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A Winding Journey With Many Stops The traveler was active; he went strenuously in search of people, of adventure, of experience. The tourist is passive; he expects interesting things to happen to him. He goes "sight-seeing." ~Daniel J. Boorstin

Holy Land: Days 6-9 and Mexican food in Bethlehem!

PALESTINE | Thursday, 17 May 2007 | Views [458]

Our tour continues now, it is in its 6th day (7th if you count the day in transit). Up until now I have had a feeling of overwhelmed-ness and exhaustion--both physically and spirtually.

When I was at breakfast this morning, Ben said something that really rang true for me. On anything and everything that could even remotely be considered 'holy' there is a giant church. No expenses were spared when building these churches and they are beautiful, so beautiful that each seems to want to outshine the other in beautiful 'holiness'. But that aside, a question still remains. What about the people here? Didn't Jesus command us to serve his people, to love others, and to give up our riches to the poor? Why then would we spend millions building even more churches that commemorate a history that is long in the past instead of spending the time and the money dealing with the millions of poverty-stricken families? Why must our 'expression of love and devotion to God' be so ostentatious? Couldn't we still show our devotion to our Saviour in a manner that honors his commandments and helps his people without spending obscene amounts of money building yet another cathedral? It just seems so unbalanced that we would spend this money on, for example, the cathedral that commemorates the rocks in the Garden of Gesthemene that Jesus may have cried upon (we really are not sure) but we are unable to find the spare change in our pockets that would allow a poor man to have lunch or feed his family? Maybe I am going off on a tirade borne of touring many, many, MANY churches in this area and being a little 'churched out' but I view this yet another form of separating society. There are those things that we value, oftentimes objects that do have a place but it may be misplaced value or enthusiasm, and then there are those things that we allow to slip through the cracks. Often times it seems that those things that slip through are not things, they are people. The very descendents of the people that have been here since the time of Christ. I understand that we are to praise God from the heavens, we are to share the Gospel with others and all that but....in my understanding I would imagine that giving of yourself, living simply and spreading peace in places of conflict, joy in times of sorrow, and the love of Christ to all people is more meaningful then building yet another commerative cathedral. ok. rant done.

(frustrated and sad sigh)

Anyway. We went many places today. Saint Anne's Cathedral at Lions Gate was where we sang hymns in the sanctuary which almost brought me to tears. The ruins of the pools of Bet Hesda (house of mercy). Saint George's School and Cathedral (an Anglican community that Stephen and Barbara have supported from Australia). The Church of All Nations, the Church of St. Mary Magdalene. They were all beautiful but once again they were all sort of running together.

We also went to the Garden Tomb. By all accounts, probably NOT the actual tomb of Christ but... It is beautiful there. The diversity of the flora is astounding. The flowers are blooming, the trees canopy over. It just makes it easier to imagine that Jesus was buried in a place similar to this. I hope it was, wherever it was, just as beautiful where He was buried.

Side Note: saw Jewish Cemetary. They use pebbles to commerate and honor the dead instead of flowers. I did not see Schindlers tomb however, even though I did look for it.

Another Note: During our hymn singing at St. Anne's one of the songs that we sang was Amazing Grace. But the group that was behind us also joined in in their own language. This moment of sharing in this age old hymn--echoing off the walls in the beauty of this place was incredible. I felt so connected to the global community of Christians at that moment and it was wonderful.

We also held communion at the Garden Tomb while it was raining, visiting Dominus Flavitt, singing 'Sing Alleluia" in chapel time, and talking with Stephen and Barbara have all made today especially meaningful.

Day 7 (11 May)

Today was a different sort of day, because my knee has been swollen and painful I have elected to stay behind in Bethlehem while the rest of the group went on to listen to speakers ranging from Messianic Jews to Sabeel and Palestinian Liberation Theology. I would have liked to hear these discussions but my knee decided otherwise and I thought I should probably listen to that instead. Jess brought a digital recorder with her and promised to record the presentations so I could listen to them later.

An interesting note about today is that it is Friday. The Muslim Holy Day (something that I had forgotten about). The shops in the market were all closed and the streets were empty. I was awakened however by a volley of gunshots and shouting in the distance. Combined with the noise of a construction project down the street, it startled me greatly. But, I had to remind myself yet again of the priveleged life that we lead in the United States. While random gunfire startles me--it does not even faze the locals. This is their life. This is how they live.

