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A personal reflection on a Knights Templar Pilgrimage to the Holy Land
As many of you are aware Mark Masons Hall organised a KT Pilgrimage to the Holy Land in June with the intention of not only visiting significant Christian and Knight Templar sites but also to present a cheque following the recent appeal for the Anabta Project, to the St John of Jerusalem Eye Hospital.
It was my privilege to take this journey with over 70 other travellers consisting of Knights’ accompanied by their wives, partners and friends who came from the UK, Hong Kong, Seychelles and Cyprus. Our leader for the tour was R.E. Kt His Hon Ian D.G. Alexander Q.C., K.C.T Great Chancellor who was ably assisted by V.E. Kt Jon Roberts and V.E. Kt Tommy Thomson.
We were split into two coaches A & B, I was on coach B, and for most of the time we arrived at all the sites in that order although the drivers always seemed to go in different directions. I will say that the schedule was quite punishing, with early starts most mornings and not returning to hotels until late afternoon, and plenty of walking. Also the weather was hot, around 90 (32) degrees most days and up to 114 (45) at the Dead Sea, fortunately it was only humid for a few days, so not totally uncomfortable, especially with air-conditioned coaches. For the tour we were based at two different locations, firstly in Jerusalem and then we moved to Tiberius on the banks of the Sea of Galilee, we then returned to Jerusalem for the final 4 days.
To list all the Christian and KT sites we visited would probably be lengthy and boring so I will restrict myself to the highlights I thought important and apologise if I miss something others thought essential to the trip. I will however remark that I think we visited all the Churches in Jerusalem although that was obviously not the case. Something else I thought very strange was that our guide mentioned biblical names without knowing the meaning that we apply in our Masonic ritual or understanding that these biblical names are represented by officers in various Masonic Orders, like ‘Nehemiah rebuilt the First Temple in 445BC’.
We arrived at the hotel late on a Thursday evening but this did not prevent an early start on the Friday morning when we set off for the site of the First Temple, our guide gave us a very factually detailed account of the whole area before we moved to the Western (Wailing) Wall. (A name given to the Western Wall by the British soldiers, after the First World War, on seeing the Jewish people praying at the Wall). The Mount of Olives was next, followed by a walk down the Palm Sunday Road to the Garden of Gethsemane, (was I really standing by the Olive tree where Jesus was betrayed by Judas!), the Church of all Nations and finally back to the coach for a short trip to the Garden Tomb. I must say I also found the Garden Tomb particularly interesting for its beauty, calmness and tranquillity, a place to reflect about our Saviour and we celebrated Holy Communion here. We also visited the Church of the Nativity in Bethlehem and viewed the Shepherds Fields.
On Saturday we walked along the Via Dolorosa to the Holy Sepulchre and viewed all the stops that Jesus made while carrying the cross and finally we journeyed to the Solomon’s Quarries but no Masonic meeting as the Knight who organises this was on holiday.
On Sunday following a Church service we moved to St Georges Monastery, visited Jericho while driving through the Jordan Valley to Belvoir a Crusader Fortress. We checked into our next hotel on at Tiberias on the banks of the Sea of Galilee.
Monday was another early start firstly to the Church of the Loaves and Fishes and on to the Mount of the Beatitudes where Jesus preached his Sermon on the Mount, then on to the Golan Heights, followed by Banias and the source of the River Jordan, also the site of another KT fortress.
Tuesday took us firstly to Cana of Galilee, the Wedding church and site of Jesus’ first miracle, then on to Nazareth and the Church of the Annunciation. After lunch we moved to Mt Tabor which I am sure that those who attend Grand Lodge will recognise, and finally to the Yardenit Baptismal site where 15 of us were re-baptized, a truly moving event and without doubt one on my most happy memories. I know we would all like to thank E.Kt Eric Parrish for carrying out our baptism.
Wednesday concentrated more on KT and Crusader sites at Acre an important Phoenician city port, visited by St Paul. A visit to Montfort and Goren Park followed which are important sites and a Crusaders Castle.
