After 5 weeks in Scotland on furlough, I returned to Tiberias in early December. As always, it was good to be in Scotland, but equally good to return. I feel very much at home in Tiberias, especially now that I have moved into Yakfie. One reason for my slightly shortened furlough was to get back and prepare for the Moderator’s visit. David Arnott had been my ‘bishop’ during my probationary year in Netherlee, so it was good to be with him and Rosemary again. They had a busy time, including visiting Gaza and culminating their visit by spending Christmas Eve in Bethlehem, but it was also good to welcome them to Galilee. On the Sunday morning we worshipped in the Anglican church in Haifa, which was incredibly welcoming. It was also good to see here and also at the House of Grace, so many food parcels ready to deliver to those in need in the community. In the evening, just before preaching at the service in Tiberias, David dedicated the Peace garden at St. Andrew’s in Tiberias. The water was running in the fountain, as we gathered round the Peace pole, lighting candles to show our commitment to peace and reconciliation.
During the afternoon of that Sunday (we seemed to pack in so much!), we had had an audience with Archbishop Chacour of the Melkite church, before visiting our partners at the House of Grace and Sinyanna. However, before we rushed back to Tiberias for the service, we made our way to the countryside on the southern side of Nazareth, where we are working with Sindyanna to plant an olive grove. The Moderator dedicated the Grove and unveiled a plaque in memory of Nesreen Abdo, who had worked so faithfully in the Hotel. It was lovely that her parents and family were able to attend. Trees will be planted there for members of staff at the Hotel on their birthday, for example, and hopefully it will be a place where the Hotel staff or the children from Tabeetha School can come on an outing.
On the way to Jerusalem to meet up with the Moderator and his party, I found myself stopped in the Jordan Valley waiting for a whirlwind to pass. It was like something out of the ‘Wizard of Oz’, but fortunately I wasn’t whisked over the rainbow and could make my way to Yad Vashem, a museum complex which commemorates the Holocaust and where David would lay a wreath. It must be almost 30 years since I was last there, and I found it a deeply moving experience. The new museum is very impressive, but somehow it was walking round the gardens afterwards which I felt humbling, looking at names under the trees or at a railway carriage, in which people would have been transported to a concentration camp. I also spent time searching out the Garden of the Righteous, to look for the name of Jane Haining, the Church of Scotland missionary from Budapest, who had died in one of the camps along with her pupils. It was good to see it.