Paul in Jerusalem

Sunday 4th August Epilogue

Well, although dated Sunday, I finally didn't get to complete this until today, that being Wednesday.

My flight went to timetable and I have to fully recommend British Airways, quality in all aspects.  I watched a film called 'All is True', about the last remains years of William Shakespeare and his return to Stratford, based on his strained relationships within his family.  Will played by Kenneth Branagh and also directed by him, Anne Hathaway being played by Judy Dench.  I found this to be a lovely film, sensitive and heart touching film about people, their lives and emotions.

My passenger next to me was Natalie, a young English teenager, probably 16 or 17 and who slept in most contorted positions.  At one point her knee was half over my space but I didn't have the heart to wake her up as I knew that in ten minutes it would move back to her own 'airspace' lol!  When she decided she needed to go to the toilet,  before I could move she had stood up on my armrest, stepped over me on to the other arm rest and jumped down on the gangway.  Coming back she did exactly the same, much to my amusement and also that of our fellow row passenger by the window seat.

I used the amazing Pod Parking at terminal 5 where you have a shared small auto-pilot mono-rail buggy.  I touched down at 8.00 p.m., was in my car, pulling away at 9.30 and back in Bloxwich by 11.30 via the M40. 

Yet again I had an amazing co-incidence, this time at Heathrow.  Whilst standing outside the rest rooms, I had a tap on my shoulder and yet again, it was my lovely Spanish couple with whom I had flown out and also met at Gethsemane.  This was the second time I met them after originally flying out.  I can't remember if I told you that they went to what the lady described as a 'fake wedding'.  They had friends in Israel who were gay and although this is not an issue, gay couples cannot get married.  So to celebrate their relationship, they had a wedding party for the wedding that hadn't taken place!.  My Spanish couple had a lovely time so they told me and I was so pleased to know they were well and had a good time.  It was wonderful to meet them yet again!

My thanks and best wishes go to St. George's Pilgrim Hostel, Jerusalem and all the staff, my Palestinian shop keeper, Oliver from Frankfurt, Carol-Ann from Calgary, Pauline, my two deaf couples, my lovely Spanish couple, Udi the artist, the Jerusalem Prayer Centre and all the people of Jerusalem who made my stay a wonderful and welcoming experience.  I forgive the taxi driver and the not very nice unofficial tour guide; I recognise the taxi driver was just trying to do a job.  Also I thank the desk staff at Church123 who received my phone calls and did their best to guide me when we were having internet connection problems: we sorted it!

I must also say thank you to my partner, Karen, for all her support , being available at the end of a phone on those quiet nights and also in her support in my original decision making.  Thank you also to my family for supporting me and giving me the strength to find the courage to travel alone to an unusual and fragile place.

My final praise goes to God the Father and The Lord Jesus for keeping me safe and guiding me on my sojourn. 


Sunday 4th August

I'm having one last blast on the PC here.  I am all packed and about to go and settle my bill.  I have my Walsall FC top on so I can have a picture of me wearing the colours in Jerusalem.  Just the name, Jerusalem is just so inspiring, spiritual and magical.

I forgot to mention one last thing, the great similarity of Jerusalem to England's noble town of Dudley, yes, Dudley.  Jerusalem and Dudley have one thing in common!  I have never seen so many hills!!!!!

Well that's it from Jerusalem, next mail will be from Bloxwich!

All my love to this precious but fragile place and God's love and grace to all of you who have followed my journey.  I hope you have, thought, reflected and laughed as we have all travelled together and thank you all for your company on the way.  Its been wonderful that people have been holding my hand in one form or another.

Hoping to just pop over the prayer room for a last 10 minutes as my taxi arrives in an hour or so, God Bless you all, Paul X

Saturday August 3rd

Hello everyone,

Anyway, first things first, today being first day of the football season for The Mighty Saddlers, Walsall F.C. and we won away at Northampton 1 - 0 and I am most happy, c'mon me babbies!  I have always said that Northampton are a load of cobblers!  (This is soccer to you Beccy and Amy, not N.F.L. lol!)

Well, I didn't do so well today with my planning  and it was my last full day  too.  I slipped up enough to make myself cross with myself, if that makes sense???  Yet again and seven days later I fell for the Sabbat trick of everything Israeli being shut bar the taxis.  I had decided I would go to the City of David and Hezekiah's Tunnel and they were both shut, locked, closed, barred, secured, whatever adjective you like to use, they were it!!!  I had taken my flip flops, plastic bags to put things in and even a hand towel to dry up, all for nothing!

For those who don't know, Hezekiah's Tunnel was a man made underground water supply, about 2,000 years old, that last about 500 yards or so and goes up to above the knees but the fun is walking the full length and coming out at the pool at the other end, wet, that's why I needed all the gear.  So here I am lugging all this stuff in my back pack in about 36c for nothing.

Equally the formal parts of the City of David were also closed etc etc etc but one was allowed to wander and see some bits of it.  Again for those not in the know, this is thought to be the original city of King David and is about 2,500 years old, stretching back to about 500 B.C.  You will know who David is because he was David of Goliath fame, the child who put down the big, bad guy with a stone!  These were stone buildings whilst we in the U.K. were living in stone and mud huts, and we were civilized???  So my morning was semi-wasted.

Have you wondered if the scripture writers and historians didn't quite know when Jesus was coming, how did they know to date everything and they were going backwards in time and everything was B.C.?  I bet that Professor Brian Cox and the thinking woman's crumpet, Dr. Michael Wood, will know the answers? 

You will remember Pauline who rescued me from that train yesterday and who is convinced I am a bit Scots and a Freemason?  Pauline invited me to lunch at her church today at 1.00 so I thought I would go and say hello.  Unfortunately, Pauline wasn't there as she had overslept due to cancelation of her original arrangements at the church. 

Pauline if you are reading this, you are naughty and you should have put your alarm on!  I shall send lots of kilt wearing freemasons to wake you up every morning this week!  They will appear in your dreams and mind.

Anyway, Pauline hope you are well and thank you again for being my rescuer!  I regret we haven't got to meet up again.  I had a nice beef dinner with rice and vegetables, you don't know what you missed Pauline. 

At lunch, I even met a Villa supporter with his diving kit on, oops I mean his Grealish number 10 jersey!

I finished off the afternoon sitting meditating/snoring at The Garden Tomb after an initial chat with a nice lady from New Zealand who was a volunteer at the garden.  I told her about my disapointments and confusion between the Via Dolorosa and Holy Sepulchre  juxt. The Garden Tomb.  In my meditation I know I woke myself up with a snore, the second one being most embarrassing because as I woke up on a bench, I found myself surrounded by a swarm of Russians who were about to have a lecture lol!  I am sure they heard me snore!  I had never heard them creep up on me.

At that point I decided I would go and sit next to The Tomb and I am more and more convinced that this may be the proper Tomb.  Even General Gordon of the Sudan Campaign (1885) and Khartoum thought the same as me, that being the real General Gordon of course and not Charlton Heston from the film. 

I was quite happy at mouth of The Tomb despite noisy pilgrim/tourists all wanting a piece of the action, the Latinos and South Americans being the worst.  The Africans are noisy, singing and worshipping when one wants to close my eyes in peace and silence.  They seem not to understand the notice that says quiet please, snoring  old men meditating! 

