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“Come and see; go and tell”

by Michael Ford last modified 11 May, 2022 06:27 PM

A pilgrimage to the Holy Land in Eastertide 2022

“Come and see; go and tell”

Dean Nick with Daoud Nassar

Thirty-nine pilgrims from Salisbury and beyond woke up in Galilee on Easter Wednesday 2022. Overnight the results of our on-arrival PCR tests had arrived, and we were free to begin our shared and much-postponed adventure. 

The itinerary for our first three days was focussed on Jesus’s ministry of teaching and healing. We went to the sites traditionally associated with the Feeding of the Multitude and the Sermon on the Mount. We celebrated the Eucharist atop Mount Tabor, saw the site of the Annunciation in Nazareth, wandered around the ruins of ancient Capernaum, and sailed on the Sea of Galilee. 

The atmosphere changed as we drove south and spent three nights in the occupied West Bank, based in Bethlehem. We renewed our baptismal vows at the River Jordan, sang in the cave where the shepherds once watched, and queued to descend to the place where Jesus was born. But the difficult reality of life under occupation was inescapable. We drove to Hebron, where an uneasy calm between Palestinians and Israeli settlers prevails. There we visited the tombs of the patriarchs and matriarchs, going first to the mosque and then to the synagogue that share the historic site built over the cave of Machpelah. We heard from Palestinian Christian Daoud Nassar, who has battled for three decades to retain possession of his family farm, the Tent of Nations. The Tent’s motto “we refuse to be enemies” greets all who enter. We walked through the Aida Refugee Camp to learn about the extraordinary work that the Alrowwad youth project does to encourage young people not to succumb to despair but to take a path of “beautiful resistance” to their oppression. 

Aida Refugee Camp

And our last three nights were spent in Jerusalem. We worshipped at St George’s Anglican Cathedral, where we were warmly welcomed by the Archbishop of Jerusalem. Archbishop Hosam never forgets that St George’s was consecrated by the then Bishop of Salisbury, John Wordsworth, in 1898. We enjoyed singing with the local congregation - in Arabic (!) - and prayed for John Wordsworth’s successor, Stephen, on the eve of his consecration. 

A visit to the Holocaust museum and memorial, Yad Vashem, recalled us to the tragic and brutal context out of which modern Israel was brought to birth, and we traced the footsteps of Jesus from the Mount of Olives to Gethsemane, from the High Priest’s house to the Governor’s residence, and along the Way of the Cross to Golgotha and the tomb. 

They were ten unforgettable days. Singing, praying, eating, laughing, swimming (and – in the Dead Sea - floating) together we grew as a group of pilgrim brothers and sisters. Through our proximity to the places that Jesus knew, and in the stories of injustice and suffering that continue today I believe we grew closer to God. 

As we made our way to the airport (via the Elvis Presley Diner!) we celebrated the Eucharist in Emmaus and remembered that St Luke’s Easter narrative ends with the two disciples running all the way back to Jerusalem to tell of the miracle that they have experienced. What was true for them is true for us. The end of our adventure is only its beginning. We came to Israel/Palestine. We saw the stones of the holy sites. We heard from the living stones who inhabit them today. Now we are called to go and tell others “…what happened on the road”. 

Nicholas Papadopulos 


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