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By Joan Deming
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Tuesday, 25 Oct, was transition day. We said fond farewells to the Holy Land Hotel staff who have treated us royally, and made the following stops on our way to our homesteads in the upper West Bank in the village of Zababdeh:
- Cremisan winery and a view of the wall currently under construction
- Wadi Qelt to see the desert view of the "road going down from Jerusalem to Jericho"-- the setting for the Good Samaritan parable, and St. George's Monastery
- Qumran (where the Dead Sea Scrolls were found)
- Floating in the Dead Sea
- Driving north through the West Bank to Nablus where we stopped first for knafeh, a traditional Nablus "sweet" made with cheese
- Saw the beautiful Jacob's Well Church
- Arrived finally to a warm welcome and generously hospitality at our home-stays in Zababdeh.
Enjoy a few photos from the day!
By Steve Fisher
We started out in East Jerusalem meeting with Fr. Hosam Naoum, Dean of St. George's Cathedral of the Episcopal Diocese of the Middle East.
Fr. Naoum, a graduate of Mar Elias High School, offered his kind hospitality as we learned about their many ministries. Perhaps the high point was learning from him this beautiful song written by one of the former cathedral canons, Garth Hewitt:
"Ten Measures of Beauty"
Ten measures of Beauty
God gave to the world.
Nine to Jerusalem,
And one to the rest.
Refrain: Pray for the peace, Pray for the peace,
Pray for the peace of Jerusalem.
Pray for the peace, Pray for the peace,
Pray for the peace of Jerusalem.
Ten measures of sorrow
God gave to the World
Nine to Jerusalem
And one to the rest.
~ Words and tune by Garth Hewitt, in his album, “Lonesome Troubadour”
We walked to the UN office of OCHA (Office for Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs) where Catherine Cook presented an overview of the punishing brutality wreaked upon the residents of both Gaza and the West Bank. The UN sadly only can chronicle what's happening and try to soften the devastation a mite.
A hopeful note was our lunchtime visit to the Friends School in Ramallah, an elite private school infusing their education with Quaker values since 1869 and offering their approximately 1000 students a path to universities the world over and thence, in many cases, to the empowerment of the Palestinian community.
Our last visit of the day, to DCI-Palestine, gave us a searing picture and data about the terrorizing of Palestinian children (700-1000 per year, ages 12-17), by the Israeli military, whose purpose seems to be to crush and break the will of these children. DCI Palestine is doing all it can to mitigate through legal means some of the suffering, while working with their supporters (Save the Children, Unicef, Amnesty International, etc) to generate support in the US Congress for their "No Way to Treat a Child" campaign. While inspired by the courage, tenacity, and keen analysis of DCI, I also left feeling nauseated by what I was hearing -- are there no limits to hate, especially towards children?
On our drive home and assisted by an endless traffic jam, we sang ourselves silly with the sweet delight of Spirituals which then morphed into Christmas Carols as we approached Bethlehem. So healing, I hope, for all of us.
Further solace came in an email from my wife Cynde, which included the following poem by Adrienne Rich:
My Heart is Moved
My heart is moved
by all I cannot save
so much has been destroyed
I have to cast my lot
with those who
age after age,
and with no extraordinary power,
reconstitute the world.
Those who suffer under oppression, who live into the refining fires of the Cross, have so much to teach us about what being human, what being alive is all about. My prayer is that we all be given the Grace to receive this gift. Then we can bear witness with our Palestinian brothers and sisters to Martin Luther King's affirmation that "unmerited suffering is redemptive."
By Patty Keane and Dan Riordan
Today we had a chance to catch up on our sleep as we didn't have to leave the hotel until 10am -- such a treat!
At 10:30 we attended the Christmas Lutheran Church service in Bethlehem. The minister, Rev. Mitri Raheb, was very welcoming and acknowledged our presence during the service which was conducted in Arabic accompanied by English translations whenever possible. At coffee following the service, among others we met with some folks from the World Council of Churches working for 3 months in Palestine to be witnesses to the Israeli Occupation and to support the Palestinians who are living under this Occupation. They were an inspiration!
Lunch at the Mariachi Restaurant at the Grand Hotel followed. Though it was a beautiful restaurant, the service was slow and put a dent into our afternoon activities. But we made the best of it and in the end were able to see all the sights scheduled.
Following lunch we visited Herod's Castle, also known as the Herodium. It sits on a truncated cone-shaped hill visible throughout Bethlehem and is the highest peak in the Judaea desert. We later realized we can even see it from our hotel room's balcony!
From the Herodium, our small bus took us to Shepherds' Field where, the gospels tell us, the Angel of the Lord appeared before the shepherds, announcing the birth of Jesus. Several different groups were singing carols in the beautiful Shepherds' Field Chapel which offers excellent acoustics. We joined in and enthusiastically sang "Hark the Herald Angels Sing."
The final place we visited today before returning to our hotel was the Church of the Nativity. Here we saw part of the original mosaic floor, put in place in 326AD! We also witnessed the spot where Jesus is reported to have been born. The whole church is under considerable re-construction -- which luckily will be completed before Christmas this year. We were lucky enough to see a baptism in progress in the Greek Orthodox part of the church and then the final moments of a wedding in the Roman Catholic Church of St. Catherine. Both reminded us that this is the oldest continuously worshiping Christian Church in the world, and not a museum.
After returning to our hotel, we heard guest speakers Yigal Elhanan and Marianne Saadeh from the "Bereaved Families Group." Yoga, an Israeli Jew, and Marianne, a Palestinian, had both lost sisters as a result of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. The "Bereaved Family Group" is remarkable in that it is made up of both Palestinians and Israelis working together for justice for both groups.
This week so far has introduced us to so many courageous men and women who are working hard to bring peace and justice to all living in this region.