Seriously, I felt quite in touch with Jesus this afternoon and I think he is in touch with me and I feel at peace and quite good this afternoon and evening.

I forgot to mention that when I go to catch the tram/Metro, I have to walk past a United Nations building; I have never seen a U.N. flag or car before with big letters, U.N. stuck on the side.  This serves only to remind us all of how fragile this area is and the necessity for the United Nations to be here to support the situation.  This again serves only to consolidate my experiences with armed police and army on street corners, the blocked street one night and my local Palestinian shop keeper who doesn't have much good to say about the Israelis and the British for spawning Lord Balfour of the 1947 agreement.  A news item on the B.B.C. World Service spoke of 6,000 plus new Israeli homes in the West Bank which can only serve to heighten tensions between Palestine and Israel.  Friends, this is real stuff and I am both seeing and experiencing it in real time, make it your business to read up on stuff here.

I finished off the evening nipping round to the local mini-market to get a bottle of water and a sandwich they make on the spot.  The man at the shop has been kind to me, chatted loads of politics and history and not held it against me personally for being British i.e. Lord Balfour etc. 

In closing I have just met Beccy and Amy from North Carolina with whom I have had a good chat about Jerusalem, our caravan in Wales and my son Stuart because I worried he might forget not to have too many electrical appliances on at once; Stu as we spoke some of the American party were conscious of our conversation lol! 

The three of us had a conversation about the locals and had I had any negative experiences?  It seems we have all had a bit of a hiccup with some people or another.  Very sadly their Christian Priest was spat on in his cassock by Israeli children on two occasions; this is most sad at a time when the scriptures of all religions promote harmony and tolerance; how sad.  I have to say the local Jews haven't been that friendly but I also think that might be a wider regional, cultural thing for the region, well thats what Dorking-Kingsley suggested in their guide book? 

Anyway, Beccy, Amy its been lovely to meet you both and I hope the remainder of your pilgrimage goes well for you, despite your 5.30 start in the morning.  I realize now ladies how come there is never anybody at breakfast at 8.45, that's because you're all up and out whilst I am still snoring in bed.

This is my last evening blog, live from down town East Jerusalem although I hope to have a last few words after I have packed and when I wait for my taxi in the morning.  I just have to print off my boarding pass for tomorrow's flight home.

It's been a wonderful week.  It was more than I expected and I still only scratched the surface but I have learned far more than when I came.  I feel a better person and am more relaxed and at peace with aspects of myself which I hope will carry through to home. 

We all know the pressures of the daily grind subject us all to stresses and pressures but I believe God's grace has helped me to understand the need for forgiveness and I feel better for it; I learned this from the Prayer Centre and from Carol-Ann (aka don't you just love Trudeau lol).

The Garden Tomb allowed me to reach out to Jesus and although we did not exchange words or thoughts, I just felt at one with him when I looked at the entry to The Tomb.  Every day I have asked for forgiveness, protection for our family and care for our close fruiends who have been very ill.  In prayer I learned to understand forgiveness and I feel much better for it.  I attend Evensong everyday at 6.00 p.m., thank you to all the clergy who led the services. 

My best experiences, a) the journey from the airport to Jerusalem, seeing the land that Jesus and his disciples travelled, b) Yad Vashim, c) Udi, the artist, what a lovely and kind man, d) the people I have met and e) the things I have seen.

My worst experiences were people and their behavior a) the taxi driver who wouldn't accept no, b) the awful unofficial tour guide, well both of them for that matter (I'm not sure I told you about the first one who said 'English bad' because I didn't want a tour) and c) the behavior of so called tolerant Christians at The Holy Sepulchre.

It's been an amazing week and I hope I can be a better person for it.

There will be a final entry when I get back home.

God, please bless the people of this region and protect them all from each other, Amen.

Good night all, Paul.

Friday August 2nd

Another odd day, mostly planned but with a little detour that was very eventful.  I have met nice people today and had one thing to me that has never happened before.  Mind you I had something else happen to me that I hadn't planned either, lol!!!! (text speak)

Initially, I was glad to hear (from my cousin Barrie, who is in the know) that it doesn't look like there will be a pilots wildcat strike this week by British Airways so it looks like I will be coming home on my scheduled flight on Sunday, magic!

After a number of visits to the Old City, I decided to spend the morning and early afternoon in down town Jerusalem and I would follow a planned walk in  one of my guidebooks.  The plan was to end up at Mahane Yehuda, the market district via Ben Yehuda,  main shopping street and Jaffa Street, the main drag to the west; this is all prime retail area.  I jumped on the tram (metro) travelled my three stops and jumped out, generally prepared other than I forgot my sun tan protection, 'doh', as Homer Simpson would say.

The first thing I found in a small public square was the world's first concrete grand piano!  A full size electric keyboard and a little lad is playing on it so I know it works because it sounded awful, loll!

I followed the map along some streets then turned right and saw an amazing thing!  There is this street maybe 250 yards long or so, built about 1900, that's old for down town Jerusalem and suspended from lots of wires crossing from building to building were three straight lines of coloured umbrellas!!!  Yes, umbrellas, suspended about 25 feet off the floor by their tips with their handles hanging down.  They formed three straight lines, gently swaying in the breeze but also casting lines of umbrella shadows on the pavement, amazing!

This little street brought me on to Ben Yehuda, the main shopping street where they have a Kosher MacDonalds! There was also an old couple busking, he playing the accordion and she singing sitting in her wheelchair with a blanket over her legs to catch the cash! 

At the end of that street, I started to get lost!  I found a children's play area with a bridge made of timbers and windows, yes, old wooden windows, all nailed together in this 'ad-hoc' way, you will have to wait to see the pictures.

I have a tee-shirt that says 'Those that wander are not always lost', in fact I brought it with me.  Well, that was lost on me because by now I was lost, not quite good and proper but not far off.  My orienteering skills are usually not to bad and have a reasonable sense of direction and eventually I found my way on to Jaffa Street, only 400 yards from where I had got off the tram. 

I sat on a stone bench, supping my water and a young woman came and sat next to me.  I shuffled over to give her room because there is a thing about men, women and close proximity to some Jews.

When I am ready to leave I asked her kindly if she could point me in the direction of the market, which she did no problem and I knew I was almost right.  She then did the usual, tourist?  Where from? Enjoying our country? All the stuff that people do, the sort of stuff I subject visitors to in the UK.  She also reminded me the market would be 'crazy' because its Sabbat (Sabbath) tomorrow and all of Jeruslaem will be in the market stocking up for the weekend. 

Tehila was probably about 17 or 18, can't have been much older, otherwise she would have been in a military uniform (with an AK47).  We had a nice chat about Jerusalem and the Old City, thank you Tehila, you really did help me, I told her I would include her in my blog.  I later discovered Tehila means 'brains, clever'.  I guess she might have been a student?

I got to the market and it was a mad house, took me about 20 minutes to move 100 yards.  I weaved to the left down a side street and ended up at the same place I went to the other night with Carol-Ann.  I had the same stuff Carol-Ann, chicken and salad with pitta but it didn't come on a piece of slate this time.  I gave up rejoining the main market as trying to body swerve like Barry John is impossible with a backpack on!  Who's Barry John you're asking because you're all to young to know; a brilliant Welsh rugby player from the 1970's, good on ya Barry.

