WEDNESDAY, 17TH NOVEMBER – Abu Gosh and Ein Karim
Tonight, a tearful farewell to Bassam (our Guide) and Wa’lid (our driver). Bassam was an excellent guide who spoke with great knowledge and from his heart shared his passion for this land and for his people. It was good to work with him in such a constructive and easy way.
We began by visiting the Church of S. Peter in Gallicantu (‘cock-crow’) where we had Mass in the crypt. The church is built on the site of a Byzantine church (as so many are) which commemorated the house of the High Priest, Caiaphas. After exploring the prison in which Christ was held during his trial we drove on to Abu Gosh, only to find it closed as the church closed at 1100. The village is the site of ancient Kiriath-Jearim, where the Ark of the Covenant rested whilst in the hands of the Philistines. Bassam, not to be put off, took us to visit the lovely church of ND d’Arche de l'Alliance (Our Lady of the Ark of the Covenant) with its spectacular views over the valley leading to Jerusalem. Lunch was at the Convent of the Sisters of Sion in Ein Karim from where we walked up the hill to the Church of the Visitation, passing Mary’s Well and the abandoned mosque built over it. This place always moves me as it is one of the villages attacked by the Jewish Brigades in 1948, many of whose Arab inhabitants are still living in refugee camps in Bethlehem (over the hill) after they were expelled from their homes. There are two churches here to commemorate the two homes of Elizabeth and Zacharias, parents of John the Baptist. The one in the village contains the shrine to his birth and the other marks the place of the Visitation. It was there that we met an American Franciscan who informed us that today is the feast of S. Elizabeth (of Hungary), patron of the Third Order of S. Francis!
Our final visit was to the Israel Museum and Shrine of the Book where Bassam explained the model of Jerusalem in the 1st cent. AD and then took us to the Shrine. It was after our visit there that we bade farewell to him as we overlooked the Knesset. It seemed so appropriate that, having started our pilgrimage in ancient Galilee we were ending it looking at the sign of Israel (and Palestine’s) future from a place with two memorials – to the Sons of Light and the Sons of Darkness. So much to ponder at the close of a memorable pilgrimage.