Charlotte Hardy of St Michael and All Angels Cathedral and the Diocese of Kootenay reports from the biblical lands…

DAY 11: May 11

Today’s wake up went smoothly. My last day in the Holy Lands started with a light breakfast and then a team meeting. Richard spoke on how we should be going about spreading the stories and the words of this land. Andrea told us that we’ve all been inducted into the Canadian Companions of Jerusalem. What a cool thing to be a part of!

After our meeting we all got ready to drive the road to Emmaus. Richard preached his sermon about the story of Jesus walking with two of his disciples down the road and how our faith is allowed to waiver as it comes back to us stronger. On this bus ride we sang some worship songs as we traveled 45 minutes to Abu Ghosh where the Reverend Brody (or just known as Brody to most of us) and Richard led us in our closing Eucharist.

Once the closing Eucharist was over and Brody blessed more of our objects for us to bring home to people, we wandered through the gardens and browsed in their little shop. I took a few photos and then we boarded the bus back to Saint George’s College. 

When we got back we had to fend for ourselves for dinner. Abigail and I went back up to our rooms to change and refresh after the bus rides. We then headed downstairs and found a group of ours checking into our flights for the next morning and picking seats. We stopped and did the same. We managed to snag a row of three with Eden and Brody grabbed a seat across the aisle from us. We were very happy with that. I finally won’t have the anxiety of asking strangers to move for me if I need to get up to use the washroom on the flight. 

Once we checked in and got sorted, Abigail, Brody and I went to find ourselves some shawarma for lunch. And to be honest we found the most delicious shawarma I’ve ever tasted in my life. I had a chicken shawarma with lettuce, pickles, cucumbers, tomatoes, hummus and their special shawarma sauce. I also treated myself to a coke to wash it down as it’s my last day here in the Holy Lands. 

After we finished we trekked back up to the college to start preparing for the rest of our afternoon. We bumped into Julieann, she works both for the Princess Basma Centre and the college. She told us that she was going to open the college store for our group for an hour at 13:15. We had about half an hour to go back to our rooms and freshen up and then Abigail and I headed down to see what they were selling. All proceeds went to Palestinian women who made each piece of art. I bought a few things for some people dear to me and then we ran them back up to our rooms. 

Freddie joined us (Abigail, Brody and I) for a trip into the Old City of Jerusalem. We had a few hours of free time until we had a special appointment. A few days ago the three of us had decided to do something really cool, I’ll tell you guys more in a moment. As we walked the streets of the old city we browsed the market place. Smells of mixed spices filled our noses, the noise of children running in the streets and vendors bargaining with customers filled my ears. The city was alive and teeming with life. I’ll definitely miss the business of the life in the Old City. 

It got extremely hot wandering so we stopped for an ice cream and to make a plan on where we wanted to go. I wanted to find some more tea and some coffee. So we headed out to find some. After asking a local we found the most amazing place to find some coffee beans and I got an amazing deal on a bag. I also found an amazing deal on some local tea while Abigail got some more spices to bring home. 

A lot of the local guys tried to ask Abigail and I if we would go with them… the culture here is very different. The amount of compliments we got was insane. It was nice at first… but then it got to be a lot and very uncomfortable. I learned to ignore them pretty quickly. Freddie parted ways with us and headed back to the college to get some rest before dinner around 3:00

At 4:30 the three of us headed to our appointment. Razzouk tattoo is a shop that was established in 1300. The Razzouk family has been tattooing for 7 generations and over 700 years. They are the oldest tattoo shop in the world. Their practice is super cool. They have 100’s of years old stamps that they use as templates to tattoo. It’s the place that many pilgrims go and we wanted to be a part of that tradition. 

We entered the shop half an hour early and were welcomed instantly. Brody chose a tattoo of Saint George and got it on his right forearm. He started getting lightheaded so they had him lay down for a bit. It happens a lot with young guys. Plus it was Brody’s first tattoo and it’s pretty big. Abigail got a Jerusalem cross surrounded by olive branches on her inner bicep on her right arm as well. It turned out stunning. I chose a little dove with an olive branch in its beak on my left ankle. 

The tattoo was done with a sterile gun, just like a tattoo shop in Canada. It didn’t hurt much either. Just a sort of scratching feeling. It’s my second tattoo (I have a wrist cuff of colourful flowers). I am in love with this tattoo. It has such wonderful meanings of peace and love within it. The dove is a symbol of Jerusalem as well. It fits perfectly and commemorates my pilgrimage here beautifully. 

Since we started early we had extra time before meeting up with the rest of our group for dinner at 6:30 just down the road. We decided to have a celebratory beer to cheers to an end to our time together and getting our tattoos. We talked and drank together for about an hour before deciding it was time to go to the restaurant and meet up with everyone. 

On our way up the road an older man called out to me asking if my curls were natural. I nodded and tried to keep walking but he stopped us and said I remind him of his daughters. He said he has four who all have curls like mine. He then asked if he could make Abigail and I a small gift. We tried to refuse and keep walking but he persuaded us and we stopped. He told us of his daughters and made us small pendents for our necklaces. He then tried to con Brody into buying a necklace for his mother. I don’t know if the guy was being serious and truthful about his daughters or if it was a way to try and make a sale, but I got a free pendant out of it. And it’s beautiful to be honest. I added it to my necklace with my cross and “C” pendants that I wear every day. 

We finally got away from the man and made it to our final destination for the night. Our final supper with the group. The food was amazing. I ate so much rice and falafel that I was extremely bloated by the end of it. Jug after jug of fresh lemonade came to our tables and we all drank so much of it. It is the best lemonade I have ever tasted in my life. We had a few thank you cards for Joy, Moe, and Richard for all they have done to make this trip possible for us and for teaching us so much about the Holy Lands of Israel and Palestine. We had cards and maple syrup for Joy and Moe and just a card for Richard. 

I had a splitting headache, a migraine that had been building from yesterday, so I was so happy when we all loaded onto the bus to drive back to the college together. I put my head down and tried to sleep a little on our 10 minute drive to the college. As soon as we got back I ran up to my room and took Advil and drank a whole water bottle of water. The last thing I remembered was Abigail jumping in the shower. I passed out and woke up about 20 minutes later to Abigail packing up some things. Luckily my headache was gone and I also started packing. 

I sat on the cool tile floor and emptied out my suitcase and the dressers in which I put my clothes into for the 6 days we were here. I shoved everything into my packing cubes and carefully packed the breakable gifts I have bought. 

Packing was bitter sweet. I’m ready to be home for sure, I have been a little homesick these past few days, but I will also miss the group and community I have with the other young adults around Canada. Hopefully I will get to see people again. I know 2 will be at general synod this summer so I’ll see Becky and Adam again, but I also hope to see a bunch of other people again. I might have to plan an across Canada trip to see everyone in a few years. Maybe once I graduate!

Now that I finished packing it is time to go to bed. We plan on leaving Saint George’s at 8:30 tomorrow morning so sleep is now essential. Hopefully everything tomorrow goes to plan and I make it to Canada swiftly and smoothly! I’ll see you all soon.

Ps. I actually wrote all of this on the plane home… due to my migraine I did not get to write yesterday. But I wanted to keep my formatting the same… so I know the future and how my flights have worked out… or not.  🙂

DAY 10: May 10

And Jesus went into the temple of God, and cast out all them that sold and bought in the temple, and overthrew the tables of the moneychangers, and the seats of them that sold doves, and said unto them, It is written, My house shall be called the house of prayer; but ye have made it a den of thieves.”  ‭‭Matthew‬ ‭21‬:‭12‬-‭13‬ ‭KJV‬‬

I woke today just slightly before my alarm but immediately went back to sleep and reset my alarm. I was not going to waste sleep hours. I had a bit of a rough start this morning, I almost lost my peaches. Literally. At breakfast I grabbed some peaches (canned peaches) and as I was walking back to my table they almost slipped right off onto Robert. Luckily I hopped into action and straightened my plate. After breakfast, no more Cocoa Puffs for me, we gathered outside in the courtyard and met up with Joy. She then led us outside to Moe (and the bus) to head off to our first destination: Haram al-Sharif. The third holiest place to the Muslim religion. 