Managed to relocate myself on the map and had an eventful walk back down to the starting point, visiting the Ethiopian Church on the way but also guided by the beautiful sounds of that concrete piano, being played by someone talented.  I found a small group of about 6 young people, in their twenties or so and a lad was playing a classical piece, he was so good, better than anything I had ever heard but that's not difficult I suppose.  Nevertheless he was good and his friend came and sat with me, telling me how he was switching scales and levels which is very unusual.  I took his word for it and what my ears were telling me.  I sat gob smacked with my hands over my mouth and a couple of tears trickling down my cheeks.  

Karen will tell you I wear my heart on my sleeve and can be quite emotional.  The lad saw me, looked at me, pointed at me and pointed at the piano and then played, dedicating his next piece personally to me as a gesture to my prior gratitude to him; again it was quite overwhelming with a couple of tears of happiness, I'm good at that, lol!

At 2.30, I jumped back on the tram and realized I was too early for my next activity which was at 4.00. so I decided to stay on the tram until it reached the other outer suburbs, just to see what was up the other end.  This is where the fun starts. 

As the train stopped at a station and emptied, I kept sat in my seat, waiting for it to move on.  The doors shut and nothing happened and then I realized I was stuck in a locked train going no where!  I'm trying to make this door open with no luck and then a woman in the opposite train saw me and immediately raised the alarm with the guard of her train, initially with little success.  Eventually he clicked and came and fetched the driver to let me out!   This lady looked  the double of Jack's other nan, Maureen, who has passed on and I was almost convinced it was Maureen who had to my aid.

I jumped on the train to go back to almost where I had come from and there is no doubt that this event certainly killed some of my excess time.  Well I went and thanked the lady who invited me to sit with her.  We went through the usual exchange of pleasantries, she told me she was Pauline and I told her I was Paul.  Pauline is South African, Jo'burg, says its like living in a prison, most unsafe place in the world, my Stuart also told me that recently when he went there for business.  Pauline's holiday has lasted 22 years.  She is very committed to God and was quite sure she had been put in that place today for a) her to rescue me and b) to talk about why I am in Jerusalem and God's plan for me.

We talked about God, belief, faith and where we had come from in our lives.  She was East European Jewish from both sides, her family escaped from Germany to Lithuania but lost all her family during the war bar two.  I told her about our best friend Margot who's family had escaped Lithuania.  She told me her dad's best friend was 'Isadore Levinson' but not Margot's dad of course.  Pauline said that God had told her I have Freemason blood in me and have Scots connections.  I told her my genetic test said I am Anglo SaxonlNorth European.  Pauline said that God had sent me to Jerusalem to redeem the Freemasons for stealing stone from King Solomon. 

Anyway, Pauline you're in my blog with my sincerest gratitude for saving from a fate worse than death, being locked on a train for an unknown period of time.  Pauline has invited me to lunch at her church at Christ Church in the Old City by Jaffa gate on Saturday so I hope to go and see and say hello.

At 4.00 pm I joined the Franciscan monks who led the weekly walk of Via Dolorosa with me amongst the other 100 or so pilgrims following on. There was singing and chanting, predominantly by South American and Latino people in what sounded like Latin.  You can imagine how at times it bordered on chaotic as these side streets through the market are often less than ten feet across from shop front to shop front.  This group moved like a peristaltic wave along the market streets until we all arrived at the Church of The Holy Sepulchre where it is claimed Christ was crucified and buried.  Needless to say it was true to form, it was heaving, rammed with other tour parties all trying to get to the top floor to kiss the ground where Christ was crucified. I knelt and gave thanks for what I have. 

On the ground level, the church being on two levels due to the topography of the ground at this point, was another shrine to the tomb of Christ.  Now if I take you back a couple of days there is contradictory evidence that Christ was both crucified and entombed at The Garden Tomb near where I am staying. 

There were that many people queuing to see the alleged tomb so I gave up as it was near closing time.  At times people shoved and jostled particularly up stairs, certainly not Chrstian behavior towards each other, almost the January Sales.  I became dis-heartened by this lack of behavior and kindness to each other and elected to leave.  A wonderful basilica type building and other surrounding querky buildings, at times beautiful inside but the people were not beautiful, some were quite selfish for fear of missing something.

I got back in time for Evensong and the Vicar had just started the service with only himself there.  I was the first person and a Danish lady joined us a couple of minutes later, so at one point I had a vicar and a service to myself.  I was asked to deliver the first bible reading which I did but didn't have my reading glasses and my eyes were blurred!  I managed and explained after I should have my glasses but he was fine with me.

Would you believe that at one point in the service, the Vicar, who was English, knelt to pray and the cushion he knelt upon was made by a person from All Saints Church, Darlaston!  So I'm not the first thing from Walsall to get to St. George's Cathedral, Jerusalem lol!

How did I feel about walking the Via Dolorosa?  I had built this up to myself to such a degree before I came, it was the one thing I was going to do before anything else and then when I had doubt, I didn't know where to put myself.  I realized through guidance that all that counts is that Jesus did walk the streets of Jerusalem, did carry the cross and was crucified here.  The exactness doesn't matter and I know that he was there at that time and I am here now.  I was quiet and discrete in my  thoughts to Christ and I felt in touch with him and that Christ knew I was there for him and he for me, guiding me, leading me and taking me; as the Doobie Brothers once sung on the Toulouse Street album in 1973  'Jesus is just alright by me'.

Had a bit too much sun today, forgot to put my suntan stuff on, so I've had chicken and salad on a pitta and fries and a pint of fabulous beer for tea and upon completing this I'm off to bed.

Not quite buzzing as other days but still eventful and with grateful thanks to Tehila, Pauline/Maureen and my wonderful pianist who's name I do not know.

Good night and lots of God's love and grace, Paul.

Thursday August 1st (not a white rabbits day)

Hello all, well today has been a sort of mixed day of different experiences, educational, friendship, confrontational, disappointing and frustrating, reflective, experiential and finally tasty/yummy.  I don't know whether to go in the order of the day or by those adjectives above?  having said that if I go by the order of the day, it will lead us into the adjectives as we go along, ok?

Educational : well after breakfast the day started with me finally getting a ticket to go in the tunnels under the West Wall and all things to do with the first temple built by King Herod, you know, the bad guy but he was a good builder, well his contractors were.

These blokes were moving blocks of limestone 40 to 50 feet or so long, 9 feet high and 5 feet deep, weighing 250 tons, using block and tackle, no cranes, no computers and so on.  They also had a basic recipe for early days concrete.  The blocks were also rebated so they dropped into place and held themselves together; we're talking 2,000 years ago here! 

The Muslims later raised the level of Jerusalem by building arches to support arches with arches and then filling them in so original parts of the city are anything like at least 5 metres lower than the current city.  The Romans slapped in streets all round these arches too.  They built cisterns to collect rainwater under the city, covered with blocks of stone, the one I saw today was 50 originally metres long and filled through a man made fissure in the rock from the higher points of the surrounding area, amazing engineering! 

Today's a holy day, well Thursday mornings are and the West Walls were full of Jewish families and lots of men with black hats, long black coats (its 35c or so, today like its been all week!) and ringlets of hair by their ears.  I went to the loo for a wee and was surrounded by them, 20 or 30 of all ages and sizes, I couldn't find the way out the loo and thought I was being abducted by Jewish aliens!

