Since the Hamas attack on Israel on Oct. 7, the world has been watching the unfolding events in the Holy Land with bated breath. How does this affect the pilgrimage Bishop David and I are planning for May 2024?
Let me try to give a brief update and some context. Nobody has any idea how and when the present hostilities will end. This conflict is more extensive than the usual periodic flareups and will likely last somewhat longer and it may get worse before it gets better.
The huge civilian casualties in the Gaza Strip and renewed Settler violence in the West Bank risk the possibility of this conflict widening into a regional conflict.
Massive diplomatic efforts are underway to prevent this which I believe will be successful. My best guess is that international pressure will result in some sort of cessation of hostilities in the next month and that the conflict will then end almost as suddenly as it began.
Israel and Palestine will then pivot from being at war to trying hard to put out the welcome mat to receive tourists and pilgrims that form such an important part of their economies.
My prayer is that in the aftermath of all this will come some renewed dialogue between the parties seeking a just and permanent settlement of these complex issues.
I never take my tour groups to, or even near to the Gaza Strip. There are no Biblical sites of interest to Christian Pilgrims there.
Further, I never take my groups into locations where protests or demonstrations are planned. Each morning on tour I meet over breakfast with the manager of our tour operator and with our local tour guide and we adjust the itinerary as needed.
In all my tours of the Holy Land, I have never been in a situation where my group was in any danger whatsoever. It will be the same in 2024.
Just so you know, Bishop David and I are working on a “Plan B.” That would be a fall 2024 pilgrimage —October or early November as a back up plan. Time will tell whether we are able to make our pilgrimage in May 2024 as planned or are delayed until the fall.
One way or another, “Next Year in Jerusalem!”
Co-leaders: Archbishop David Edwards and Canon Vicars Hodge