The Mosque was absolutely stunning. We had to go through security to get up onto the platform that the Mosque is built on. Our bags had to go through an x-ray and we had to walk through a metal detector. When we passed through the gates a guard said my skirt was too short and gave me one of the skirts they keep on hand for visitors. I promise my knees were covered! This guard in particular was picky. Joy said she has never encountered sure a harsh judgment on clothes going into the gardens. As we are not Muslim we were only permitted to see the outside of the Mosque. 

The amount of street cats in the gardens was crazy. When we stopped to gather and for people to go to the bathroom one cat came over and was very vocal about it. We joked that she was now our new tour guide. As we were taking photos outside the Mosque a guy came up to Freddie and Chase and told them to take “normal photos”, meaning no silly pictures or even putting an arm around each other. Joy was confused by this when we told her and quickly went over to the man and spoke to him. As soon as he heard we were Canadian he apologized, he said that Americans often make light of the holy place they are standing next to and he was worried we were doing the same. Palestinians love Canadians and he was super excited to see us there. 

Seeing the Haram al-Sharif was incredible. It was extremely pretty and such an amazing privilege that we got to go up and be so close to it and be witness to the holiness of the place. 

Joy told us once we headed into a side garden by the east wall the Jewish people are not permitted to enter the grounds as the holy of the holy could be anywhere and they can not risk stepping on the spot. Some will break the rule and come in, they will take off their shoes in respect of the holy of the holy. Joy also told us of one time she was there with another tour group and a riot started. As she and the other group entered the garden we were standing in, she noticed people changing clothes behind the trees. These people were Jews who had snuck in and they started a riot moments later. One of the member of her group videoed it and when they got back to America the news there said that the Jews were attacked when they were going to pray. The news around the world is always skewed in one way or another. 

After our time around the Haram al-Sharif we walked through Saint Stephens gate and down the road to Saint Anne’s Church. This is the area that Mary, the mother of Jesus, was born and raised. The excavated site is at least 90% accurate according to the scripture of John’s Gospel Chapter 5. 

The church of Saint Anne was built very uniquely. It is famous for its acoustics. As a group we went inside and waited for another group to finish and then we sang 2 songs. First we sang “Holy Ground” and then after we sung “Take Me As I Am”. It sounded so cool. A lot of our group sing really well and managed to find harmonies with each other. After we sang, people came up to us and thanked us for such a performance… they definitely did not hear me singing above the others! People here are not used to seeing young adults coming to the Holy Lands as pilgrims. They are used to seeing an older demographic, retired groups. 

The site of Saint Anne’s was offered to the Anglican Church to buy but we refused and decided to purchase land further out of Jersulam instead. So the offer was extended to France the next day. They took it up and quickly found the site of Saint Anne’s. So due to the land being owned by France, I have now been to France… haha. 

Once we were done at Saint Anne’s we made our way back to where Moe dropped us off and hopped on the bus again. This time we were preparing for a long drive to Ramallah, a Palestinian city in the West Bank. Getting through the check point can sometimes take hours. Luckily we got through very easily. Joy told us that the check point Garuda have orders that if someone tries to run across to “shoot first, ask questions later”. That scares me, I couldn’t imagine living in a place with orders like that. We passed a lot of Palestinian refugee camps on our way through the city. 

Due to getting quickly through the check point we were ahead of schedule. To fill the time Joy and Richard decided to surprise us with a visit to a Palestinian Museum. 

This was the most sketchy thing we have done on the trip, even if this had been planned ahead of time it could not have gone on the itinerary as our itinerary is checked by the Israeli government sometimes and they could deny us access to Israel for it. When the workers of the Museum found out we were Canadian they gave us a major discount for entry. Canada and Palestine have an amazing relationship and we aid them in many ways. 

The Museum was definitely the point that was the heaviest emotionally for us all today. We learnt about the uprisings of Palestine and the oppression from Israel. I read about Yasser Arafat and his leadership and got to see his bunker that he spent 3 whole years inside of. We spent over an hour in the Museum absorbing all the knowledge we could about Palestine. We were there so long we were a little late for our lunch date. 

Here, we shall stay/like a wall upon your chest/Starved… Naked… We challenge./We sing our poems/And we fill the angry streets/with demonstrations/And we fill the prisons with pride/And we will generate children… rebellious/generation… after generation/As if we are 20 impossibilities/in Lod, Ramla, and the Galilee/Here, we shall stay.” ~ Tawfia Zayyad 

For lunch we went to the Vocational Training Centre: a ministry of the Diocese of Jerusalem. Here we learnt of their hopes and plans for the school. How they are training to study grades 11 and 12 for either jobs in hospitality or IT. At least 70% of Palestinians in Gaza are unemployed and the school wants to make sure that does not carry forward. 

The hospitality students cooked us an amazing lunch and were gracious hosts. We were served a traditional Palestinian dish called Maqluba. Maqluba means “upside down” in Arabic. The dish is a pot of stewed meat, veggies and rice that is then turned upside down onto a platter to be served. It was so tasty I almost asked for seconds. 

We stayed longer than we planned… again and we’re slightly late for the last stop on our agenda for the day, a meeting with the Canadian Representative to the Palestinian Authority. David Da Silva was an amazingly interesting guy to speak with and learn more about Canada’s relationship with Palestine. Although Canada does not recognize Palestine as a country, we have an amazing relationship with them which continues to grow stronger. I honestly can not remember all that we chatted about, a lot of it went over my head, politics are not really my thing. However, it was extremely cool to meet with David and get a taste for what diplomats do in foreign countries. We got to take a group photo with him on the rooftop of the Canadian Government building. 

We eventually made our way back to the check point and a few soldiers came onto the bus and asked to see our passports and visas. I grabbed my passport out of my bag and realized that my visa must have slipped out in my other bag and I did not have it with me. The panic set in quickly. My heart was racing when the soldier looked at my passport and then my face, she moved on swiftly though. She did not seem to be phased that my visa was not with me. I guess she thought because everyone else had theirs that I was safe to let through.

The rest of the bus ride back to Saint George was smooth and uneventful. We started to sing Taylor Swift songs as a group on the bus and had a great time. 

Once we were back we had a little bit of down time before dinner. I started to develop a bit of a headache, which I still have now. Dinner tonight was some kind of sausage with rice and salads like normal. I once again piled olives onto my plate alongside the pickles I found. Dessert was some sort of maple pudding, it tasted a little like crème brûlée, but it wasn’t blow torched. 

After dinner we met with the priest of Saint George and two of his students for some worship. We learnt some Arabic songs, we danced, and we taught them some English songs. We had a lot of songs in common and found community through singing with them. It was a lovely time and we had a lot of fun. I now have a few songs to add to Camp OAC collection. It will hopefully bring some freshness and light to the camp once again. Singing is such a great way to build community and worship together in an accessible way. 

Tomorrow is our last full day in the Holy Lands. Our time together is coming to a close. I feel sad about that. I am going to miss everyone I have met on this pilgrimage. I’ll have to make a cross Canada trip and visit everyone in the near future.

DAY 9: May 9

Yet shall he be brought to the grave, And shall remain in the tomb.”  ‭‭Job‬ ‭21‬:‭32‬ ‭KJV‬‬

I was jolted awake by my 6:00 alarm this morning. Both Abigail and I rolled over groaning wishing we could have at least another hour of sleep. There was a party in the city last night that was very loud and disruptive. Knowing we had to be quick this morning we got ready as fast as we could and quickly made our way to breakfast. Once again I started with a solid cup of coffee and what is becoming my regular food in the mornings. To spice it up I tried some Cocoa Puffs cereal as well that was available. I don’t believe I’ve had them before now. I also don’t think I’ll have them again… haha

We met as a group outside in the courtyard and proceeded through the college grounds and out onto the streets of Jerusalem by 7:30. It was chilly this morning so I was grateful for the modest dress that was needed for today. My jeans and sweater became my best friend today as the weather had a mind of its own. It jumped from cold to warm all day as we walked the streets of the Old City.

 Slowly we made our way through the streets walking the way of the cross. We stopped at each station of the cross to read some scripture and reflect on the crucifixion. We took turns carrying a wooden cross and reading at each station. I carried the cross towards the end of the journey and was asked to read the scripture for the last station, station 11.

