|The Dome of the Rock on Temple Mount|
We have a slow drive through the morning traffic and drive to Dung Gate - fortunately no sign of any dung. We enter the Old City and go straight into the security check. Having had quite a discussion on the bus about whether it will be safe today on the Temple of the Mount, we sail through security without any problem.
The Dome of the Rock and the Al Aqsa Mosque are such important places, to Jews, Christians, and of course Muslims. Since the intifada, non-Muslims are no longer permitted to enter the two buildings, but we nevertheless stand and marvel at the history and these beautiful buildings - in fact you feel the history. King Hussein of Jordan sold a UK property to pay for the cost of guilding the roof of the Dome.
Then we head to the Western Wall to observe this very holy place for the Jews. Some of us join them in prayer at the wall.
We are given free time in the Old City. Some head off to walk around the city walls, other go back to the Church of the Holy Sepulcre, some sit in the sunshine and enjoy a coffee. We grab lunch on the way and then we all find our way through the narrow streets to Zion Gate to meet at 1pm. Bishara, our guide shows us the bullet marks on the gate which date back to the times before 1967 when this was the border between Israel and Jordan.
Our next stop is the House of Caiaphas, the High priest, now the Church of St Peter Gallivant. This is where Jesus was brought up the steps from the Kieron Valley by the soldiers, to the questioned by Caiaphas. The steps are there, and we imagine the scene. We see the dungeon where Jesus was held and hear the story of Peter denying Jesus. This is an amazing place and we all feel part of the story.
Back on the bus and off to Ein Karem, the home of John the Baptist. It is also the place where Mary came to see Elizabeth during her pregnancy. That occurred at the family's summer house high on the hill. It means a stiff climb, so some decide to wait for our return. Others grab an ice cream and enjoy that as they climb up in the warm sunshine. It was worth the effort to see the beautiful Church of the Visitation.
On the way back home we stop off in one of the Palestinian souvenir shops. Plenty of olive wood and other beautiful things - some of our readers might be receiving a gift from here on our return.
We get a welcome rest before dinner at 7pm. Meals have been outstanding and everyone is grateful after our long day. However the day is not quite complete as we have a speaker at 8pm - Sulim Munayer from Musalaha. He tells us about his work in reconciliation. This involves taking groups of people from both sides of the conflict and getting them to recognise their common humanity to help them address their feelings for each other.
People are sleeping well!
Every day so far has been packed with sights, stories, smells, sounds and tastes. All of our senses are on full alert to absorb everything around us in this amazing place. Our 10 day pilgrimage will end in Galilee where we hope that there will an opportunity for some quiet time in beautiful surroundings to make sense of our feeling.