Day one: arriving in the Holy Land

Tel Aviv airport was relatively quiet, so I’m told, this visit to the Holy Land being my first.

We landed as the sun was heading over the horizon and Shabbat was beginning. I’d anticipated the temperature being where it was, about 19 degrees but the humidity was a surprise.

BesheraWe boarded our coach, a lovely purple colour, just right for the brand colours of Embrace! Our driver for the tour is Ahmed and our tour guide is Bishara. Bishara is funny in a light-hearted way; determined, especially in the way he shepherds us and he has a deep passion for his homeland that is already shining.

As we drove east, he described the areas we are going to see, he talked of the Biblical events that took place. We drove from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem along the settler’s road, and as we topped a hill, he pointed at a valley and said that would possibly be where Jesus approached the city at the beginning of ‘His agony’.

It’s a term to describe Holy Week I have heard before, but as we wound through rugged limestone valleys at dusk, the suddenness of such an emotive term, of it brought tears to my eyes. I’d wanted to prepare myself in all sorts of ways for this trip, but of course isn’t hasn’t happened. Indeed, it’s the season of Lent which although it has morphed into enjoyable challenges, tackling our addictions and forming new habits rather I still aim to make it a time of discipline and measured reflection. However, I often leave thinking about His agony until Good Friday if indeed I think about it at all. “Sunday’s coming”, washes away the Agony. Hearing Bishara use the words genuinely, without trying to provoke emotion, felt important. Words, language matters.

The situation here is so complex that it is almost impossible to understand it, let alone communicate it quickly in any meaningful way, way. Turning the abstract into the relational is one of the biggest challenges in my role as a communicator, and in charity work in general.

In a world that is starting to really distrust charities and NGOs, it is more important than ever to be truthful and direct in our communication. Part of my job in exploring fresh ways for Embrace talk about our work and talk to the people we work with and serve. I tell events in 140 charaters, try to come up with witty, repateable soundbites, try to create something that might just , if we’re lucky, ‘go viral’…..but as I look forward to venturing out today into this Holy Land, I am already feeling the responsibility of making sure I do it right.

The word amplify has been in my mind the last couple of weeks as I’ve tried to prepare for this trip, I’ve been thinking about how the job of a communicator is often said to ‘give a voice to the voiceless.’ But as write this I can hear the call of the muezzin, amplified from the top of a nearby minaret, my job is to do the same – amplify the voices of those who are ignored.


During Compline last night, our leader asked us to think reflect on three things– and I’m going to add those three things to each blog

What surprised me today: The humidity in the city and the deep warmth of the February sunset

What delighted me today: The beautiful limestone hills and valleys

What upset me today: My first view of the separation barrier as we entered Bethlehem, the old watchtower built in at the checkpoint


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