I read:

They hammered nails into the wood through his hands; they split his feet as the spikes cut into the rough cross. Helpless he was hoisted, a shame and a mockery of a man, pinned to a death gibbit. They had won. Destroyed, rejected, broken, his very person seemed to have been shattered, no one would follow his teaching, or believe anything he had said any more. His mother, Mary, with Magdalena and John, stood by, and millions of others of all times and nations who believed in Him as the Beloved Son of God.”

I was super shaky and a bit of a mess while I read. I stuttered over the words and my page was shaking to the point it was hard to read. I get really anxious when reading, even in front of other young adults it seems. No chance will I any time soon be reading in church. The anxiety builds in me way too fast for me to calmly and clearly read a passage. 

Once we finished with the walk of the way of the cross, we descended into the Holy Sepulchre and stood in a line for an hour and a half to be able to go into the place where Jesus is believed to have been buried according to our scriptures. The line felt like it took forever, but at least there wasn’t a Patriarch coming in and closing doors on us. We were able to keep the line moving. Again we were given about 15 seconds in the enclosed area that the tomb would have been. No photos were allowed to be taken inside, but I did get a photo of the outside!  

There are 2 locations that Christians believed the tomb to be, but from my experience and feeling of connection I believe the Holy Sepulchre is the place. When I knelt down inside it I got a tingly feeling course through my body and a sense of calmness washed over me. The experience as a whole was beautiful even if it was fleeting. 

After we all got a chance to go into the Holy Sepulchre we moved to go look at Helena Chapel. On the way down to her Chapel there were crosses scratched into the walls by the Crusader Knights. It was eerily beautiful to see. In the ceiling of her chapel there are 3 holes that we believe the crosses were placed into. Despite popular belief that Jesus was crucified on a hill, the Romans actually crucified people close to town on busy roads so that it could be exposed to the public. So where these holes are is actually extremely plausible as it would have been right as people were coming into the city. There’s a lot more evidence, but honestly I forget what it all is. So much information is poured upon us each day it is hard to keep track of everything. 

Due to a strong relationship between the Anglican Church and the Armenian Christians we were welcomed into a gated off side chapel to look around. It was really cool. There was a piece of graffiti on the wall which depicted a ship and had a phrase underneath it which meant “we have arrived”. This was all from the 3rd century, the Armenians have encased the graffiti and would not allow photos to be taken. So you will have to just take my world for how cool it was to see. 

We passed an old Muslim man sitting at the gates to the Holy Sepulchre. Joy introduced us to him and we learnt that his family has possession of the key to the holy site. It was given to his family 850 years ago. I got to shake his hand which was very cool and such an amazing experience. He literally holds the key to one of the most holy places in our scriptures. 

Once we finished we left the area of the Holy Sepulchre and wandered into the sunny streets of Jerusalem. We were given an hour of free time to explore and shop. A small group of us, 7 in total, found a really nice restaurant for some Hummus and Pita bread and some freshly squeezed juice. I ordered the most amazing Pomegranate juice I have ever tasted. I would honestly fly all the way back to the Holy Lands for that juice. When we finished with our snack we only had 15 minutes left to explore, so we wandered back to our meeting place by a fountain poking slowly in some of the shops along the way. 

As we all gathered together again we headed off towards our lunch destination. The restaurant was Armenian, I believe we were in their quarter of the city. They served us such rich tasting food. I was not very hungry after my snack only a few minutes prior so I ate more pita and hummus, and a corn salad. The restaurant itself was beautiful. It had greenery all along the roof with twinkle lights weaving around above us. 

After lunch, Joy walked us through each quarter of the city. As we passed from the Armenian quarter to the Jewish quarter it was very obvious. The Armenian quarter was really quiet and clean, peaceful to walk through. As we rounded a corner we were immediately thrown into the hustle and bustle of the Jewish quarter. There was a mother with 2 young daughters playing at the corner of a street and then further up we encountered a man playing and singing for us to make some shekels. He was really fun and Freddie (one of the guys with my group) got to dance and sing with him for a bit. It was great fun! The guy sang the classic Jewish song Hava Nagila and then when he realized we were Christians he sang Hallelujah. We kept walking until we found a courtyard where a menorah was displayed in a case and more street musicians were playing. We didn’t stay long, Joy was trying to get us access to see the inside of a synagogue but we were denied. Sometimes things are just not meant to be. 

As we kept walking we entered a building which I quickly found out is the oldest building in Palestine. It is known as the Corridor. The man who owns it runs a small restaurant in it and is the 7th generation of his family to own the building. It is known as the corridor because it is where the four busiest roads in the Roman city intersected. It was the very centre of the city. 

Joy then took us back towards the Damascus Gate through the spice market. The smells and sights were impeccable to see. I stopped along the way to pick up a spice to share with friends and family when I get back. When I have my presentation on my pilgrimage I will bring it to share with everyone (I promise I’m not trying to bribe people!). Once we were through the gate we continued on to another site that some people believe to be the place Jesus was buried. The Garden Tomb. This place felt very artificial to me. The whole experience in the garden and going into the tomb believed to be Jesus’ felt like I was at a theme park. The Holy Sepulchre felt a lot more authentic and spiritual than the site of the Garden Tomb. 

Back at Saint George’s Guest house we met with one of the priests of the Cathedral and two young men who are studying and attending Church here. One of the young men is actually the older brother of one of the girls we met in Nazareth! That was very cool to find out. 

Our meeting was just to gain some more context to the position of the Anglican Church in the Holy Lands and throughout the diocese of Jerusalem. I was so tired upon getting back that this hour feels like a blur in my brain. 

Once I was released for the evening I immediately went upstairs and changed into comfy clothes to start blogging about my day. As I started to write, Richard sent us a text about the attack on Gaza that happened last night. We should be perfectly safe as Jerusalem has so many different religions residing here that no one would attack in fear of harming their own people. Gaza will retaliate and probably on Tel Aviv. Hopefully our flights will stay on course for Friday morning. Richard doesn’t seem to be over concerned, so I am keeping hope and we are playing each day by ear. I am praying for Palestine in their time of fear and anguish, and I hope you all will also pray for them. 

Dinner went on as normal today, we were served extremely delicious salmon with the regular side dishes and I believe the same dessert as last night. Abigail and I finished our bottle of wine that we purchased last night while journaling together. I had lovely conversations with two of the guys. Brody is a priest in Saskatchewan and he gave me a lot of insight and clarity to what we saw and witnessed today. I am so grateful for the community I have found with the young adults I have met on their pilgrimage. 

We have only 2 more days in the Holy Land, our pilgrimage is coming to a close and it feels bitter sweet. I am happy to be going home to the comfort of my own family and friends and life, but I will miss being so I touch with my faith and other young people who share in my faith. I am looking forward to my last 2 days with this wonderful group and I hope we will find ways to keep in touch and see each other after our time here comes to a close. 

Tomorrow will be another busy day with another early wake up call, so it’s definitely bedtime for me. 22:30 has come super fast once again and I know already 6:00 will come even faster.

DAY 8: May 8

And when he was come near, he beheld the city, and wept over it, saying, If thou hadst known, even thou, at least in this thy day, the things which belong unto thy peace! but now they are hid from thine eyes. For the days shall come upon thee, that thine enemies shall cast a trench about thee, and compass thee round, and keep thee in on every side, and shall lay thee even with the ground, and thy children within thee; and they shall not leave in thee one stone upon another; because thou knewest not the time of thy visitation.”  ‭‭Luke‬ ‭19‬:‭41‬-‭44‬ ‭KJV‬‬

I was woken with a start by my alarm at 7:00 this morning. Sleep feels so precious right now and I am getting as much as I can so that I can enjoy each day to its fullest.

Abigail and I got ready for the day, packing our bags as light as possible but also trying to include everything we might possibly need for the entire day. Today we walked like true pilgrims. I believe someone said it was only a total of 6 kilometers but it took us all day from 9:00-15:30. The reason it took so long was because of all the stops we made. 

After breakfast (I restrained myself from drinking too much coffee at this time) we went outside to get a final group photo with Primate Linda. She left us today to go to Cyprus for a meeting. I got a photo of her and I standing in the garden. 

