Marion Barot enjoys getting to know new countries and people. For this reason, her first trip to the Holy Land in 2017, of just six days, was not enough for her. She fell in love with the experience and came back again for three weeks. After that, in addition to her job as project manager, she has dedicated herself to organizing pilgrimages for French-speaking groups. “I am impressed to see how a trip to the Holy Land always has such a strong impact on all people, whatever their origin,” she says. “They come from Canada, Cameroon, Ivory Coast, Belgium, Congo, Switzerland, France…”
“When you come for the first time —says Marion— everything strikes you. You want to immerse yourself, not miss anything. You search the Gospel, try to make connections… But there are many things you end up missing”. That’s why she recommends visiting several times: “When you come back, you already better know what to see, you have read before what you want to visit in one place and in another; and that helps a lot”. One of the horizons a trip to the Holy Land opens is “discovering the places where Jesus, the Virgin Mary and the apostles lived”, which “makes Jesus much more real and closer to us”.
A place that touched her the most was Gethsemane, the garden of olive trees where Jesus spent the agony prior to the Passion. In other places like “Calvary and the Holy Sepulchre, seeing, touching the stone, touching the walls is very impressive.” In addition, despite the hustle and bustle and the number of tourists and pilgrims, “you pray very easily and that helps you think that in our normal life it could be the same.”
“Organizing pilgrimages and bringing more people is great because, somehow, when you do it,
you relive your time there”.
The Holy Land “at the same time, is a very rich place from the cultural point of view”. In this sense, Marion affirms that the tour guides are key. “Our guides were diverse. We had a very cultivated Syriac Christian, a Jewish woman who explained to us the Jewish customs in Jesus’ times, and also a Palestinian Arab Christian.” In addition to the historical and religious aspects of the holy places, “they also helped us discover life in the country, life among the different communities. For us it is very interesting because you discover the Israeli-Palestinian conflict from the perspective of those who live there. And I thought, “she adds, “that at the time of Jesus, it was more or less the same. There were the Romans, the Jews… And it was a bit like now: very different people with very different languages, and they understood each other more or less well.
Hooked on the experience of the Holy Land, Marion is preparing “a France-Israel exchange-pilgrimage for next July. It will be for young people who will carry out a volunteers’ social project and will make it compatible with visits to the holy places.” For her, “organizing pilgrimages and bringing more people is great because, somehow, when you do it, you relive your time there“.
She tries to take her groups at the beginning of the pilgrimage to the Saxum Visitor Center: “Thus, they can see on the screens the evolution of the sites they are going to visit, from the time of Jesus until now. This helps a lot to understand.” Another of the things the tour in Saxum provides is “knowing the traditions of Judaism that help you better understand what you read in the Gospel.”