The Connor Diocesan pilgrimage to the Holy Land is underway, with the 85-strong group arriving safely in Tel Aviv at 9pm on Tuesday March 22.
The flights both from Belfast to Heathrow and on from London to Israel with El Al were punctual and smooth, with not a lot of time to wait around.
The hotel, the Golden Walls, close to Damascus Gate in Jerusalem, is very comfortable, and the group has been well fed to date. News has come through of the bombing at the bus station in Jerusalem, but none of the Connor group was in the vicinity at the time, and families can be assured that all Connor pilgrims are safe and well.
The two busloads had an early start on Wednesday March 23, departing soon after 8am to drive to the Mount of Olives. The weather was surprisingly chilly with some heavy showers, but this did not dampen spirits or spoil the views as the group looked across the Jerusalem skyline from the top of The Mount.
They visited the Paster Noster Church where the words of the Lord’s Prayer are displayed in 163 languages. Guides from Albina Tours, who work with pilgrimage operators McCabe’s, gave informative talks at each site on the itinerary. From the top of the Mount of Olives, the group walked down a steep road to the Dominus Flevit Chapel, and then on to the Church of All Nations in the Garden of Gethsemane. They were due to celebrate Holy Communion in the Garden, where olive trees reputed to be 2,500 years old still bear fruit, but the rain meant the Communion service was held inside the beautiful Church of All Nations.
Then it was onto the Israel Museum where the group saw the amazing model of ancient Jerusalem, stunning in its detail, and some of the Dead Sea Scrolls which are housed in the Shrine of the Book at the museum.
A lovely lunch was enjoyed outside the village of Ein Karem at the peaceful Sisters of Sion Convent, before a walk through the village to the Church of John the Baptist before the journey back to the Golden Walls.