Friendship : following on from the West Walls I went to the Blue and White Art Studio where I again had the honour of meeting Udi the artist who again bought me a glass of water.  I made some purchases and then off I went.  However before I left, we ended up talking about The Beatles famous Abbey Road picture as he has a silhouette of 4 rabbies crossing the road as a take on the album cover. Meeting him is like meeting someone like David Hockney or such like as his work has hung in The Oval Office (USA) and the Israeli Presidents Office too.  We also talked about that 1943 film and my visit to Yad Vashim.  He has asked to see my blog, I am so proud that such a famous Israeli person wants to see my stuff, wow!

Confrontational : after leaving the gallery I sat down to eat my apple for lunch and to have water.  This man came up to me telling me the synagogues were open today for visitors, would I like him to take me (unofficial tour guide - beware).  I politely declined but he must be the half brother of that taxi driver from Tuesday because he wasn't taking no for an answer!  I continued to decline, apologized and told him I was doing other things.  He snarled at me, I apologized again to appease him and touched his wrist as I apologised.  He went crackers, 'no touch, no touch, this is no touch in this country, no touch!'.  I again apologized and told him it is ok in the UK and off he went glaring at me, I shrugged my shoulders.  I realised later that I read this is a no touch country so that is firmly implanted in my memory, thanks again to D-K, should have remembered that!

Disappointing and frustrating : I tried again to get to the grave of Oskar Schindler on Mount Zion, again the Catholic Cemetary is locked, I give up, its a 3 mile walk for nothing.  Mind you, at least I avoided that taxi driver, he wasn't there at Zion Gate hiding behind a skip or such like.  Took some pictures of the pock marked walls of the Zion Gate from the 1967 6 day war.

Reflective : two elements to this.

Firstly you remember Helena of the red button from yesterday.  Well I thought to myself today how brave, independent and spirited of her to try to bring joy through a button in the most inhumane, depraved and cruel circumstances of a death camp, despite all that she must have still smiled sewing on her button?  She didn't take no for an answer either, bless you Helena.

Secondly, I needed a prayer moment today, it was a bit lonely and Carol-Ann and Sharron from The Garden Tomb told me to go to the Jerusalem Prayer Room opposite my accommodation for peace and reflection, so I did.  I met a man called Larry who talked to me about the Prayer Room and how to use it.  One part had a bowl of water and I wrote all that I needed forgiveness for, dropped it in the water and it dissolved away in front of my eyes.  God has taken it for me.  There were other bowls where you wrote about forgiveness, giving and receiving and left cards.  Finally, in praying for groups or countries where Jesus has not been able to reach out; I prayed for the children of the world who have no one to love them and also for the children of the UK and the world who are being exploited by wicked adults.

Experiential : this was a new experience one apart from the odd football match.  It's 7.30 and I have decided to go back into the Old City for an evening meal.  I get to a point where 6 armed police have barricaded the walk way and no one is passing!  No idea why but it led me to think, is this everyday life for the average Palestinian?  Not saying who is right or wrong but we don't see armed police with AK47's as a matter of course, it was anxiety provoking.  You must think I am obsessed with AK47's but its just so unbelievable that this is just normal and run of the mill, we only see them at airports!  Oh yes, we don't have AK47's at football matches, just grumpy police and barricades, see the similarity?

Finally yummy/tasty.  as I couldn't get to my café, I went to the one next to the barricades and I had chicken schwarma in pitta and salad with hummus, chicken kebab to you and me lol!  Very nice!  Pudding was baklava from the shop next door, real Palestinian food, yummy, tasty.

Well, folks that's today!  Tomorrow I may try to join the Franciscan monks and their pilgrimage walk down Via Dolorosa and I think I will do that.  I might pop into down town Jewish side Jerusalem just to be nosy.  I am not going to see Oskar I am afraid.  There is a big light show in one of the towers so I am going to try to get a ticket for Saturday.

All done, God bless you all, Paul, lets chat again tomorrow. I do hope you're enjoying this X.

pps, I have mailed my cousin Barrie to ask his son Todd, a First Officer with British Airway if they can make sure they don't have a wild cat strike before Monday as I fly on Sunday or I shall be well stuck in the muck!  

Wednesday July 31st

Hello all,

Well, today has been a multiple emotions day and at 2.45 pm all you were getting from me was going to be,

                                       'Yad Vashim'

I was going to leave you to do your own research.  Once I had caught my breath and had a late lunch, I was feeling far less emotional and my tears had been mopped up.  At that point and without trying to exagerate  I dread to think what Auschwitz will do to me when I eventually get there because the main hall at Yad Vashim was devastatingly stunning but in such a painful way. 

Now for those of you who do not know what those words mean, it is the name of the Israeli National Holocaust Memorial so it is entirely directed at the victims of the Holocaust overall, not just the death camps.

I cannot begin to tell you what I saw but the main hall started with the most amazing 5 minute film made up through 250 or so individual pieces of film stitched together showing Jewish culture in the 1920's to frame a cultural scene.  It finished with the formation of Israel in 1948 and all the things that happened in between.

How on earth the researchers managed to bring together 6 million deceased/murdered people back and set the scene against a European and global social, political and economic background, was amazing.  The whole events were brought together through a time line in a building with chambers that was probably about 250 yards long, concrete, cold and shaped like a prism. 

I also went to the Children's Memorial and I have never seen anything like it, an almost dark entry with ghostly holograms of children's faces reflecting against a number of mirrors so these faces reflected in all directions looking at you as you passed through this section, whilst in the background was a deep baritone male voice humming a song.  This entry led to the main chamber. 

The main chamber, also dark, was, well, I don't know what to say other than tell you what I saw. 

It appears there is one single eternal flame about 10 feet or so below a mezzanine walkway in the middle of the chamber floor but it is reflected by I think, maybe 100/200 or so, placed mirrors, so they all reflect against each other and the dome of the roof, the wall, the area below the mezzanine on which I was walking, all lit up thousands and thousands of single lights at any one time so you are in a ball of star like reflections all around you, above you, below you, like you are standing in a single dazzling ball.  The mezzanine was circular so you could walk round all 360 degrees entirely surrounded by this picture of dynamic changing stars as you walk round because the angle you view changes as you walk. 

When you are you stunned by the visual impact, the aural impact then takes effect simultaneously.  As you are walking, standing and looking, the names, ages and countries of origin of children were read out in an ongoing continuous loop, for example, 'Katerina 10 Ukraine' and so on, continuously, individually, each dazzling light reflecting a child like a star.  

There is too much to tell you but very negatively, in a cabinet, there was a display of cans of Zyklon B Cyanide gas pellets, some full, some half open, some empty and also a pile of spilled green pellets! 

I could go on forever about Yad Vashim but I would like to finish on something special and really caught my eye. 

Firstly I want you to remember the name Helena Riba. 

There was a cabinet of the striped uniforms worn by women in the camps and amongst these garments was a khaki coloured woman's top, like a blouson.  It belonged to Helena Riba, God bless whoever Helena was, I don't know but it was identified as hers; she wore it. 

It was small, possibly a teen girl, maybe a petite woman? Again I don't know, it was just small.  Helena, God Bless her, made her own stand for her own identity in that she had a small red ball like button which she had sewn on to the bottom of her right collar tip with a small piece of red ribbon so it hung in an independent fashion, picking her out from all the other garments; just looking for the red button was so easy. Museum staff suggested it might have been her way to glamorise her clothing in a sad situation, to bring something special, who knows?

