Holy Land Pilgrimage 2014
Twenty-nine members of the East London Three Faiths Forum (largely based in Redbridge) enjoyed a very full and stimulating eight-day tour of the Holy Land (Israel and the Palestinian Territories). Previous pilgrimages to the Holy Land were organised in 2008, 2010, 2011 and 2013. The three faith leaders were:
The group was composed of 13 Christians, 12 Muslims and 4 Jews.
The first days after arrival were spent visiting many of the holy places to be found in Jerusalem. The Muslim members of the group all joined in the Friday noon prayers at the al-Aqsa mosque (the third most holy site in Islam); at 5.30 am on three successive mornings, they also made their way through the silent and deserted streets of the Old City to recite the Dawn Prayer at al-Aqsa. The group visited the ancient church of the Holy Sepulchre, the site of Jesusí crucifixion and his tomb, and the Western Wall, the most sacred site to Jews, where we watched hundreds of worshippers singing and praying to welcome in the Sabbath, as dusk fell on Friday evening.
During the remainder of the week, the group followed a busy and crowded schedule outside Jerusalem, From Hebron and Bethlehem in the south, to Nazareth and the Sea of Galilee in the north. We swam in the Dead Sea, the lowest point on the earthís surface, and climbed up to the Golan Heights, on the border with troubled, war-torn Syria. The Christians held their Sunday service in the open air, atop King Herodís great fortress of Masada in the Judaean desert.
So many powerful impressions and experiences in such a short time. There were two particularly remarkable visits, that made this yearís tour especially memorable. As we approached Remembrance Day, one lady made a special visit to the British war cemetery on Mount Scopus, overlooking Jerusalem, to visit the grave of her great-uncle, who had been killed fighting the Turks in the First World War. Another lady was very excited and moved to, for the first time, visit her grandfatherís tomb, actually within the al-Aqsa Mosque. Her famous grandfather was Mohammad Ali Jouhar, one of the leaders of the movement for Indian independence, who had died suddenly whilst attending the first Round Table Conference in London in 1931.
Hopefully we shall be able to arrange a sixth tour to the Holy Land in the autumn of 2015.