After 2 years of postponements due to Covid, the first Ecumenical Pilgrimage from Jersey to the Holy Land finally departed on Thursday, 13th October with 38 Pilgrims.
We departed Jersey at around 14.15 after a short delay and arrived at Tel Aviv Airport in the early hours of the morning and transferred to the Gloria Hotel just inside the Jaffa Gate in Jerusalem.

Our Spiritual Directors were Canon Dominic Golding, KCHS, Catholic Dean in Jersey and Rev Jeff Wattley, Vicar at Gouray Church. They shared the ministry with Mass celebrated each day by Canon Dominic and Rev Jeff celebrated liturgies at different sites including at the Baptism site at Qasr al Yahud, at Cana and on the boat on the Sea of Galilee. Through his contacts in Jerusalem, Rev Jeff made it possible to visit the very beautiful Garden Tomb in Jerusalem. We learnt a great deal from each other and everyone was respectful of the other beliefs.

We were blessed with our exceptional Guide Haitham Daibes and driver George. Haitham is very knowledgeable and interesting in what he had to say. He gave us huge insight into the places we visited and about the people living in the country. He has a very gentle nature and dealt with everyone with care and politeness. They both went the over and above what one would expect from them, they had a sense of humour and were always smiling - nothing was too much trouble for either of them.

Each day commenced at 07.40 with Morning Prayer and followed by breakfast after which most days we set off at 09.00. Every day was full and busy but every moment was worthwhile. On the first Sunday we checked out of the Gloria Hotel and the group split up with some going to St George’s Cathedral for Anglican Eucharist and the rest of the group going to Bethlehem to the Church of Our Lady of Fatima for Mass.

We all met up for lunch in Bethlehem before visiting the sites there.

We checked in to Manger Square Hotel where some of the local FHL Committee – Laila Asfoura, Gloria Nasser and Husam Wahhab gave the Pilgrims a presentation with insight to the work being done to help those in need.

The visits to the School of Joy and St Martha’s House were very successful and moving.
Fr Mamdouh spoke very movingly to the group about the school and its aims and explained ways in which we could provide help.

FHL (Jersey) had already secured match funding between Jersey Overseas Aid and the Barry Burns Trust (a local Trust in Jersey) to pay the salary of a teacher at the School of Joy for two years.
It was wonderful to meet this young teacher and spend time in the classroom with her and her students.


Pictures of the teacher, Nouha Naser with her class and with the FHL Jersey team.

We were greeted by Laila on our arrival at St Martha’s House.
The ladies were so pleased to have a visit and you could see the joy on the ladies faces and we all enjoyed meeting and dancing with them.

Pilgrims and ladies at St Martha's House.

It is only when people experience first-hand what really goes on in the Holy Land that it is understood and then you gain results – so far some of the Pilgrims have provided sponsorship for up to 6 children at the School of Joy and there have been donations made to St Martha’s House.

The initiative of one of our Pilgrims was to have a collection for Christmas Presents for the children and the local Catenian Circle donated raffle money to this and our Pilgrimage Reunion added to it.

We travelled to Nazareth where we stayed for two nights. We had three local Catenian Brothers with us so we arranged to meet up with some members of the Nazareth Circle. Habib Karem who is the founder member and the newest member of the Circle joined some of us in the Hotel for drinks.  We had a very interesting and convivial evening.

On Friday, we moved to Tiberias and visited many sites there.
Perhaps the most memorable was celebrating Mass at Tabgha at one of the outside altars with the lake directly beside us.

Our departure from Tiberias on 23rd was at 2.00am in the morning and we arrived back in Jersey, after a delay of around 3 hours, at 20.40 that night – very tired but elated.

It was a very busy Pilgrimage but most rewarding and the Pilgrims were so pleased that they travelled and experienced the places where Jesus worked and walked.

Cheryl MacFirbhisigh
Pilgrimage Organiser
Acting Chair FHL (Jersey)