Again God Bless you Helena and know in paradise where you are now with Jesus, you have touched the heart of an old man in this day and age and he thought of you.

The nice bit of today was that I comfortably caught the Metro as we call it in the Black Country, its very good and cheap and got myself from east to west to east very easily.  Thank you Carol-Ann for your help in showing me what to do!  On the platform I was talking briefly to an old orthodox Jewish couple and they asked where I was going after I had asked the direction of the Metro.  The husband looked at me, smiled and dropped his head courteously in a sideways nod when I said Yad Vashim, he was clearly surprised but pleased that a Westerner was making the effort to go there, that was a nice happening.  The lady also smiled and then told me to be careful with my patchy legs, did I have an illness she asked?

At Yad Vashim, again a shop assistant thanked me for coming to the  Memorial and for taking the interest, I thanked her for her welcome and gratitude.  I shared with her a story that I will now share with you.

When I was a child, my mom and dad, being deaf, always watched European films on the new BBC2 channel because they all had English subtitles so they could follow the films, subsequently I also saw these films.  By the age of 11 or so, I had seen the great Russian classic like Ivan the Terrible, Battleship Potolkin, Katherine the Great and even the French naughty classic, Belle de Jour ( I don't think mom and dad realized what it was about!). 

I also remembered watching a film about the war, set in Poland with people hiding in sewers, shooting at the German occupiers.  It was only today that I realised the film I had been watching, was about the 1943 Warsaw ghetto uprising and revolt, I hadn't realised this had happened until today!  Stuart, my son, that is why you found Warsaw to have no old buildings, because the Germans burned them all down to flush out the freedom fighters; there ends your history lesson for today!

On the tram I am sitting on my seat and I am conscious that for most of my journey there is a female soldier standing behind me, I assumed she was checking the tickets but she got off at Damascus Gate about 5.30 pm where there are three military checkpoints so I guess she was 'doing a late'?  As she stepped forward and swung her hips, her AK47 automatic machine gun came into view hanging down the side of her right thigh.

I ask you a question, when was the last time you travelled on public transport and saw someone going 'on a late' carrying an AK47?  No prizes for the winner!

And the last bit...........I met another deaf couple at Yad Vashim, English from London!  We had a right good hand wagging chat and they had more sense than me because they flew from Luton with El Al !  Yet another lovely experience, I have had so many this week.  Carol-Ann, they went to Bethlehem on the bus, the 231 and said it was fine and felt quite safe lol!

Oh yes another last, last one haha!  I needed some milk so I popped down to a different supermarket shop thing owned by a grumpy Palestinian but I forgive him for being grumpy.  What was funny was that at home I might just walk up the Asda (Walmart for you Carol-Ann) in the shadow of the fire station, yes?  Here I walked down and bought from a shop under the shadow of the Damascus Gate, built by Suliman the Magnificent around 1600, what a comparison, how surreal or what?????  By the way, Suliman didn't do a self-build, he had a team of brikkies and a few thousand slaves!

Lots of love and good night, God Bless you all, whether you are a believer or not (even though God gave you the best seat at my request Karen) and tomorrow I am going to see the artist and book myself a visit to the tunnels I hope, haha!!  Love you all, Paul. 

p.p.s.  So much for just two words haha!

Tuesday 30th July

Well today has been an odd day with a number of disappointments and to some degree I should call it Tuesday the closedth although yet again there have been nice, funny and peculiar experiences too.

Today started with breakfast and I was joined by Oliver and we chatted breaking bread, a really nice man and sadly I find he is leaving today moving onto Tel Aviv, we shake hands and have selfies together!

Oliver, I hope you are reading this and have arrived at Tel Aviv and that you are safe.  My very best wishes, you are a good man.

I finished two days worth of blogs which made me late for my original plan which was a day under cover, out of the sun at the Holocaust Museum, Yad Vashim, my DK guidebook suggests to leave a good day to take it all in so I am doing that tomorrow.

I decided I would go to visit the tunnels under the West Wall as recommended by Oliver so off I go and when at the ticket queue only to discover I have to pre-book or come back at 5.20, well that's done that then, looks like I will have to book and try again.

I am close to the big Mosque, The Dome of The Rock so I think I will go there.  I had already tried to see it on Sunday and the police stopped me from entering, well what a surprise, they did it again today and told me it was closed! So that 2 options closed to me but hey-ho I will go and find the grave of Oskar Schindler.  That takes an epic cross-markets walk to Mount Zion, the southerly Zion Gate where I arrive after a mint tea, got a thing about mint tea it is super; their mint is far superior to ours!  Mount Zion is very significant in the Jewish faith and also thought to posses the grave of King David and also where Jesus took The last Supper.

I start walking towards the Catholic Cemetary and would you believe it.......a car 'paps' its horn and pulls up beside me, 'hello, do you remember me from yesterday?" the drivers says...............well, you remember from yesterday, Monday, that the taxi driver at the Lion Gate who was determined to take me to Bethlehem for a 100 quid has only gone and turned up at Zion Gate as I am walking down the road...............'I take you Bethlehem, I have special pass, we go through security no queue, come on, you not see Schindler's grave, it is too hot, car have air-con!!!!!!!!!". I say no thank you I do not want to go to Bethlehem, 'I take you church in Bethlehem, car have air-con (again!)!'  This conversation batted backwards and forwards longer than a Fedderer/Djokovic rally at Wimbledon, back and forward, forwards and back, on and on, he will not take no for an answer!.  Eventually he gives in but gives me his card and I promise him my business if I go, we leave it at that.

Would you belive it, I get to the Catholic Cemetary and guess what, its closed!!!!!!!!!  So that's three out of three, closed to me!!!!!!!

I meandered back though the back streets of the Palestinian Quarter of the Old City, find a café and have lovely chicken on hummus with salad and more mint tea lol!!!  I bring myself home, shower and again go to Evensong.  My next disappointment is that Carol-Ann has had a change of circumstances and after three months in Thailand and Israel, needs to go home due to a family matter.  I also met a guy, Joel, a Minister from Michigan and he's leaving tomorrow too, ah well.

In all of this and walking through the Jewish Quarter, I stumbled into an art gallery of a very famous Israeli artist, the first to paint in the Old City after the 1967  6 day war and the relief of the West Wall from the Palestinians.  This man, Udi Merioz is very famous in Israel and low and behold he is in his gallery where he still paints.  He personally greeted me, brought me a drink of water and we chatted about his work and an idea I had and which I shall carry out.

He was a really good man and although I engaged with him for only minutes, I just had a feeling that he is a good and kind.  He didn't have to make the personal effort to come and greet me and bring me water, he could have sent an assistant but he didn't, he did it himself, that says enough to me.  Check out his gallery on google, '', some amazing stuff and a very well known picture of four soldiers praying at the West Wall, this has been adopted by the National Government as representative of Israel and its fight to establish itself as a nation.

After having engaged you all in something serious, now for something lite hearted. Karen will tell you I look for and photograph odd or daft things.  I saw an electric bike chained to a fence at the Zion Gate, it was a three seater, yes, three seats.  The first one was a proper seat for the rider, the second seat was a child's seat and finally, tied to the child's seat and the frame of the bike was..............yes.......its true...........a toilet seat!!!  The flap was tied to the baby seat and the poo seat was tied to the mudguard and frame so whoever sat on the actual toilet seat was the third passenger!  I took a pic so if you don't believe me I will send it you lol.

