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Friday, 31 October 2014

East London Three Faiths Forum trip to the Holy Land (8)

Our final day began in the ancient port of Jaffa where we took in the view of Tel Aviv, saw art galleries, lighthouse, harbour and the house of Simon the Tanner (where I read to the group from Acts 9. 36 - 42).

From Jaffa we travelled to Abu Ghosh to see the second largest Mosque in Israel which was recently completed with funding from Chechnya. We also enjoyed a delicious Middle Eastern lunch at a restaurant in the village.

The afternoon was spent firstly at the Synagogue of the Hadassah Medical Center, where we saw stained glass windows by Marc Chagall depicting the twelve tribes of Israel, and then at Yad Vashem, the deeply moving national Holocaust memorial. In the time we had available I saw the collection of Holocaust art, some displays in the Holocaust History Museum, and the Children's Memorial.


Henyrk Górecki - Symphony No. 3.

Wednesday, 29 October 2014

East London Three Faiths Forum trip to the Holy Land (7)

We've had another excellent day which began by going to Haifa where we travelled along Mount Carmel seeing Stella Maris (the headquarters of the Carmelites), the Baha'i botanical gardens, and the Carmelite Chapel at El-Murakah which enabled us to view the sight of Elijah's confrontation with the prophets of Baal. Rabbi David Hulbert read the account of Elijah on Mount Carmel and I spoke briefly about Carmelite spirituality.

From there we went to have a delicious lunch with a Druze family and heard a little about the Druze faith and way of life. Our final stop was at Caesarea where we saw the remains of Herod's Palace including the theatre, hippodrome and aqueduct. There, I read from the account in Acts of Peter's meeting with Cornelius highlighting its significance for the growth of Christianity.


Mendelssohn - Elijah.

Tuesday, 28 October 2014

East London Three Faiths Forum trip to the Holy Land (6)

Today we began by seeing the Roman Catholic Church of the Annunciation in Nazareth. This is a modern design which incorporates a 4th century and a Crusader building, as well as having much modern art. We also visited the Old City with its markets, plus the Anglican Church and the Synagogue Church.

From Nazareth we went to Acco, which was a major Crusader port. There we had lunch at the port, saw the Crusader halls and Turkish baths, as well as visiting the Al-Jazaar Mosque. After our evening meal in the hotel, we had an enjoyable session of singing Shabbat songs led by our guide, Eli Rockowitz.


Sheva - Od Yavo Shalom Aleinu.

Monday, 27 October 2014

East London Three Faiths Forum trip to the Holy Land (5)

Today I have given short talks at the Church of the Beatitudes and on the Sea of Galilee plus a participation in an open discussion tonight about the Annunciation with the Imam on our trip, Dr Fahim. My contributions have aimed to stress the incarnational distinctive of Christianity.

Our visits today have all been around Galilee beginning at the Church of the Beatitudes with its beautiful grounds over-looking Lake Galilee. Then we went into Capernaum where we saw the home of Simon Peter's Mother-in-law and the synagogue where Jesus preached. This was followed by a boat trip across Lake Galilee to Kibbutz Ein Gev where we had lunch.

After lunch we went to a viewing point and war memorial in the Golan Heights before ending the day in the Old City of Tsefat discovering the Hassidic and mystical traditions which underpin its art galleries and synagogues. While there I discovered the work of Asia Katz which offers an engaging and relational combining of cubism and folk art. See examples of her work at


Hasidic dance - Tsefat.

Sunday, 26 October 2014

East London Three Faiths Forum trip to the Holy Land (4)

Today we left Jerusalem to travel through the Judean Desert to Masada. We saw Bedouin herding sheep and goats as we travelled through the desert. Their lifestyle, which dates back to the Patriarchs, is danger of dying out as they become assimilated into the money economy. We passed Jericho, Qumran and Ein Gedi on our way to Masada. After making our way by cable car to the height of Masada we heard the stories of Herod's palace and the siege and martyrdom of the Maccabean rebels against Rome.

We shared our cable car up with a Christian group who sang all the way to the top of Masada. As it was Sunday, we held a Eucharist at one of the covered areas on the site. Rev Simon Hill led our service and I spoke about the incarnation as this linked to our visit the previous day to Bethlehem.

We then relaxed with lunch at the Hod haMidbar Hotel on the shores of the Dead Sea followed by a swim in the Dead Sea itself. Then it was back on the coach for the drive through the West Bank up the Jordan Valley to Nazareth. Along the way we passed the likely site of Jesus' baptism in the River Jordan, close by what is now the Allenby Bridge, and the Deir Hijla Monastry, one of what were once many locations used by desert hermits.


Taize - Bless The Lord.

Saturday, 25 October 2014

East London Three Faiths Forum trip to the Holy Land (3)

Today we went through the wall to Bethlehem where we queued to go into the Grotto of the Nativity. Like the Church of the Holy Sepulchre yesterday, this was an incredibly busy place combining devotion with tourism. We also saw one Banksy's graffiti designs - a dove of peace with a bullet-proof vest - close to the wall itself.

We then followed the wall for part of the way to Hebron, passing some of the settlements in Area C, before arriving at the Tombs of the Patriarchs in Hebron. This is a shrine complex mainly built by Herod, with additions by the Crusaders, which is now houses a Mosque and a Synagogue. The Jewish members of our group visited the synagogue, while the rest of us went to visit the shrines to Abraham and Sarah, Isaac and Rebekah, Jacob and Leah. Then we all went into the Old Town for a short time.

Lastly, the Christian members of the group went to St George's Cathedral in Jerusalem for Evening Prayer.


Jehan Titelouze - Urbs Jerusalem.

East London Three Faiths Forum trip to the Holy Land (2)

Yesterday we began the first full day of the East London Three Faiths Forum trip to the Holy Land with a visit to the Garden Tomb before going up to Mount Scopus for views across the whole of Jerusalem. We then went into the Old City via the Jaffa Gate to have lunch before going to the Church of the Holy Sepulchre. We, therefore, heard the respective claims for that church and the Garden Tomb as sites for the crucifixion and resurrection without being able to solve the dilemma ourselves! Rev Simon Hill led Morning Prayer at the Garden Tomb while I spoke about the resurrection.

The Muslim members of our group went to Friday prayers at the Al-Aqsa Mosque and the Dome of the Rock before joining us for lunch and our visit to the Church of the Holy Sepulchre.

At dusk it was time for us all to go to the Western Wall for the beginning of Shabbat where there was lots of singing and dancing as well as prayers. There was more singing by the Jewish families celebrating Shabbat at our hotel during our evening meal.


Mosh Ben Ari - Od Yavo Shalom Aleinu.