Holy Land of contrasts

 I've just returned from a visit to the Holy Land. It was a wonderful time to be there. Much of the land was green from the winter rains and the first spring flowers have already begun to bloom. Our guide told us that it was a land of contrasts. On the same day as people were skiing in the mountains, he said, a few miles away others were sunbathing on semi-tropical beaches. But I will remember other contrasts as well: images of elegant marble-paved streets in the wealthy suburbs of Jerusalem jar with the overcrowded refugee camps knee deep in mud, just a few miles down the road. The state of the art hospital in Jerusalem was a world apart from the shabby medical facilities in Bethlehem - where patients have to supply their own food. My memory of an elderly monk welcoming us into the Church of the Nativity clashes with my recollection of the nervous teenage girl soldier toting an automatic rifle at the gates to Jerusalem. In the next few days I hope to be writing a few reports about the people and places we visited on this trip.

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