We all climbed onto the bus with our day packs hoisted up on our shoulders. Moe drove us through the city of Jerusalem up to the Mount of Olives. Here we got out and looked out over the old city where we are peacefully residing at Saint George’s college. The city is split into quadrants. When looking from the Mount of Olives: the lower left is the Jewish part of the city, above them are the Armenian population, going east you find the rest of the Christians (mostly Arabic) and then in the lower east side of the city you find the Muslim community. The Mount of Olives is southeast of the Old City.

After orienting ourselves in relation to Jerusalem, Moe then drove us to the Princess Basma Centre on the Mount of Olives. Here we got a tour of the Centre and met with the ladies who run it. The Centre works to aid mothers and their children with different types of disabilities. They encourage community and growth while providing resources and support for children with physical and mental disabilities in Palestine and the Gaza Strip. This organization is supported in Canada by the “Companions of Jerusalem”. The work they do is inspirational and such amazing work. 

After our time at the Jerusalem Princess Basma Centre we bused back to where we would start our journey down the Mount of Olives. We said goodbye to Moe, and the bus, and from here we journeyed down the mountain. First we stopped at the garden where Jesus wept over Jerusalem. We read some scripture and took some time looking around and taking in the sights. The Catholic Church Dominus Flevit now stands in the garden commemorating the place. From here we kept walking down to the garden of Gethsemane.

We walked through the garden and got to go into the Devotional Church there. This place brought feelings of remorse, being in the place where Jesus was arrested marking the beginning of his death was a powerful moment. As a kid I always envisioned this place differently, and yes it would have been different over 2000 years ago, but I found it jarring to see nonetheless. The garden itself was fenced off and we could not walk through it. I really wanted to though, the site felt very overpopulated and not very reflective with the garden closed off. One of the places I feel the most in touch with my faith is in nature… in parks, on walks, out at OAC etc. To have the garden of Gethsemane closed off felt off-putting. 

The Church had windows that were made from a purple rock, making the inside of the church dark and gloomy. After taking a moment to myself in the Church I went outside to sit quietly and wait for the rest of my group to congregate so we could continue our journey down the path of the palms. 

We had our lunch today delivered to Gethsemane so that we could take it into the Kidron valley to eat as a picnic. We found a shady place around the tombs to eat our Shawarma or falafel and drink our pop. I got to try proper Shawarma for the first time — the stuff in Kelowna does not compare in the slightest to the real deal here in the Middle East. 

After lunch we continued up the other side of the Kidron valley up to the City of David. We looked out over The Valley and talked about the story of Bathsheba and how David’s advisor was her grandfather who 20 years later defected and followed Absalom. We sing a song at OAC in the summer of King David and his infatuation with Bathsheba: Hallelujah. This song is very well known in Christian circles and beyond. Having been to the City of David and being able to contextualize what the song is saying it will be hard to imagine the words the same way. The society in which David and Bathsheba lived would not have had her bathing on a roof. The roofs at the time were flat and very out in the open and being so publicly displayed would have brought great shame upon the family. Being called up to the King also brought shame to her family which is why King David’s advisor defected even 20 years later in an attempt to revolt. The world was very much a world of gossip and grudges. If you were to do something bad it would reflect on your whole family, not just you. 

We made our way from the City of David to the Western Wall for a devotional visit. The Western Wall was built by Herod the Great (the King Herod who was in power when Jesus was born) and is the holiest place Jewish people are allowed to pray outside of the Temple Mount. When we arrived we had to place our bags into an X-ray, like at the airport, and walk through a metal detector. Surrounding us were soldiers; in the state of Israel teenagers, aged 18, are conscripted for 2 years. So the soldiers we were passing were 18 year olds with M-16 guns slung across their shoulders. I didn’t feel intimidated though. I was reflecting on this with one of the other girls and came to the conclusion that it is hard to feel intimidated by a girl 4 years younger than myself, however I would feel very intimidated if it was middle aged men walking around with guns like that. The culture around guns and the militarized state is very different than it is in North America. 

The Western Wall was a culturally weird experience for me. I felt like I was imposing on a very significant place for the Jewish community. I would have had to push past women of all ages who were deep in prayer in order to touch a piece of the wall. The feeling of distance I had to the wall, after chatting with Abigail, makes sense now. Originally I felt bad that I had no interest in touching the wall or anything like that, but our conversation filled in the blanks I was missing. For the Christian faith the Western Wall has no major significance. The wall is just a part of the history of the times in which Jesus was living. A temple was built under the rule of King David’s son Solomon and then later one was built by Helena the mother of Constantine I and then the area was taken over by the Muslim community and never given back. For the Jewish people this is the closest they can get to the temple built by Solomon. Being at the wall I felt as though I was somewhere I was not meant to be, I felt like I was watching a very spiritual moment (which I was) and it felt like I should not have been there. I’m happy I went though, it was a moment for me to realize what my faith is to me and how it relates and affects those around me. 

We spent 30 minutes at the wall before Joy had us off and running again. We walked up the streets of the Old City through the African sector. She took us into a house on the street. The way houses are set up is very different than in Canada and to be honest I prefer the way they are here. In the centre there is a communal courtyard, surrounding it are a few different houses. The community is strong and welcoming. We were welcomed into the courtyard to look around. Joy said that the houses all have flat roofs and now have barbed wire on top of them. When she was growing up there used to not be any barbed wire and she and her friends would jump from roof to roof across the city and through peoples courtyards. Every neighbour knows everything about you and vice versa. I love the idea of such a tight knit community, I wouldn’t even mind my “dirty laundry” being aired to those around me. 

Making our way up through the Muslim district I was in awe of the colours, music, and amazing smells coming from the vendors and shops along the road. The atmosphere was phenomenal. I am definitely going to miss it when I’m back at home. As I was walking up the road, 2 young girls went running by me holding hands. They could not have been much older than 5. They ran all the way into a candy store with a 20 shekel bill in their hand to buy sweets. It is amazing how safe and relaxed the community here is that children can be away from their parents shopping in the markets. 

We said goodbye to Joy as we crossed into the Christian section of the city as she went to spend the afternoon and evening with her mother. We then carried on up through the Damascus gate into more familiar territory, we were now only a 5 minute walk from Saint George. Continuing up the road, Brody (one of the guys on the trip) and I stopped into a bank to get more Shekels. Everything here is so amazing I keep wanting to buy more and more things to try. 

Eventually we made it back to the guest house where we are staying, by this time it was 15:30 and I went straight up to my room for a good shower and to do some laundry and relax for the rest of the afternoon. The weather today was on and off sunny. Averaging I’d say around 15 degrees with a cool breeze. In the sun it was hot, in the shade a sweater was welcome. I was thankful for packing a sweater and my scarf (for the Western Wall) in my bag as it aided in the ever changing weather. 

I sat on my bed and started to write this blog post for a bit but soon got distracted by social media and the need for relaxation. Soon Abigail joined me in the room and we both got ready for dinner which started at 18:30. Tonight the food was amazing. We had olives which are quickly becoming a favourite thing of mine to eat, rice, salads and a ground beef stew of some sort. For dessert this time instead of the classic pastries/baklava we’ve been having we had a dish called Kahbeesa. It’s a pudding made of semolina, cardamom and rose water, served with coconut, pistachios and warm butter on top. It is commonly served during Eid, after the fasting of Ramadan. It was so good I almost went back for a second helping. 

When I finished dinner, Abigail and I decided it was time to sit and journal, or in my case write this for you guys! We split the cost of a bottle of wine and sat out in the garden for a long while. It got cold though so now we are inside but still writing away. It is for sure almost bedtime for me. Our wake up call tomorrow is 6:00 and we are to be ready and out the doors for the day at 7:30. I’m excited for tomorrow as we have a very busy day on the itinerary, but sleep is definitely next on my list of things to do… after one last glass of wine!

DAY 7: May 7

Now the birth of Jesus Christ was on this wise: When as his mother Mary was espoused to Joseph, before they came together, she was found with child of the Holy Ghost.”  ‭‭Matthew‬ ‭1‬:‭18‬ ‭KJV‬‬

My first night in Jerusalem and I slept soundly. However, I woke up in pain. The beds here are hard and my neck was hurting a lot this morning. We got to sleep in until 8:00 which was really nice. I had a lazy morning drinking coffee and orange juice. The orange juice here is so much better than in Canada. 

