As some of you will know -- I have just returned after spending February and March 2017 at Tantur Ecumenical Institute, Jerusalem overlooking Bethlehem. My Sabbatical in the Holy Land was my 5th time there -- and the longest time I have been able to spend in the land that St. Jerome called the 5th Gospel. I brought home so many amazing memories -- of people, places, and experiences.
I hope to share more of them on my blog as time permits.
Meanwhile, you can't spend 2 months wandering around the Holy Land without coming home with a few ideas to tweak the planned 2019 Pilgrimage. I am reviewing our agenda and itinerary -- with an eye to fine tuning it a bit. I spent some time while in Jerusalem in conversation with Tony (of Albina Tours) and with Frederic (of Tantur) and there are a few tweaks to our program that I am considering.
First -- I would like to consider a "Living Stones" day for the first of our two days at the end of the pilgrimage. We would visit a Jewish Settlement / Kibbutz in the West Bank, the Tent of Nations (a Palestinian Farmer who struggles to keep an illegal settlement from annexing his olive grove), a UN Refugee Camp, and a walk through the Old City of Hebron to see both another settlement and the Cave of the Patriarchs. Our joint-tour leaders for this day would be a Jewish Rabbi it training and a Palestinian Teacher from Bethlehem (Men I met at Tantur). The two of them are friends -- yet they have lived very different lives and their narratives / experiences are very divergent. The day would be an extraordinary opportunity to hear different narratives and through this, to better understand the lives and circumstances of the people of the Holy Land. This outing would add some cost to the program (another day of bus, two guides, and a lunch out.)
I think I know where I can save some money -- by cutting back from a 4 star to a 3 star in Petra. I am exploring that now. The hotel we are presently booked for is frankly better than we need -- and we are likely paying a bit extra because it is beside the entrance to the Siq. By walking 3 blocks we can save enough to cover a good chunk of the cost of the Living Stones Day. I am working on it.
I am also thinking we might change the sequence of our visits in Jordan a bit. By changing the route and sequence we might be able to include the amazing site of Jerash (Biblical Gerasa - one of the cities of the Decapolis and an amazing late Roman archaeological site.) I am working on this with our tour operator.
What do you think?