visitors book which many of us do.
Back to our coaches we begin our journey north to Galilee.
We travel to Qumran, the site where Bedouins found scrolls containing the Old Testament in caves up in the hills. The story goes that they found these parchments in the caves and took some into Jerusalem to sell and an archaeologist recognised that they were very old and what they might be and traced the find back to the caves at Qumran. When he explored what was there he found many different scrolls of Old Testament books. The site is now managed as a National Park and is about a mile from the Dead Sea. This is, we are told the lowest inhabited place on earth. The scrolls were discovered in 1947 and excavations took place until 1956. Around 900 scrolls were found, and the site is believed to have been the home of the Essenes. Today the finds which show things that made up the village such as ritual baths and cisterns are marked and there are viewing points all around. Up in the hills, if one has time to walk up to them, it is possible to see the caves in which the scrolls were found.
Sadly, we didn’t have time to make that walk as lunch had taken quite a while because so many people stopped at this place. Already it is warmer than in Jerusalem as we climb back on our coaches and journey north through beautiful and changing countryside.
Arriving at the Ron Beach Hotel is always a pleasure and our Pilgrims are happy to be here and to have some time to rest before dinner. All the rooms here have a view over the Lake and some sit on their balconies whilst Bishop Christopher and one or two hardy Pilgrims (including me!) swim in the Lake. It was absolutely freezing but well worth it as it felt so good to be outside and swimming after a day on the coach. We were watched by some of the Pilgrims and I suspect that they thought we were mad. Not sure if there are photos but will post some if I get any!
After that it is time for dinner and our meeting and then time for bed or at least some rest ready for another busy day tomorrow.