As I was heading back to my room at 9:30 to brush my teeth after a breakfast of garlic olives, pickles, and labneh with olive oil and sesame seeds on a pita (not food you want on your breath going to a Sunday church service at Saint George’s Cathedral) when the bells started ringing. Everyone in my group was under the impression that the service started at 10:00, even the Primate and Richard who were working the service as guests. We all rushed into the Cathedral just on time. My teeth brushing had to wait, luckily the guest house we are staying at is attached to the Cathedral. 

The service this morning was beautiful. It was held in both English and Arabic. The congregation was made up of Palestinians and pilgrims. Another group was there from the United States who I got to speak to very briefly at the end before rushing out to brush my teeth and meet everyone at the bus. The Cathedral had a very talented organist who played beautifully for the service. She was incredible. Richard preached the Gospel at the service today John 14:1-14. This passage: “In my Fathers house there are many dwellings” struck me. It is true, in the house of God there are many dwellings, each one just as important as the next. That is what is so special about this pilgrimage, each one of our stops is just as important to the story of Jesus and our faith as the next. 

After the service we made our way to the bus and Moe drove us up to the city where Jesus was born, Bethlehem. We passed through the wall dividing Palestine and Israel. We stopped on the Palestinian side (Bethlehem, south Jerusalem) to take some pictures. The check point was armed by soldiers with big guns, but they did not stop us for any reason. Thank goodness. 

We stopped at a really cool olive wood factory. This factory opened up in 1972, it has seen three generations of the family that runs it. We were given a quick tour of the factory and then had a moment to shop in their store. The artwork they produced was phenomenal. The nativity scenes they depicted were so beautiful I was so tempted to buy one. They cost an arm and a leg though so I had to refrain. I bought a gift or two in the shop and then stepped outside. 

Once outside, Richard had a little snack for us to try. It was a type of bread and a spice to sprinkle onto it. The bread tasted almost like a really nice bagel, like the kind you would find in New York City. And the spice we put on top of it is hard to explain the flavour of, I want to see if I can find some to bring back to Kelowna for people to try. It is called za’atar. 

After everyone was done in the shop we moved on to eat lunch at the Tent restaurant in Bethlehem. The food here was not as nice as one would expect being a tourist stop. We found a lot of the chicken undercooked, but the Lamb was beautifully cooked. Lunch consisted of the normal: pita bread with different spears and veggies, salad, and then meat. This time we were also served French fries. In hindsight I wish I ate more at lunch with the afternoon we had ahead of us. I was not particularly hungry after a large breakfast and a morning of little activity. 

After lunch we bused to the Church of the Nativity. Here we got news that a few patriarchs were in the area and also going to the Church, meaning they would shut the doors for up to 2 hours at a time to give them space. A patriarch is very similar to the Primate, they are the head of the Church in the Orthodox churches of some countries. The doors to the Church are small to make you bow as you enter in respect. As we got in line to enter the spot where Jesus was born, the doors closed…

queue for the Grotto of the NativityWe stood waiting to see a rock in a cave for over an hour. My feet are still not happy about that. They ache. During this wait though we met a group from Belgium. These young men spoke Aramaic, one of the original languages of the Bible. They graciously agreed to pray the Lord’s Prayer with us in Aramaic so that we could hear the words in their original form. It was beyond cool. 

Contrary to popular belief, Jesus was born in a cave, not in a stable. He was born in the limestone hills of Bethlehem. The Church of the Nativity is built around the spot where he is believed to have been born. 

Once the doors reopened we pushed our way as a group to the spot where we would then descend down a narrow flight of stairs to where the star and some are set into the ground commemorating the birthplace of Jesus. Two by two Grotto of the Nativity(like ants marching) we knelt to touch the spot where Jesus was born in a quick and timely manner. There was no time to be slow as there were hundreds of people waiting for us to finish so that they could have their 10 seconds with the Holy site. In the moment of being there I felt very rushed, like I could not take my time and enjoy the site and feel the presence of the holiness of the place. But as an afterthought that’s not what a pilgrimage is about all the time. Pilgrims are sometimes rushed, sometimes they have time to take it slow, God has a path for all of us. Thinking back now on the time I had in the Church of the Nativity I felt very in the moment, the moment was just a fleeting one due to the vast number of people waiting for their own fleeting moment. 

As we left the Church of the Nativity we took a moment as a group to sing a song in the courtyard. It’s these moments I like the most. When we are gathered together and singing despite of where we are or who is around us. Although I am not a very good singer I do enjoy music and the aspect of choral worship. 

Leaving the Church proved harder than I thought it would be. As we exited properly the streets were lined with thousands of people. The Syraic Orthodox Patriarch was on his way up the street led by cadets and bagpipes. It must have been a special day for the Orthodox Church of Syria for them and their Patriarch to come all the way to Bethlehem. After a very quick google search (thank you google) I have come to the conclusion that today was the first visit to Jerusalem by the Patriarch since the Six-Day War in 1967. So a very big deal indeed. We stopped to watch and got to see him enter the Church, it was a very cool experience to say the least.

Once we made it back to the bus after an excited and exhausting afternoon we drove back to Saint George’s guest house for dinner. They eat a lot of fish here so supper was fish and the regular fixings of pita bread and toppings. After such an emotionally taxing day, I grabbed a beer from the bar and enjoyed my dinner peacefully. The beer was a local palestinian beer and was pleasantly sweet with a hint of honey. 

After dinner we all met as a group for a debrief of the past week and said goodbye to the Primate, Linda. She has been a blessing on this journey, guiding us in the Eucharist on the Mount of Beatitudes and answering any questions we had for her. She is leaving us tomorrow for an important meeting with the Roman Catholic Church.

As a group we sang in worship, voiced our ups and downs of the trip so far, talked about the day to come tomorrow and prayed for Linda as she parts ways with us. We all know that I don’t like to speak in front of groups so I sat listening. Before we closed for the night she shared a few words with us. She said that she has heard and seen our concerns as young people in the church and reminded us of something that I believe everyone sometimes needs the reminder of: The young adults and youth of the Anglican Church are not just the future of the Church. We are also the here and now of the Church and sometimes need support as much as we want to give the support. We need to be cared for now in order for us to do our calling and bring more young people into the Church. God has spoken to us in hopes that our communities around us can help foster an environment of hospitality and welcome as a group. 

Tomorrow morning we will get a group photo with the Primate before she heads off on her own. The photo we took at the airport was incomplete as one of the girls on this trip joined us late because she got sick right before the pilgrimage started. Now that we have everyone we will get a proper group photo.

A bunch of my fellow pilgrims went for a bit of a walk this evening, however I am laying in my warm bed. I am enjoying this alone time. It is hard to find time alone when I’m in such a large group and having a roommate. I am thankful for the small glimpses of alone time I get to sit and think about what I am experiencing and what there is to still experience. 

DAY 6: May 6

Then Jesus answering said unto them, Go your way, and tell John what things ye have seen and heard; how that the blind see, the lame walk, the lepers are cleansed, the deaf hear, the dead are raised, to the poor the gospel is preached. And blessed is he, whosoever shall not be offended in me.”  ‭‭Luke‬ ‭7‬:‭22‬-‭23‬ ‭KJV‬‬

I got to check off a bucket list item today. I am so excited to watch my list slowly get checked off, although it seems to be growing faster than it is shrinking. I got to float in the Dead Sea this afternoon!!!!

This morning however started off nice and relaxing, I slept so well in the fancy hotel last night. I received a wake up call at 6:30 and started packing everything up. It’s crazy how much I spread out my stuff even for just one night. Breakfast today was a buffet and it was just as grand as dinner. The Brie cheese here is amazing, I grabbed a (very large) chunk of it and some pita bread and olives. I drank more coffee than I ate food. My ratio was just like at home. A coffee in each hand, in front of me I had a cappuccino, an espresso and a freshly squeezed orange juice, for balance of course. 

Our morning was spent driving a fair distance from Magdala to the Jordan River Valley to where Jesus was baptized by his cousin John the Baptist. The water was brown and murky but it was still very special to see. We could see the country of Jordan directly across the small river, we could have walked across if it was allowed. 