My second laugh of the day involved an American family who are walking along and coming towards me, they stop next to me as I am resting and sipping water, 'I just don't get it, it doesn't make sense' says the oldest son to his father, he is about 13l14.  I approached the family and apologised that I overheard them but ask if I could say something to the boy and parents agreed.  My response was as follows...........'I spent an hour last night chatting to a Canadian lady about the very same thing because I didn't get it either and some of this stuff doesn't tie up.  A friend in England told me that it doesn't matter if things don't tie up because whatever happened, happened, it was still the same people, the same place, the same events and just a different time so think of it that way.  My vicar also told me "don't try to understand, just believe" (Thanks Chris, again).  We all laughed together mom and dad thanked me for explaining what they had been trying to say and thank me again.  As I walked off into the sunset like John Wayne, I turned back, looked at the boy and waggling my finger, said 'don't forget, don't try to understand, just believe'.   

Thinking deep and meaningful, on my walk to Schindler's grave, narrowly avoiding that taxi driver, I looked across the panoramic view and something caught my eye.  I looked at a hill in the distance and running along it was the infamous Palestinian Wall, a 30 foot high concrete wall to close in the Palestinians on the West Bank, this a modern day equivalent of the Berlin Wall of the Cold War.  Although in the distance, it was still clear enough to make out and had me thinking and realizing that I was right to recognize the fragility of life in Israel and Palestine, nothing has fundamentally changed from 1948 and 1967.  It was enough of a shock for me to cover my mouth and say to myself, 'the wall, its the wall!'.

We have to remember this fragility in the context that the day before I flew out, 2 Palestinians were shot dead and 15 injured from gunshots by the Israeli military after an alleged explosive attack over the wall, hand grenades?  Also it is reported that on Thursday, a 4 year old boy is being interrogated, not interviewed, for throwing stones at an Israeli Police Car.  Now cast your mind back to that treasured moment of the soldier talking to the girl, I am sure you can see now as to how significant it was and how it impacted upon me as I watched!

Whilst at the Zion gate there are commemorations of the grave of King David and also allegedly the room of The Last Supper as a point or centre for people to visit and worship but they were not created until a very long time after the original times and in King David's case, this is 3,000 years ago.  Again we have to remind ourselves that it may not be totally accurate but as I have been reminded its the same place, same people, just a different time and things looked a little different too.

Monday 29th July continued.............

I forgot to mention that in The Garden of the Tomb, I met a new friend.  I am sitting on a bench sipping water when this little boy, Brazilian, about 18 month just toddles up to me smiles and puts up his hand for a high five which we did about 5 or 6 times, much to his amusement and mine.  Then he looked at me and blew me a kiss which I returned, another last high five and then he toddles off back to his mother!

I also forget to mention my neighbour from #12, Oliver.  Oliver was from Frankfurt greeted me with a hello, we chatted a while and then discovered he had walked non less than 25km on Sunday around the circumference of Jerusalem and then up the Mount of Olives and back, he did a better job than me.

On the Via Dolorosa where parties from Russia, New York and Peurto Rico.

I also never told you I met the gardener from Gethsemani who has been tending that garden for 22 years and his father for 42 years as well, hence him knowing about the olive trees!

Monday 29th July,

Good morning all, as I write this its actually 9.45 Tuesday but as you know I have had I.T. issues and my phone and the internet do not like each other here.  I finally found a residents stand alone P.C. and have been able to sign on properly now!  First task was to correct my spelling errors from Sunday lol!!!!

So, Monday, I made another of my errors but as Graeme would say, "hey-ho, it is what it is", cheers Grae.

I decided I would WALK up the Mount of Olives to the Temple on the Rock where it is believed Jesus had his last hour of time alone to reflect, before he descended to the Garden of Gethsemani where he was betrayed by Judas. One walks through the Old City again to cut off a corner.  Towards the Lion Gate on the east side, I have to take a call from Church123 the server hosts to try to sort these I.T. issues, its hot and as Robin Williams said in Good Morning Vietnam "Its d**n hot" so I am seated in a shaded doorway and a little Arab boy comes up to me, points at my ear stud and starts wagging his finger and saying "no, no, no", apart from Stanley, haven't been told off by a younger child for a while lol. 

Well that the start of the day and I have decided to walk 1.5 km up a one in eight hill in 35c with no sunhat and limited cover, stupid or what???  I arrive at Lion Gate and this taxi driver is harassing me to pay him 60 schekels (15 pounds ( American key board no pound signs)) to be driven up the hill, then he says better go Bethlehem, no visa needed today?????

I walk down a steep hill to The Garden of Gethsemani, small, quaint and the olive trees which are fenced off to stop people breaking off branches.  It is thought a number of the trees are that old they would have witnessed the betrayal of Jesus.  The gardener told me atleast one was 2,000 years old and others were born of the roots of other original trees.   

You may remember that I shared my flight out with a young Spanish couple and I never got to say good bye to the lady at the airport which I regretted.  Now you can believe in co-incidence or you can believe in Gods plan for us all as individuals.  Well, a positive happened and I thank Jesus because he must have listened to me and my regret at not saying good bye properly because a tall man taps me on the shoulder and asks, how am I? How have my first days been?  I look a bit puzzled and he reminded me we shared our flight, it was the Spanish guy from the couple!  I turn round and his girlfriend is standing with a beaming smile asking me how I am.  Now, the size of Jerusalem, the things to see and do, the times of the day and somebody brought us together for one last time to greet and wish each other well.  I told her how I was sad not to thank her for her company and I believe Jesus gave me this second opportunity which I embraced, just wow, unbelievable.  We hugged, wish each other well and off they went in the sun.

I popped into the Basilica next to the garden, admired the art work and thanked God for his gift of being here in Jerusalem through small prayer.  I also asked him to ensure Karen would have a safe journey and would he look out for her please.  The door architecture of the Basilica was a Yale product from Wolverhampton, I ask you!

Off I start, the walk up the hill, first problem, do I follow the very steep road or a smaller track?  I follow the track which seems to be correct but at the top it doubles back and goes back down to where I came from, 20 minutes of wasted energy in a baking sun for nothing!  I hear a giggle behind me and guess what, its the Spanish couple again who like me cant believe what they have done!  At the bottom of the track  I find a set of stairs, the fact that they were empty and going on forever, just like in the film "A Matter of Life and Death", should have been a warning, one I chose to ignore.  Almost 45 minutes and 460 steps later, I am frying and decide this is going no where as there are more and more steps, so I turned round and wasted another 10 minutes went back down, gave up and had an ice lolly and cup of mint tea instead. 

Well that was a waste of time and a loss of over an hour, all for a lolly and a cup of tea!  I went back down for lunch in Gethsemani, an apple and two bananas and water.  Eventually I treck back up to Lion Gate and another taxi driver wants to take me to Bethlehem for a 100 pounds, no thank you.

