Ann George takes a train ride

How often we read in the Bible about ‘going up to Jerusalem’, but, until I actually went there, I didn’t realize that it means exactly what it says. You don’t go ‘up to Jerusalem’ in the way you are taught to say ‘up to London’, though, of course, Jerusalem is the beating, throbbing religious heart of Israel and, indeed, of much of the religious world. The physical action of going up to Jerusalem is evident when one journeys from the airport at Lod (Lydda of the New Testament) by car, but even more so when one takes the train.

It was difficult to actually catch the train. Timetables were extant, but the train often didn’t run due to rock-falls on the line or security concerns. The line itself traverses some pretty debatable country. However, having made the journey back from Haifa by train after a holiday, I found myself looking at the departure board in Tel Aviv: a Jerusalem train was showing as leaving very soon. I quickly bought a ticket and managed my first (and perhaps, only) journey across the Judaean hills by train to Jerusalem!

At first the train was quite crowded as we sped across the plain, but most of the passengers got off at Lod. From then on we started to climb, twisting up and up slowly, running through gorges and stopping often for what seemed like no reason at all. The bone-white hills (we would call them mountains) were scattered with scrub and stunted trees forced into strange shapes by the terrain and winter weather. The prospect was empty of people, houses, roads, even. We continued to climb. Finally, above us, some settlements could be seen and then, of course, the beautiful and familiar face of Jerusalem emerged.

But still above us, for the Old City (the Biblical Jerusalem) is built on hills with hills above and around it. It is, indeed, an amazing site. I well remember half-killing myself walking straight into a bollard, because I was so overcome with the glorious panorama of the Old City suddenly rearing up, as I walked between two modern buildings from an unusual angle when returning home once from West Jerusalem.

Every day my feet told me this truth. I went down for my daily work but then I returned ‘climbing the hill of the Lord’, entering through the Jaffa Gate and into the Square of David. Then, climbing still, I would start the journey up the hill which would lead ultimately to either the Western Wall of the Temple or Mount Zion: every day, what a blessing!

Ann George is a member of FinF National Counci