Here at the Jordan river Richard and the Primate renewed our baptismal vows with us if we pleased. This was an experience I will never forget. To be baptized (renewed) in the very place Jesus was baptized. The whole experience felt very powerful, I was surrounded by the sound of birds and wildlife, but also the sounds of people from all walks of the earth all gathering together to marvel at the same site. I debated bringing back some of the water, but it was honestly so dirty I did not feel it was worth it, plus going to the Jordan river is an experience I believe every Christian should try and have at least once in their lives. 

From here we headed west to Qumran park, the place where the Dead Sea Scrolls were found. We ate lunch before heading out for a walk seeing the caves where the scrolls were found. Lunch was comprised of battered fish, rice with chick peas, pasta salad and pita bread. To be honest this fish was not the best, it was a lot better down by the Sea of Galilee. 

The Dead Sea Scrolls reside in the Israel museum, or at least some of them do. We only saw replicas and copies of them in Qumran. However we could see the Dead Sea below us, our next destination. 

Getting to float in the Dead Sea was a dream come true. After our itinerary got interrupted with commotion in Jericho a few days before we flew out here, Richard added the Dead Sea to our list of places to go to. I am very thankful for that, not for the commotion and uprising, but for the chance to float. Palestine is an inspirational place to be, the Palestinians have fought long and hard for their rights and freedoms and have been given so little, I’ll explain what I have learnt about the divide of Israel and Palestine when I get home and have a presentation session. 

The feeling was a feeling I have never experienced before in my life. One moment I was wading in water, the next I was floating with the utmost ease. It felt as though I was laying on a rock, which in a way I was. The salt content of the Dead Sea is 30%. To put it into perspective a regular ocean is only 3% salt. Pushing my arms back down into the water pushed my entire body upwards and out of the water. It was very powerful. I floated calmly for a long time. I am not a very strong swimmer so being able to float perfectly was an experience I do not normally get. 

The water tasted disgusting. My intrusive thoughts won and I licked my finger… I do not recommend at all. The water tasted like a mixture of salt and nail polish remover. Luckily I never got it in my eyes and didn’t have any open wounds anywhere. I did however trip on a HUGE piece of salt in the water. It was the size of a boulder, if you know my house it was a little bigger than the size of the rock with our house number on. I bruised my foot and it still hurts. 

After my float I showered and found some freshly squeezed lemonade and then poked around the shops. I bought a Dead Sea mud soap for home. Everything else was extremely expensive and I think I’ll order something once I get home, there were some really nice fragranced oil salt sprays. 

From floating in the Dead Sea we then went to the opposite type of terrain. The desert. Driving from the Sea to Jerusalem we passed through the Judean Desert. We stopped and climbed one of the hills to take in the sights and reflected on Psalm 23:

“The LORD is my shepherd; I shall not want. He maketh me to lie down in green pastures: He leadeth me beside the still waters. He restoreth my soul: He leadeth me in the paths of righteousness for his name’s sake. Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil: for thou art with me; Thy rod and thy staff they comfort me. Thou preparest a table before me in the presence of mine enemies: Thou anointest my head with oil; my cup runneth over. Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life: And I will dwell in the house of the LORD for ever.” ‭‭Psalm‬ ‭23‬:‭1‬-‭6‬ ‭KJV‬‬

dessert Psalm 23

Richard told us that this poem was written about the desert we were looking out across. The green pastures were the deep dips in the sand where (still) water would pool up after flash storms. Shepherds would herd their flocks and animals there to drink on hot days. The shadows created by the dips are the shadows of death mentioned as the water in a flash flood would sweep through and take everything in its path. Even to this day people often get caught up in them and perish. 

When we were done reflecting a group of merchants pounced on us as though we were in a market trying to sell their items. They were relentless and I caved and bought a white shawl from a young boy. I probably should not have done that, our tour leader, Joy, was trying to warn us not to. None of us could hear her and they were being extremely pushy. 

Once we finally made it back to our bus we drove the rest of the way to Jerusalem. The city is incredible. We are staying at Saint George’s school and Cathedral for the next 6 days until we make our journey home. We ate a delicious dinner of a traditional Palestinian dish. The cook called it “upside down” but I do not think that was the real name of the dish. It was a rice and veggie dish for which they cooked the chicken separately for our vegetarians. Normally they would cook the chicken with it. From the big pot, the cook flipped it upside down onto a big platter, hence the name he gave it. 

After dinner most of us decided to go for a bit of a walk before bed. We walked down the road towards the gate of Damascus. Richard said not to cross through after dark or without him, so we just stood and looked at it. It was stunning. We will get to go in a few days to cross through and learn all about it. A few people from the group then got ice cream from a really nice shop and then we walked through the market and ended up on a back street. I saw so many alley cats, it was amazing. I pet a few of them, and then immediately washed my hands when I got back to my room. Who knows what could be on them. 

Even though I have now showered once and rinsed off twice since floating, whenever I scratch my skin it burns as though there is still salt all over me. Tomorrow we get to sleep in a little bit. Wake up call is at 8:15 because we are going to church at the adjacent Cathedral at 10:00. Overall today was amazing, like everyday to be honest. There is never a dull day here in the Holy Lands.

DAY 5: May 5

He saith unto him the third time, Simon, son of Jonas, lovest thou me? Peter was grieved because he said unto him the third time, Lovest thou me? And he said unto him, Lord, thou knowest all things; thou knowest that I love thee. Jesus saith unto him, Feed my sheep.” ‭‭John‬ ‭21‬:‭17‬ ‭KJV‬‬

I did not sleep well last night. I think I woke up almost every hour from 1:00 until our 6:00 wake up call. Our morning was fast paced. By the time it was 7:30 we were on the road from Nazareth to the Galilee Sea again. This time we moved past Tiberias and visited a few churches along the northern shore. 

We drove through Cana, the city which Jesus visited often, but most famously with his mother, Mary, for a wedding. It was here that he turned water into wine. Richard explained it in a comical way that when the wine ran out Mary elbowed Jesus in the ribs and said “you can start your Miracles now”. And he did, he turned the water into wine. Imagine your mum elbowing you to start doing miracles… that’s such a mum thing to do. 

First we got to explore Capernaum. A city where Jesus lived for a few years. We got to explore an old synagogue, which was absolutely stunning, and then got to view the remains of the Apostle Peter’s mother-in-law’s house. The structure of the house was beautiful. I wish we still structured houses in this way, a courtyard in the middle and then rooms surrounding it. We spent not too long here, we got a few minutes of free time to enjoy the gardens and the sea. I spent my free time sitting quietly and taking in the sight of the Sea of Galilee. It was really cool being in the synagogue where Jesus made the paralyzed man walk in Matthew chapter 9. Being in such a place feels magical. 

Next we moved on to the Mensa Christi, here I put my feet into the water of the Sea of Galilee. This Holy place is where Jesus (resurrected) asked Simon Peter 3 times if he loved him. Each time Peter says yes, getting more and more agitated each time the question is asked. By asking 3 times, Jesus reinstated Peter as his follower making him whole again after denying Jesus 3 times before the crucifixion.

Here I got talking with a tour guide who had a group from Colombia with him. He told me he is from the forests outside of Jerusalem. When I told him where I was from he got really excited and started rattling off all the Canadian facts he knew. It was a very sweet interaction. 

From there we walked on to another church. It was situated where it is believed Jesus fed 5000 people the fish and bread. Now this is only a guess by the historians in Israel, but it would have been at the very least quite close by. 

For lunch we moved on to the Mount of Beatitudes. It was absolutely stunning. The sisters hosted us for lunch which was very good. And then we made our way to a shaded spot to hold a Eucharist service. The Primate presided at a beautiful service here on the Mount of Beatitudes. She blessed a few objects for some of the other pilgrims and led us in worship. It was a very beautiful service even in the blistering heat. As we sat to worship the birds were chattering away above us and a gentle warm breeze blew through as if to say hello to us. Being able to worship with a group of young adults was a very nice experience. I either worship with children at Camp OAC all summer, or with people a fair bit older than me at Church each Sunday. It has been a while since I have been around a large group of people my age and get to worship together. I have not been able to attend BCYAYM in a long time or go to any Sorrento conferences since I graduated high school in 2019. 

