Ten days of being on a bus by 8:30 am, 22 hours of travelling thanks to a flight cancellation and being herded about everywhere in a group of 47 have left us quite exhausted. Just the way to start a new term, right?
But the holidays have never felt so long. Nor so educational! Jerusalem, Bethlehem and Galilee with trips to Masada, Ein Gedi, Qumran, Dan, Caesarea Philippi, Jericho and even more places that I have temporarily forgotten with an incredibly knowledgeable guide. His command of the OT kings and obscure place names was second to none. And the crowning glory (sort of!) the evening meetings which put us somewhat in mind of our CICCU days. (Yes, there is a sub-text for the initiated in this final comment!)
There were so many good parts – sunshine, being away from all the responsibilities, seeing places I’d only read about and lots of time just being with Peter. People ask me for my highlights and I struggle to tell them because what comes to mind is those occasional moments of repose under a blue sky, the sun warm and a decent coffee in hand, chatting with Peter as we skived walking through Hezekiah’s Tunnel or decided not to bother with the Israel Museum after seeing the Shrine of the Book! It’s not that the main sights weren’t amazing: they were but none stands out as more special than the rest because they were all so ‘other’.
But if I had to pick a highlight (other than the moments of just ‘being’ which are so foreign to me most of the time), I would say Bethlehem. Not the church. I mean, seriously, how many incense holders and general other ‘church bling’ can you fit in any one square metre anyway? (More than you think, by the way.) So, not the Church of the Nativity. But Bethlehem Bible College.
I loved being there because one of my friends from college now teaches there. It was precious to see her context, to understand the fragility of this ministry, how its continued freedom depends on the non-intervention of the two majority groups, Israelis and Muslims, a non-intervention which the Christians there don’t expect to last forever. It was incredible to spend a couple of hours with her, in a brief respite from the evening meetings(!), asking all the questions I had never known to ask her when she was in the UK and hearing what life is like behind the wall.
But so soon we are home, back to the routine of crazy busy and longing for the English spring to arrive. Still, at least we missed the snow, I gather?