Friday, June 30, 2006
People like to have some free time to absorb the Holy City of Jerusalem. So we decided to add an extra day onto the pilgrimage. We offered an option trip to Masada where the Jews made their last stand against Rome in 72 AD, to Qumran where they found the Dead Sea Scrolls, to Jericho to see the Sycamore Tree of Zacchaeus (Lk 19:4) and the Mount of Temptation where Satan took Jesus to show him the kingdoms of the world (Mt 4).
The lunch in Jericho was – in my estimation and others as well – the finest lunch we had during the whole trip.
After lunch we did what everyone was waiting for – swimming, or should I say, bobbing in the Dead Sea. The temperature was over 100 degrees and every one that joined the trip (a little over ½ of the pilgrims) had a great time floating in the water with their heads, arms and feet sticking up in the air as they each bobbed in the water, unable to sink. A great time was had by all.
We arrived in time to give them 3 free hours. The rest of the pilgrims spent the day visiting the Old City, praying at the Holy Sepulchre, viewing the archaeological sites (especially the Davidson Center with Fr. Gerald). Everyone enjoyed the free time and I even suspect a few might have taken a nap knowing the plane would leave early in the morning.
Fr. Gerald offered Mass at midnight and then everyone climbed the bus and headed to the airport. There were many hugs, even tears and kind words for everyone. It was very sad to see the bus pull out. I stepped on one last time and thanked everyone for trusting Janet and I and not letting fear keep them from the Holy Land. The tail lights disappeared around the corner and it was all quiet.
Thank God for a great pilgrimage and we look forward to continued correspondence and friendship. We will keep everyone in our prayers as we plan our next trip. Blessed be God forever.