After lunch and worship we moved on with our day. We chatted throughout the day about who Mary Magdalene was and what she represented. One of a few female followers of Jesus, who was from Magdala. Mary Magdalene, although commonly believed to be a reformed prostitute, was just a devout follower of Jesus. Nowhere in the Bible does it say what her profession is. She is extremely important as she was witness to both the crucifixion and the resurrection of Jesus. Here in Magdala there is a whole church dedicated to her and the other female disciples.

There is a stunning painting of the moment when the woman reaches out in the crowd of people to touch Jesus’ robes to be healed. This moment in the Bible is powerful. For her to be able to touch the hem of his robes she must have gotten down on all fours to be able to get in close enough to Jesus. So in a sense she had to submit to him and ask for healing and forgiveness. The painting itself does a beautiful job at portraying the logistics of this moment. Jesus standing in the road on his way through the city, amongst people from all walks of life in Israel. The painting depicts Roman-like feet standing near Jesus in this moment. A moment of blending. A moment of peace. Then reaching out is this hand of a woman who is suffering great pain. She is risking everything to be there just to hopefully catch Jesus as he walks past. The lengths people will go to to attain what they need and want in life are massive. I marvel at the bravery of the women surrounding the story of Jesus and their strength and determination.  

My bus ride today was fairly quiet and didn’t chat with everyone too much. I was feeling a little antisocial today but hopefully after a good night’s sleep I will be up and running again tomorrow. 

We are staying in the Magdala Hotel tonight. It is actually very luxurious. Not at all what I was expecting coming from the convent in Nazareth and not what I believe we are on our way to tomorrow in Jerusalem. This evening we all went out to the pool after a very hot day to cool off. It was much needed. However a storm looked to be rolling in so I came in a little early to shower and get ready for dinner. 

Dinner was absolutely over the top. The hotel had a buffet of all different foods. I piled my plate higher than I believe I ever have before. The food was delicious. I tried wine leaves for the first time and spooned many olives and a huge chunk of Brie cheese onto my plate. For dessert there were so many choices. I settled on watermelon, a chocolate mousse bombe and a mousse brownie. The feeling of being full has put me right to sleep. I am struggling to keep my eyes open. 

A bunch of the others have gone out to explore, but I think due to a mixture of the heat of today (a high of 36c) and the amount of food I just ate, I decided to stay in my room and have some quiet time. I washed one of my tops and hung it to dry and I have packed to move on tomorrow. We have a very exciting day planned for tomorrow so sleep is very much needed. 

DAY 4: May 4

And he saith unto them, Why are ye fearful, O ye of little faith? Then he arose, and rebuked the winds and the sea; and there was a great calm.” ‭‭Matthew‬ ‭8‬:‭26‬ ‭KJV‬‬

Today was an incredibly busy day. From the moment I woke up until now, 18:17 in the evening, I have not had a moment to myself and I have been taking in the most incredible sights. (I didn’t even have much time here, only a few minutes before getting a text to go explore before dinner, more on that later)

Roman mosaic at SepphorisWe started off the day hopping on our bus and heading to an archaeological site in Sepphoris. This place has uncovered an old Roman city. A place where Jesus has surely walked and visited, it is also believed that Jesus worked in the city as a carpenter before starting his ministry. The mosaics that have been uncovered here are absolutely stunning. They depict ancient Egyptian and Roman stories and cities. One I took a photo of depicts the city of Alexandria along with many animals. Each mosaic is made of thousands of little squares put together to make the images and tell stories.

After visiting the archaeological site we headed towards the city of Tiberias. Here I ate the most amazing filet of fish at the Hermitage restaurant. Being by the Sea of Galilee and eating fish was an experience in itself as well as being where the disciples and Jesus used to fish. The city of Tiberias is actually below sea level, and so is the Sea (or more accurately the lake) of Galilee. To be completely honest, the Sea of Galilee looks a lot like the Okanagan Lake.

Next we went to the Galilee boat discovery and shortly after took a boat ride. The boat discovery was super cool. In 1986 there was a drought and shortly after a man found an old nail on the shores of the Sea of Galilee. From there he dug and found a portion of a boat so he called in some archaeologists and they carefully dug out the boat. This boat is over 2000 years old and has since been preserved. At the time it was discovered if the boat was not kept wet, the wood would disintegrate into a powder. I don’t remember what process they used but now the boat is kept in a room for viewing.

The boat we went on was definitely not 2000 years old. But it was super cool! It felt like being on a pirate ship. I struggle with boats, I definitely am not a fan of being on them but the tour guides were so amazing I quickly forgot my anxiety. As we set sail they flew a Canadian flag next to their Israeli flag and put on the back track to “O Canada” for us to sing along with. After that, the Primate gave a small sermon about being on the Sea of Galilee, reminding us to trust in God and never doubt that he is with us. She recited the story in Matthew Chapter 8 about the disciples on the boat when Jesus was sleeping and a storm blew in, how they doubted they would make it through alive and woke Jesus. He then calmed the winds and asked why they doubted. They marveled at his ability to calm the winds. After the winds we had today I also marvel at this. The winds in the Galilee are powerful on a regular clear day, I could not begin to imagine them during a storm.

The men driving the boat were so kind, one of them, Peter, showed us how the disciples would have been fishing and then he taught us a Hebrew dance. It was a beautiful moment, all of us laughing and trying to sing along to “Hava Nageela” while dancing in two circles. The pure joy on the faces around me is definitely a moment to remember.

They then put on a playlist of music that we all knew. Christian music that we have either sung in church, camps or just heard in passing. It was fun to hear something familiar and reminded us all of home.

On our drive back to Nazareth from Tiberias our tour guide, Joy, told us a bit about her life. She is retired now and doing tours of the Holy Land for Christians, but before this she worked for the United Nations. She told us stories of how she faced racism as her father was Congolese. Being a bi-racial woman in the U.N. posed many challenges but she overcame them all being a strong willed person. Joy is absolutely an inspiration.

As a group we sang a song on the drive back. Abigail led us with her beautiful voice in “the servant song”. It felt very fitting as we are a group of pilgrims. Verse 2 felt very personal today:

We are pilgrims on a journey,
We are trav’lers on the road;
We are here to help each other
Walk the mile and bear the load.

When we finally arrived back at the Convent after navigating the traffic on the highway, we met with one of the Sisters and she took us down a flight of stairs to the basement. This basement however felt like one of the Holiest places I have ever stepped foot into. The story goes that a workman was working up in the convent when a tile from the floor fell, exposing what is now a major biblical site. Underneath the convent is a preserved House and tomb believed to be the house the Holy family lived in while living in Nazareth. The house that Jesus grew up in. Underneath they believe it is the tomb where Joseph was buried. The Sisters of course can not be completely sure as there were no records of anything but when they originally bought the land it was highly priced as it was the place where the “just” man lived. The just man being interpreted as Joseph as in the Bible it is said he stays with Mary when she becomes with child because he is a “just man”.


Seeing this site that many believe to be where Jesus grew up, the very house he lived in was extremely overwhelming. We visit spaces that Jesus has walked and I understand the weight of those places but this space specifically felt extremely heavy and spiritual. To look through the space where his front door would have been, to touch the outside of the house he grew up in and practised his own faith within was surreal.

Before supper we had a little free time so a few of us wandered down the road right outside the convent. There are many little stores to buy souvenirs. One very nice store owner gave me a nice discount on a scarf I wanted to buy to keep the sun off my shoulders on days when I wear tank tops. I am already quite burnt so this felt like a necessity.

After such a heavy and busy day everyone has gone to bed super early. I retired to my room around 21:00 directly after supper to write and decompress from the day. We start our day early tomorrow as well since we are leaving the convent. We will be heading back down to the Galilee and staying there for a night before moving on.

DAY 3: May 3

And the angel said unto her, Fear not, Mary: for thou hast found favour with God. And, behold, thou shalt conceive in thy womb, and bring forth a son, and shalt call his name JESUS.”
‭‭Luke‬ ‭1‬:‭30‬-31 KJV

Getting out of bed this morning was one of the hardest tasks I have been faced with on this trip so far. The jet lag settled in around dinner time and I slept very soundly last night.

This morning we were fed a wonderful breakfast, all the food here tastes amazing. I have never eaten so many olives in my life; I’m trying to figure out if there is a way I can bring some back with me.