I wander back to my café and have another mint tea and here I see a most wonderful thing, so wonderful I sneaked my phone to take a picture through the window.  At the army checkpoint is a big guy in full body kit and AK47, big, Jack Reacher/Graeme size and with his gear on, extra wide too.  I see him drop, bending over to chat to a little Palestinian girl about 6 or 7 and almost at eye level they engage in happy conversation.  She strokes his badges and epaulettes as they chat together, again, eye to eye and both smiling and laughing, all in the presence of what looked like mom and nan?  I spoke to him later and told him how I was captivated by the process and his happiness to the child.  He explained about community relations and how some soldiers are openly spat at or abused and how it was about wining hearts and minds, starting with the children, let her see I am real, a human being.  I congratulated him, shook his hand and told him he was a gentleman, he thanked me.  It was emotionally overpowering knowing how fragile peace is in that part of the world.

I wandered back to St. Georges but not without stopping at The Garden Tomb.  This is an alternative view that Jesus was both crucified and buried at this site to that of the Church of The Holy Scepulture.  The usual peace and tranquility was broken by a choir from Kenya, lol, so I shall go back again for more reflection.  This is administered by an American Foundation.  I shall go back.  I have to admit to myself I am a bit confused now and sad.

After evensong again, I am approached by a woman of similar age also travelling alone from Calgary, Canada, Carol-Ann.  She could see I was alone as a solo traveler and asked if we might eat together and converse together.  She also correctly judged that in this fragile place, I needed to understand the doos and donts of solo travelling.  First thing she did was not to go to Bethlehem alone, 'you will not be safe Paul'. 

It all turned out quite good really because she took me down town to the main Jewish centre where the local Jews promenade and eat of an evening, Jewish street markets, street cafes and so on.  To get there she familiarized me with the metro tram and how to use the ticket machine.  Much to my amazement, your tickets are checked by armed Police and on the return journey we were accompanied by 6 young women no older than 20, again, all armed and with body kit for security and all on their mobile phones!  It was so curiously different to see the Jews at play juxt the occasional testosterone fuelled journeys and occasional tension in the Old City.  There was a guy with his hat and ringlets operating this three feet tall puppet also with a cap and ringlets and singing what appeared to satirical songs, quite funny!

We had a final drink together and spent half an hour discussing the pros an cons of not getting too hung up on the fine detail of Jerusalem, Jesus and the past, thank you Margaret Wootton, I remember our similar conversations .  To recognize these may not be the actual streets as times change but nevertheless it was still Jerusalem, still Jesus, its still the same place just not the same time.  Then we talked about Bo Jo, globalization, nationalistic views and how she thinks Trudeau of Canada is a spineless wimp, ah well!!!!!!!!

The day is over, it didn't finish how it was meant to be but finished better than I thought it would be and I will always treasure that beautiful image of that gentleman and the little girl. 

Oh and by the way, you remember I asked God to protect Karen on her journey alone?  Well, she only had the best seat in the house, first row, next to the door and with mega leg room for obvious reasons.  Don't care what you say Karen and your scientific secular mind, lol,  I know for sure that God reserved you that seat so you would be comfortable and enjoy your flight!

All my love to you all and God Bless you and keep you all safe, remember what Chris said, don't try to understand, just believe and I am, good night Monday from Tuesday morning, Paul x. And I walked 6.5 miles and 16,500 steps today!

Sunday 28th July,

Today has been my first full day in Jerusalem and its been very much walking the Old City and trying to find my bearings in comparison to looking at a map.  I remember Roger saying the Old City is not as big as you think it is but the street markets seem to go one forever. 

Well my first change of plan is that The Garden Tomb is closed on a Sunday so that will have to wait until tomorrow.  I entered the Old City at the Damascus Gate, quite an imposing structure that leads straight into Arabic street markets,  I expected to see some military presence but even at the gate there were 3 security structures with armed soldiers and para-military police all armed with AK47 style heavy guns and all kitted out in fully protective body armour in 30 degrees plus.  This was repeated on several occasions throughout the market on street corners, quite imposing!

Quite quickly I stumbled purely by accident upon Via Dolorosa and to think these are the streets that Jesus would have walked was a little breathtaking and spiritual.  Things have changed from the days of Jesus obviously but it does not detract from the fact that its the same city and the same streets in a different format. 

Following on from that street I suddenly found myself at a bag x-ray checkpoint and a check as I found myself coming out of a covered tunnel and on to the West Wall of Jerusalem, the most sacred place of the Jewish faith and one could simply sense the emotional electricity and presence of faith and belief.  As a Christian, I found myself looking in awe at the wall because I could understand what this meant to believers and whether or not we agree, it is right to understand and acknowledge.

The Old City was quite a pot of mixtures with Jews, Christians, Palestinian Muslims and Armenian Catholics, all in this one tight place.  The Old City is in a very significant Arabic area and I was a bit surprised as somehow I thought they had been displaced from the city but that is not the case.  Most of the shops and markets where I am are Palestinian.

After having had my first Palestinian meal at lunch with a superb cup of mint tea, I wandered off into other parts of the Old City and it was nothing but narrow streets of markets and souks which sold lots of everything. A million words and pictures will not capture the noise and smells of spices, sweets (baklava by the ton Karen), leather products and all sorts. 

Here I had a wonderful experience where I met a Palestinian deaf family having a chat on a street corner!  Well for those of you that know me well enough, I speak to anyone and especially deaf people.  They were so pleased and amazed to have a European tourist trying to sign to them.  They got to know my parents were deaf, I was hearing, I was stopping for 7 nights and was on holiday!  I have to say it was the female (wife?) who was well in control of communication and she understood me enough to share my journey.  It was so good that we used sign language to transcend our own languages of English and Arabic.

My wanderings took me up David Street to the Jaffa Gate and also The Tower of King David.  It was time then to return back to St. Georges in time for Evensong and a meal in the garden where I was able to eat with a group of archaeological/theological students from the USA and Canada but being led by a British Clergyman (Canon) and 6 women from Fiji who had the most amazing voices when they sung in church!  Would you believe they wanted to know my view on Boris and Brexit!

Time then for bed, a long hot day but a wonderful feeling of knowing I have been so close to Jesus and this was about real things and not stories in a book.  God bless you all and more to come tomorrow where I shall try to walk to the Mount of Olives and Church of The Rock but we will see if I am up to it, good night all x

Saturday 27th July continued........

This has been a nice day but also a day with major communication issues but eventually all’s we’ll that ends well as Mr. Shakespeare would say, eh Graeme?

The pilot lost his take off slot at Heathrow and we take off one hour late at 8.55 a.m. but 4 hours 25 minutes later we’re touching down, I look out the window and it’s............Israel!, just so surreal, can’t believe where I am and where I am going!  As predicted, long and slow through Border Control that by the time I had got to carousel 10, it had stopped working and just a dozen or so cases were left lying around, mine being one of them!  Everyone else had gone, an entire packed flight from London???????

The next issue as I have said is that I have picked the Sabbat so the new super faster train isn’t running and neither is the old slow one either. So, I sort myself a sherrut, a shared minibus taxi in which I am delivered to the door of St. George’s for £17.50 which is not bad considering the price of a bus from Bloxwich to Walsall!

This part of the journey is the beginning of spiritual feelings in that although Israel is a developing country, I see and know I am now travelling The Holy Land and I am just looking out the windows in fascination. This is the same land, earth, rocks and road travelled by a Jesus and his disciples in practicing their ministry, this is for real!!!

Luckily I was the third drop off and quite enviously my fellow passengers were peeping through the large stone arch and inner courtyard of St. George’s Anglican Cathedral. Although only completed in 1899, it’s honey coloured limestone resembled the Cotswolds giving an appearance of something much older and with presence. I have yet to see the inner place of worship but that will be tomorrow (Sunday). One piece of quirky history is that the outer courtyard wall is home to a real, proper, authentic Victorian/Edwardian old British red post box!