Thursday; at last a day to rest, sunbath, and swim.
Friday saw us depart from Tiberias and return to Jerusalem via Megiddo, a city built by King Solomon and known to us as Armageddon. We finished at Caesarea, the ancient Roman city and excavations of another Crusader Fortress.
Saturday took us to the Dead Sea but more importantly to me we went to Masada to see the remains of Herod’s Winter Place with great views of the Rift Valley. We returned to the Dead Sea, the lowest point on earth where many chose to swim in unsinkable waters. We returned via Qumran where the Dead Sea Scrolls where discovered in 1947.
On Sunday following a Church service we moved to the Israel Museum to view ‘The Shrine of the Book’ where the Dead Sea Scrolls are housed, a model of the Second Temple and finally Yad Vashen (Holocaust Memorial).
Returning to the Hotel to change we attended a reception at the St John of Jerusalem Eye Hospital to present the cheque for the Anabta Project. The cheque was for nearly £140,000 and will be used for eye equipment to assist in treating Retinitis Pigmentosa and Diabetic Retinopathy. This was a truly impressive site and a thoroughly enjoyable evening where we met many of the staff.
On our last morning before returning to the airport to fly home we visited the home of the King, you guessed, a motorway service station dedicated to Elvis Presley, probably the only lighter visit of our whole trip. Having been to Gracelands, I was quite impressed. We then moved to a site I had wanted to visit, a hill which had sight of Jerusalem and the Church of Emmaus, something all Installed Preceptors will recollect. Onward to Jaffa a city which is now absorbed into Tel Aviv but was originally conquered by Richard the Lionheart in 1191 and occupied by the Crusaders. Finally back to the airport to fly home.
I guess the final question must be, would I recommend the Pilgrimage to others, most definitely, Yes, would I go again, probably not, as it is quite a punishing schedule, although I would be happy to visit Jerusalem again in the future and visit sites at a more leisurely pace.
E.Kt. Geoffrey Ellis, Crystal Palace 257.
Installation of the New Grand Master
On 18th May 2011, at Birmingham, a very special meeting of Great Priory took place.
Nearly 800 knights, including Grand Masters from Scotland, France, Belgium, Germany, Greece and Finland witnessed ME&S Knight Leslie Felgate Dring Chair his final meeting as Grand Master.
ME&S Knight Dring was in sparkling form, as he invested RE Kt Paul Clement, Great Marshal and RE Kt John Brackley, Great Vice-Chancellor, with the Dignity of Knight Grand Cross. This was followed by the investiture of four Knights Commander.
He then proceeded to invest his Active Officers, including Kent’s own Charles Boxer as Great Warden of Regalia.
Completing these tasks with great humour, and in a manner remarkable for any man, let alone a man in his eighties, he proceeded to welcome, Obligate, Invest and Install RE Knight Timothy John Lewis as Most Eminent and Supreme Grand Master. One of the highlights here had to be when there was a slight problem with the Grand Master’s Steel Chain of Office, when Knight Dring suggested “Shall we tie a knot in it?” When the laughter subsided, ME&S Knight Lewis was installed in the Chair, and saluted with Eleven.
The new Grand Master thanked the knights, and paid a personal tribute to the Past Grand Master, which the knights acclaimed.
ME&S Knight Dring then announced that he would retire from Great Priory, and escort was formed comprising E Kt Neil Matthews, Deputy Great Marshal, leading, and the Vice-Chancellor of Kent, E Kt Peter Wise, who is a Past Grand Master’s Banner Bearer, had the privilege of carrying ME&S Knight Dring’s Banner behind him for the very last time.
The Past Grand Master then left Great Priory to the tumultuous applause of the Knights whom he had served and led for the past 14 years
The photograph shows the Past Grand Master outside of Great Priory, flanked by E Kt Matthews and E Kt Wise.
There are new toast lists posted under the MISC button for both KT and Malta. Please ensure that you use these latest copies.