When Jess and the others came back, my mood was instantly lifted and I hobbled out of my room to get some fresh air. (no matter what country I am in, I hate being confined to a small space!) When we went down the road a bit it struck me how my demeanor has changed sub-consciously since being over here. At home I would not think twice about looking a man in the eye when speaking to him or even introducing myself. Here I tend to keep my eyes lowered, I do not react to the countless calls and noises that we get when we walk down the street. I do not ignore the men on the street here, I just do not engage in conversation unless approached. I know that part of this is probably because of language barriers, and the patriarchal society that is in existance here, but this feeling is definitely a new one for me.

Day 8 (12 May)

YAY for incredibly exciting days! (not that this whole trip hasn't been exciting, it has!)

We are changing our routine today and going to a totally new place. We will be visiting Wadi Qilt and St. George's Monestary, Jericho, Zacchaues's Sycamore Tree, Qumran, and (drum roll) the DEAD SEA!

* * * *

In order to get down to St. George's one has to navigate down a cliff along a very steep path into the Wadi. This is because the Monestary is built right into the cliff.

Interesting Note: this is said to be the place that Elijah stayed in a cave and was fed by ravens.

The desert land is beautiful, barren and wild. It is called the Judean Wilderness and camel, donkey, goat and sheep roam the hills, tended primarily by the Bedouin people. I love how empty it is here. It is truly a place that you can look out over the hills and the rocks and barrenness and commune with God.

On the way back up the cliff (what goes down apparently must also come up in this case) Lorie treated me to a surprise and arranged for one of the donkey traders to give me a ride on his donkey up the mountain. My donkey's name was Badullah (or something similar) and my donkey drivers name was Hassan. Riding the donkey was an interesting and unique experience. The Bible story of Jesus riding the donkey on Palm Sunday did come to mind. But a comment that Hassan made did make me sad.

We are a peaceful people but we do not have a peaceful life.

When will the violence and struggle for these people end?

* * * *

Next stop, Jericho, the oldest city in the world. Estimated by historians and archeologists to be 10.000 years old. Getting into Jericho seemed to be a bit tricky this time because we had to go through two checkpoints, one Palestinian (which went very smoothly) and one Israeli (not so much). I find it odd and rather disturbing how quickly I have become accustomed to the sight of soldiers, large guns, armored vehicles and checkpoints. I am really not sure how ok I am with the fact that I have desensitized to it so quickly. I might have to continue pondering that.

We stopped at Qumran where the Dead Sea Scrolls were found (which was really interesting). During the time that we were poking about the heavens opened up and it poured buckets of rain on top of us. We were caught in a spectacular monsoon in may in the middle east! It was so awesome because I love storms, and this area has been in the worst drought in 80 years so I was happy for the area farmers that they get this much needed rain however....it threatened to cancel our trip to the Dead Sea which has been on my lists of places to go for years.

I feel kinda selfish in that regard. I have been able to see many amazing things, but this is something that I have long desired. Thankfully, we held a brief council on the bus and we got our wish. The rain stopped momentarily and we were able to spend about an hour reveling in the weird sensation of not being able to sink. As we floated we were able to look out over the horizon into the Kingdom of Jordan, currently ruled by KIng Abdullah and Queen Raina. Sadly, we will not be going into Jordan, but I think that I can be satisfied to wait until next time for that!!

Day 9 ( 13 May)

Today was our Sabbath, our much needed day of rest! We had church with Rev. Mitri's congregation here on the same property as ICB and we attended Christmas Lutheran Church. The service was truly like a balm being poured out on us tired folk. I know it definitely rejuvinated my spirits!! We had an English bulletien so it was relatively easy to follow the order of service, even though everything was in Arabic. But we did have a couple songs that were translated for us. The singing, oh my, the singing. The voices raised in unison, one Arabic, one English, all praising Christ was a beautiful and moving experience. I can hardly describe it.

After the service we were graciously invited to share Arabic coffee with the congregation and have a time of felllowship and conversation. It was lovely. I love hearing the stories that these people here have to tell me. Some make me cry, some make me laugh, some confuse me--I will treasure them all.

It was after fellowship that we had our most interesting/strange experience today. A group od us have walked past the same restaurant everyday as we hike to where we meet our bus in the mornings. The Mariachi Restaurant. Apparently it is the very first authentic Mexican Restaurant in Palestine, and since we were feeling adventerous we decided to try it!

The menu is in Arabic and Spanglish, which is quite funny and fascinating at the same time. The food however was incredibly tasty and unique. I have no complaints, although I was struck by the ironies as we sat there in Palestine, listening to Patsy Cline, eating "frijoles" with feta cheese on them and gazing at the random sombreros that were stuck haphazardly to the walls.

Good times indeed!

Tags: 1st mexican restaurant of palestine, bethlehem, holy land, palestine, pilgrimage

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