On the final day of their pilgrimage to the Holy Land the group from Connor Diocese had the opportunity to visit the Golan Heights where the borders of Israel, Syria and Lebanon meet and where the snow still lies on Mount Hebron which forms a spectacular backdrop to a beautiful landscape.
They also visited Banias, once biblical Caesarea Philippi, where they viewed the ruins and many walked for an hour across this national reserve, alongside the rivers and streams flowing fast with the melted snows of Mount Hebron.
Here the flowers and shrubs were pungent, the path at times muddy, and pilgrims could have been forgiven for thinking this part of Israel was like a little bit of home.
They lunched in style at the guest house at the Kibbutz Kfar Blum before making their way back to Galilee, stopping off for final readings and prayer at the Mensa Christi Church, where Christ appeared to his disciples after his resurrection.
As the buses drew into the hotel, the pilgrims thanked their wonderful guides Samer and Raffi, who were a mine of information and good humour, and the bus drivers who had taken them safely through the crowded streets of Jerusalem and the hairpin bends of Nazareth.
The pilgrims have an extremely early start on Friday April 1, leaving their hotel at 4am UK time to travel back to Tel Aviv for the El Al flight to Heathrow and then on to Belfast.
While each day of this pilgrimage has brought many joys, the Connor group’s time here has also been tinged with tragedy. Readers will be aware of the bomb at the bus station in Jerusalem on Wednesday March 23, the group’s first day in Jerusalem, in which one lady died.
It is with sadness we report that the bomb victim, Mary Gardner from Scotland, was a close friend of one of the Connor pilgrims, the Rev Mercia Malcolm. Mary was making her way to the Connor group’s hotel to join the pilgrims for dinner when she was killed. Mercia, Mary, and Mary’s family have been very much in the thoughts and prayers of the pilgrims over the past week. Mercia has shared her thoughts on the tragedy which can be read in full here.