This will be the last of my ramblings about what I felt on and after my various visits to Israel.
Firstly, I would like to consider my sole visit to the Upper Room, scene of the Last Supper.
This was something which I had approached with considerable anticipation. Unfortunately, I was not appreciative of what seemed more like a nondescript block of flats, with the upstairs room entered via a suspended walkway more suited to downtown New York.
The Upper Room
The Upper Room did not inspire confidence either, seeming to be little more than a bare space awaiting a delivery from Ikea. Even the guide lacked the air of confidence usually found in those conducting tour parties.
This was followed by an immediate turn-around as we went directly to the cells where Jesus spent a considerable part of his last night on earth.
Down two flights of well-worn stone steps we were taken and there they were – two or three rough walled cells entirely bereft of any light.
By the feeble gloom of the guide’s torch we could just make out the iron rings in the wall, to which the prisoners would have been shackled. So high up the walls were these rings that I concluded that unless Jesus had been about six feet four inches in height he would have been hanging by his hands with the iron chains biting into his wrists for several hours.
His torment was not confined to the time he spent before the Roman authorities.
On a much more elevated note, let me tell you about the day I took the group from our parish to Emmaus.
As we left the hotel dining room I noticed our guide was collecting chunks of bread and wrapping them in serviettes. I thought perhaps she was going to take them home for her family, so made no comment.
When we reached Emmaus we found the sparse remains of an ancient church surrounding a substantial stone altar. We read the story of the two men returning home to Emmaus and being joined on the road by the risen Jesus. When they invited him to join them for a meal, he surprised them by breaking the bread and giving thanks to God. At once they realised who he was.
When we finished the story, our guide came up to me, unwrapped the bread and placed it on the table. “You’ll need this,” she said, and then the penny dropped. She assumed I would be conducting communion. My brain speeded up from its normal sedentary rate and I announced to the group that we would come in pairs to the altar, break off portions of bread and eat them. Thus we would re-enact the final scene from the bible story.
Western (Wailing) Wall in Jerusalem
Finally, I’d like to recount one scene from the Western (Wailing) Wall in Jerusalem.
The Jews have a feast day to celebrate the gift of the holy scriptures. In Jerusalem groups from all the synagogues dance and sing their way through the streets, scrolls held aloft, until they unite before the wall of the original temple and offer their thanks and praise to God. I was there one year to watch this celebration.
Thanks be to God.
I realise how fortunate I have been to visit Israel, leading groups on various occasions and for various purposes.
Apart from the obvious religious connections I have been able to go in an underwater observatory and watch the multi-coloured fish swimming around a coral reef in the Red Sea, observe a very heated argument over a pair of shoe laces in dilapidated sports shoes in the flea-market of Jaffa and – not many teachers in the world can equal this – lead a group of youngsters along a narrow path through an active minefield.
Israel is a marvellous destination.