At this point, late afternoon, I discover I have only limited intermittent internet, no speaky phone, no Whattsapp, no speaky Whattsapp and no SMS text messaging, almost nothing! How am I to do the blog, how am I to tell my loved ones I am safe?  For a while I am completely cut off and am thinking public telephone????? For a fluke , I had a brief 10 minute window where I received a call from my oldest son Stuart so after having explained my predicament, he agreed to ring EE for me from the UK. I then managed to speak to Karen who also agreed to chat to EE! Between them both I was sorted and now had the power of a mobile phone!!!! Thank you both so so much !! X

At this point I wandered off and found a local supermarket for milk (got to have my Yorkshire Tea), bottled water and a local flat kebab like sandwich, all under the gaze of a Turkish red crescent flag. I soon discover I am in a shop full of local Palestinians and I am in the Palestinian quarter! Karen will tell you I talk to anyone and soon I have broken a golden rule of talking politics, learning about the 1917 treaty and The despised Balfour Treaty of 1947/48, despised by the Palestinians as it established the state of Israel, much to the chagrin and ire of my hosts!

Can you imagine going to Israel and talking politics in a room full of Palestinians? Who in their right mind would do that? Karen will tell you I always take her to risky places, remember the taxi and backstreets of Havana Karen lol?

Waiting for Stuart and EE, I took a short walk of 10/15 minutes to the Damascus  Gate, one of the six original gates of the Old City walls and ramparts, straight into a Palestinian street market where they sold Kit Kats and Quality Street, it’s true, I have the picture to prove it! This showed how integrated Jerusalem is serving Muslim, Jewish and Christian faiths all in the Old City.

My next surprise was to see I was passing The Garden Tomb, the place where it is believed The Lord was placed after his passing on Easter Day. The academics might say otherwise but there is a strong resemblance to the description in the scriptures. This brought me back to a spiritual plane in that here am I passing the final resting place of Jesus Christ. This again is so surreal that I have traversed the lands trodden by The Lord and now I am soon to see where his body was laid that fateful day but that is for tomorrow (Sunday).

Well, as I had net problems I did not finish this till early Sunday morning, just after midnight but what does Sunday hold, my first worship in Israel, an Anglo/Israeli breakfast and an amble round the Old City to get a lie if the land and yes, my promised visit to The Garden Tomb.

God bless you all, with or without faith and chat to you tomorrow, lots of Gods grace and my love, Paul.

Saturday 27th July

Good morning all, it’s 5.55 am and I am all checked in and sitting in the departure lounge, excited yet nervous and looking forward to Jerusalem and Israel although they have had border trouble yesterday but not near Jerusalem! Happy to know this is the next part of God’s plan for me!  Will update as the day progresses, God’s grace to you all, Paul. X

Friday 26th July

Well, the time its coming nearer and I have had a busy day doing a couple of nice things with one of my grandsons, Jack as I shall not see him for a couple of weeks due to his own holiday arrangements.

Karen has been wonderful again surpassing her packing skills and getting everything ready for me.

Can't help but have to admit the butterflies were well fluttering this morning with the anxiety of taking on this journey and all that it entails, never having been away this long totally on my own and also never having gone overseas on my own.

This time tomorrow I shall hopefully be sleeping in Jerusalem and resting, hoping to catch up with all the time and running around.  

I shall be leaving no later than 2.00 a.m., hoping to be at Heathrow by 4.30 and checked in from 5.00 onwards, take off being 7.55 a.m.

Lots of love to all you that will be reading this and speak soon, all my love and Gods blessings, Paul.

Thursday 25th July

Hello all my family, my dear personal friends and my church friends from the congregations of All Saints, St. Thomas's and Holy Ascension who are following my journey to Jerusalem.  Please be patient with me as this is my first attempt at a blog and I am not so sure I know what I am doing!  Karen my partner might say that's fairly normal for me as technology and myself are not good partners, me being a bit of a technophobel!!!!!

Where and when am I going?  Jerusalem, flying to Tel Aviv from London Heathrow Airport with British Airways on the 27th and stopping at the St. George's Cathedral Pilgrim's Hostel for 7 nights.

Here lies my first two mistakes a) I should have flown with El Al from Luton, easier to get to and to experience a national airline of another country and b) I should never have booked a Saturday flight, The Sabbat in Israel, hence no trains from the airport to Jerusalem.  It looks like a bit of a wait for a sherrut minibus and a longer journey, ah well!

Why am I going?  A combination of the need to further explore my faith, seeing and understanding the scriptures in a real situation.  For this I thank Chris Davies and Helen Thorp-Wood for showing me a new way in October 2018, Trish for Compline and for Roger in genuinely guiding and encouraging my faith, leading to my Confirmation in April 2019.  Thank you also, Brian and Margaret at All Saints.  Through them I have discovered God's plan for me and Chris's advice of not trying to understand but simply to believe.  I have also had my experiences where I know God has spoken to me through words and deeds.

I also have a passion for history, thank you dad - I owe you so much for your wonderful stories of history and from being a child, a fascination about The Crusades so for me its a bit of both and as we never know what is round the corner for us all, it will be a fine opportunity to pursue and explore my curiosity and expand my faith.

At the moment, I find following my faith as being akin to scripture lessons when I was in the Junior School and I feel I am learning The Scriptures all over again and all it seems so hard to retain; I hope my journey will help me understand and see more.  I am saddened I may not have time to visit Nazareth and Galilee but hopefully that may come another day?

What shall I do when I get to Jerusalem?  My initial plan is to spend five days in Jerusalem, a day out to Bethlehem and also a day to visit the the remains of the Crusader fortress at Acre (Akka).

Although the Old City is small, there is so much to see and I haven't as yet sorted my itinerary which I guess I will end up doing at the airport or on the plane.  I believe my accommodation is close to the Damascus Gate, an aspect of the city walls that in some places remain and are accessible, that is on my list!

I do not wish to confuse the Holy sites with tourist hot spots but it seems not so easy to separate that so the importance is down to the intention of a visit and what drives a desire to visit a place.  For me this will be about wanting to be there, living and feeling and not just ticking off a list.  It goes without saying that the Mount of Olives, the Garden of Gethsemane are essential to me, together with the Church of the Holy Sepulchre and the West Wall will also give me that chance to see all three religions in one city. 

However, there is one over-riding place and journey I have to do and that represents a real pilgrimage for me, that being to walk the Via Dolorosa, to walk the final steps of The Lord Jesus Christ on his last journey.  I shall do this alone so The Lord and I can be at one together.  

I do hope however to participate on the walk again on Friday afternoon with the Franciscan Monks, to feel the experience of joint worship.  This will be the one journey that will be my priority in that all I see and do.  I thank you,  Chris Davies for this and your enlightenment of my understanding through a specific Emmaus workshop one Tuesday evening, thank you again Chris.

So thank you all for taking the time to read my words.  I'm told its not easy to update the blog off a mobile phone but we shall see how things go and pictures seem a further complication but I will do my best.  I am off to start to pack my case now and may the Almighty bless you all this fine sunny day, for which we should be grateful although we are all moaning it's too hot, the Grace of God be with you all, good night, Paul.