|The church of Elias Chacour|
|The steps leading up to the|
church with the Beatitudes
in several languages
I travelled to Israel on March 2nd 2014 primarily to visit Ibillin in the hope of a personal interview with Abuna Elias Chacour who was the Archbishop of Akko, Haifa, Nazareth and All Galilee of the Melkite Greek Catholic Church from 2006 to just before I arrived. He had only just retired. St John's Church has been supporting his work since Rev. Graham Trasler took groups on pilgrimage to the Holy Land in the 1980s and 90s. Elias Chacour has written several books recounting his childhood in Bir'em, a Palestinian Christian village in the North of what is now Israel.
|The Ash Wednesday Ashing ceremony |
performed by Bernhard, the German priest
|Inside the church|
Even the people I sat with on my flight over gave a taste of the divisions in this land. Next to me was an Israeli avidly reading a huge tome on the background and cults of Islam, and on the aisle seat, was a very tired looking Roman Catholic priest. On the way back it was journalists who occupied the two seats next to me.
So my journey in Israel began with a rather low powered car that struggled with hills and a useless Sat Nav from Ben Gurion airport, Tel Aviv. The Sat Nav did not recognise the name Ibellin and nor did most of the people I asked for help on the way. A late night drive on the other side of the road, with all controls in opposite positions to what I was used to was pretty awful, but getting very lost indeed without a clue as to where I was, was so bad that I resorted to approaching an Israeli police car at some road works. One of the many God moments on my travels. The policeman drove me in convoy to Ibellin with lights flashing and saved the day! A few days later that same police officer, off duty, stopped me in Nazareth to make sure I was OK!
|An English lesson for 14 year olds|
|Michael (Mica) Chacour|
|Elias Chacour's front door|
|Church of the 12 Apostles|
|Inside the church of the 12 Apostles.|
|Sea of Galilee|
The following day I visited Nazareth. Nazareth is very much like old Jerusalem in places and I felt very at home. I first visited the Greek Orthodox church where they were having an Ash Wednesday service. It is a beautiful church so I was glad to be able to listen and even to see the murals and the spring in an older part that feeds the well that Mary is reputed to have used.
|Greek Orthodox Church Nazareth|
|Inside the Basilica|
|Church warden of Anglican Church|
|Anglican Church Nazareth|
|Mica looking out over Safed|
|Mica at the door of Bir'em Church|
|Inside Bir'em Church|
|The remains of Bir'em|
|The Lebanese Border|
|The Caananite Gate|
We then travelled further into the Golan heights very close to the border with Syria. It was a strange place to be and felt very quiet and 'peaceful' - very eerie.
|A Syrian town in the distance|
|Picnic at Caesaria Philipi|
After a morning talk by Elias Chacour, I finally had a private meeting with him on the afternoon of Saturday 8th March. I have two recorded messages from him. One is about Islam and the relationship between Islam and Christianity in the Holy Land, which I include here. the second is a personal message to St John's which I will share when I do a presentation on June 3rd.
I arrived safely in Jerusalem despite the Sat Nav and it was a relief to hand the car back. Having had a glorious week it began to rain and steadily got colder. Little did I know what was in store!
|Elias Chacour gives his views on Islam|
in the Holy Land
|Entertainment, food, company and fun|
at the Ibellin Guesthouse