We started our adventures by going to see the Church of the Annunciation. It is right across the street from where we are staying at the convent. Our tour guide, Joy, told us that the Church was founded in 356 AD by Saint Helena. It was a surreal experience to walk on the land in which Mary found out that she was pregnant with Jesus and be in the land which the Angel Gabriel ascended upon.

Church of the Annunciation

I walked the streets of Nazareth trying to picture the home of Jesus and his family. My feet were a little unsteady on the cobblestones of the roads.  What did he experience? How different is Nazareth now compared to when Jesus walked the streets?

We happened upon a spice store which is dated back to the 1800’s. The store keeper said that it is a family business that he took over from his father, and his father inherited from his father and so forth. I don’t cook much so I had no clue which spices to buy so instead I bought some loose leaf local herbal tea to share with my mum when I get home. We ended our morning by visiting the Well that Mary and Jesus used to visit to get water for their family.

We talked of Jesus’ sermon in the Synagogue and how he was rejected by the people of Nazareth. A prophet is never believed by his hometown. Family ties are extremely important and the people knew him as the son of the carpenter; no one truly thought that Jesus could be the son of God. Luke 4:22 says “And all bare him witness, and wondered at the gracious words which proceeded out of his mouth. And they said, Is not this Joseph’s son?” It is baffling now to think back on this scripture and recognize that the people of Nazareth had no idea what was to come with the ministry of Mary and Joseph’s son.

I met a lovely cat. She was extremely pregnant (fitting for the context of my day) and super friendly. She came up asking for pets and offered me her belly to rub, basking in the sunlight.

After an amazing lunch (the restaurant had pet birds in cages for their beautiful songs) we continued on to Mount Tabor. This site was absolutely stunning. Although the Bible does not mention exactly on which mountain the transfiguration of Jesus took place. It is commonly believed to be Mount Tabor. A church has been built on the very top and beautiful gardens surround it. I unfortunately lost my hat in a gust of wind and watched it blow just out of reach to me down the side of the mountain (sorry mum!) so now I’m down to one hat instead of two. Hopefully I can find a new one in the markets in the next few days.

As we returned to the convent in the evening we met with a local youth group of the Anglican Church right next door. We got to learn about what it is like to be a Christian in such a diversely religious place. The Christian population in Israel makes up only 2% of the country and even less outwardly practice. The youth of the Church spoke about feeling alone in their faith and being a minority in such a Holy place. A lot of the pilgrims could relate to the aspect of feeling alone as young adults as many of us are the only young adults/youth in our churches. Community within the Anglican Church is super important for young people affirming their faith. The Arabic Anglicans sang a song in Arabic for us and it was absolutely stunning. We also sang a song but being such a large group it was hard to find a song we all knew, so we went back to our summer camp roots and sang Peace Like a River for them. They loved the energy and actions we had.

My evening has been quiet, we ate dinner which was delicious. We had soup as an appetizer and then for the main course it was: beef, mashed potatoes, peas and a green salad. Familiar foods, but the taste was extremely different.

Due to the jet lag and physical exhaustion, bed time has come very soon after dinner. After having a lovely discussion on Church politics with the Primate and a few other pilgrims over a glass of Israeli wine, I retired to my room. Tomorrow we embark on another exciting journey. Richard LeSueur (our leader for the trip) has warned us that we shall be hiking and outside all day. I’ll hopefully remember to keep applying my sunblock frequently… I burnt already yesterday so I am trying to be extra careful not to make that worse.

Pro tip for Traveling in Israel: many doors in the Churches and entering shops are extremely low… watch your head!!

Day 2: May 1-2

So Ahab sent unto all the children of Israel, and gathered the prophets together unto mount Carmel.” 1 Kings‬ ‭18‬:‭20‬ ‭KJV‬‬

It has been roughly 30 hours since I woke up in the hotel in Toronto. It is now 20:32 Israel time on May 2nd. My journey today started out with a relaxing swim in the hotel pool where I met a man and his son who were passing through back to Surrey from the Holy Lands. They were on a pilgrimage with the Catholic Church.

There was a group of six of us who stayed the night in Toronto, around 12:55 we caught a shuttle to the airport to meet up with the rest of the pilgrims.

Once through to the international terminal a group of us went and found a restaurant to have a beer (or in my case a glass of wine) and started getting to know one another. It is crazy to have such a large country filled with so many different people.

Our flight was delayed by 45 minutes so we left Canada at 5:15 instead of 4:30. The flight went off without a hitch, I spent the 10 hours listening to music and sleeping. My mum and I had been enjoying a new song “memory lane” by Old Dominion, so that ended up on repeat.

airport welcomeWhen we touched down in Tel Aviv, Israel it was 11:15. We quickly made our way through the airport as a group and out to meet Joy, our guide for the trip. She is super passionate about the history and religions in Israel and loves to chat our ears off. She’s an amazing guide.

We had three stops today: Caesarea Maritima, Mount Carmel, and Nazareth

As we drove from Tel Aviv to Caesarea Maritima, we passed orange trees. They were so full of fruit they were dropping them like crazy.

When we got to Caesarea Maritima I was mesmerized. The Mediterranean Sea was absolutely stunning. As I learnt of the history of King Herod and his descendents in Caesarea I got to watch the waves roll into the man made harbor. Herod was a fascinating man and so were his descendents. After looking around, Richard made sure we got to go and touch the Mediterranean Sea. That was a first for me. I have only even touched the Pacific and the Atlantic.

Our second stop was Mount Carmel. The views from the top of the mountain were absolutely stunning. We could see our next destination, Nazareth in the distance.

Nazareth moonMy day ended today in Nazareth, the very place Jesus grew up. We are staying with the Sisters of Nazareth at a hostel they set up right in the heart of the city. They fed us some of the most amazing food I’ve ever had, I know I will be well fed while we stay here that’s for sure. All my nerves from yesterday have completely been replaced by excitement, wonder and happiness. Everyone on this pilgrimage has been nothing but wonderful.

Tomorrow will be full with many more adventures, but as of right now sleep is very much needed. Traveling takes a lot out of you.


Day 1: April 30

And I have also established my covenant with them, to give them the land of Canaan, the land of their pilgrimage, wherein they were strangers. And I have also heard the groaning of the children of Israel, whom the Egyptians keep in bondage; and I have remembered my covenant.”
‭‭Exodus‬ ‭6‬:‭4-5‬ ‭KJV‬‬

Charlotte in IsraelI started my long journey to the Holy Lands this morning. After some last minute packing of essential things around 8:30 this morning my mum and dad drove to Kelowna airport to see me off on the trip of a lifetime.

I departed Kelowna at 12:00 with the feeling of my heartbeat in my throat. I have not felt nerves like that in a very long time.

The flight from Kelowna to Toronto was filled with listening to the Hamilton soundtrack to fill the long hours. My nerves did not permit sleep in any form so I sat looking out of the window watching the Rocky Mountains and the flats of the Golden Prairies pass by. I did not realize how large the Canadian Great Lakes were…

I definitely daydreamed about living remotely in one of the mountain valleys with a crystal blue lake in the center, much like our beloved Okanagan.

As I got closer and closer to Toronto the nerves picked up their fast paced th-thump in my throat and the butterflies flapped their wings to a faster beat in my stomach. The anticipation of meeting up with a group of people I have never met before and journeying across the world with them was becoming more than I thought I could handle.

Upon arrival in Toronto at 19:15 (est) I met up with one of the other Pilgrims, Abigail. She waited for me after arriving at 17:00. Once we got chatting we realized very quickly that we had been connected before at the Sorrento Centre, she had worked there a summer with my brother and I had volunteered a week and had possibly met her before briefly. We quickly made our way to the hotel we would be staying at for the night before meeting up with the rest of the group tomorrow afternoon at 13:30 for our 10 hour flight nonstop to Tel Aviv. We managed to meet up with two of the guys coming with us in the morning for dinner at the hotel restaurant and then all retired to our rooms to (hopefully) sleep a bit before our very long journey.

Pilgrimage Group 2023

We will arrive in Tel Aviv at 10:00 and hit the ground running. Now that I have met some of the other pilgrims the nerves I had in Kelowna and on the plane have subsided making way for pure excitement.

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