Along with the owner of the house they live in, Francis and Sally took me to a remarkable multimedia presentation of Isaiah 40 that one of their friends, Rosalind Hershkovitz, had both written and performed at ChristChurch. For a taste of it go to:
After the performance of Isaiah 40 in Christchurch, I made my way with Francis through a maze of Arab alleyways in the souk (bazar) to a German guest hostel I had booked into at on the Via Dolorosa. (They do speak English in this inexpensive hostel if you are ever needing somewhere to stay in Jerusalem . . .)
I had very much wanted to spend a night alone on this most famous of all streets, which is now something like twenty or thirty feet above the original road that Jesus staggered along under the weight of His cross. The hostel was technically full but I had booked in so they placed me in a guest room with a commanding view over the Jerusalem skyline. I was really aware of the Lord’s sufferings overnight – not least as I read the account of one of the concentration camp victims Oscar Schindler intervened to save. It was a joy to spend time with the community in the morning, first in their regular devotional time, and then in more depth with them over breakfast, before setting off around the city with Francis and Sally.
But now I have chosen Jerusalem as the place for My name to be honored, and I have chosen David to be king over My people Israel.
Your house and Your kingdom will continue before me for all time, and Your throne will be secure forever.
My visit to Nazareth coincided (not entirely coincidentally!) with Yom Kippur, where everything closes in Jewish areas. In Jerusalem my visit coincided with a Formula One roadshow, which meant that large parts of the Old City were was closed on my first day, only for everything to close again the following day, on the national holiday that marks the first day of Succot, the Feast of Tabernacles.
Getting around called for some improvisation, therefore, since no Jewish buses were working.
Many of the principal religious sites in the Holy Land are in the care of Italian Franciscans, who appear to be doing an excellent job. All explanations are in Latin only, however – which perhaps suited me more than it would do most visitors. I suppose it keeps the tour guides in business!
The atmosphere in other sites varies enormously. The Oxford Guide to the Holy Places warns that the Church of the Holy Sepulchre is not a place where you should expect to be able to find the Lord’s presence in prayer. I agree!
By contrast the Garden Tomb is a real privilege to visit. We were shown round personally by a lovely guide (who many years ago was Gerard and Sarah Le Feuvre’s pastor, and who has close connections with Malvern). It was delightful to see groups of Christians dotted around the garden in the various seating areas worshipping the Lord. It was much more worshipful than touristy.
The Lord climaxed my time in Israel with a most unexpected and exceptionally deep sense of His presence in a ninety minute sojourn at Ben Gurion airport; a profoundly tender and intimate encounter. I may well share more in the next edition. . .