The Journey Home
The journey home began at 1am when the bus arrived to transport us to the airport. Our final session had been a sombre one, led by a mother whose son had been horribly injured and a father whose daughter had been killed in suicide bombings. They had spoken openly about these personal tragedies, reminding us that at the heart of the Holy Land's religious and political tensions lie very personal and human stories. As a consequence the journey to the airport had been a quiet and reflective one. There was also a sense of looming loss with ending of our pilgrimage and the breaking up such a wonderful group dynamic.
The mood had been lightened by a minor accident before we left the Guesthouse, when someone dropped a glass which smashed on the floor. The Jews immediately made a connection with the tradition of breaking a glass at the end of a wedding celebration.
Various explanations are offered for this ancient custom. One which I like is that as the broken glass is changed for ever, so are the couple changed by the marriage and take on a new form.
I sense that all who took part in the pilgrimage will have been changed by the experience of living together with people of different faiths and cultures and by the exposure to so many individuals and their stories.
The journey home itself was uneventful, with none of the hassles of the arrival at Ben-Gurion. This time the home work done with the Israeli Embassy paid off as an official with all our details ushered us as a group through airport security. Ironically, on arrival into Edinburgh, we were caught up in a large crowd from other flights waiting to go through passport control. Meanwhile, the one member of our group whose passport was not British sailed through the foreign passport desk with a cheery, cheeky wave to his fellow pilgrims. Then it was time for final farewells with much cross-cultural hugging - perhaps itself a powerful statement to those waiting in the arrivals hall.
Finlay Macdonald is a Church of Scotland minister, Principal Clerk to, and former Moderator of the Church’s General Assembly; he is active in inter-faith dialogue and is a member of the Scottish Religious Leaders’ meeting.