We began this Shabbat morning with what has now become our normal breakfast … freshly-baked pita bread, golden-green olive oil puddled in the center of a plate of hummus, cheese, sliced meat, hard-boiled egg, olives/jam/coffee/tea/orange drink, a goodly feast to see us off well fortified for the day. Our departure from St. Mark’s Lutheran Guesthbouse was slightly delayed because St. Mark’s is in old town Jerusalem, not far from the souk, and the motorized cart which hauled our heavy luggage out to the bus was forbidden. Eventually two very stalwart young men arrived and loaded our luggage “mile-high” on a small cart, tied it securely with ropes, and dragged it with manpower alone down the narrow cobbley streets to our bus.
Finally aboard the bus, we 14 headed to Ramallah, about 20 km from Jerusalem and 930 meters above sea level, near the highest mountain in the West Bank (Tel Asur). The city is ancient and is mentioned in the Old Testament as Ofra (Joshua, Judges 1, I Samuel). It is mentioned as Ephraim in John 11:54, where Jesus stayed with his disciples. It is a happenin’ place and is the headquarters city of the Palestinian government We visited the Friends International Center in Ramallah, where we heard
from Jean Zaru, Palestinian authoress (book name, Occupied with Nonviolence) and advocate. We were also treated to refreshing mint tea and cookies.
At the city of Taybeh we visited with Abuna Ra’ed, the parish priest at the Latin Catholic Church and visited the Parable House. The Parable House was built about 300 years ago and was lived in as a family home. It is built in authentic style, with a cave area/basement for the animals, living area, storage wall, guest chamber, and appropriate tools for daily living. Objects in the house can be used to illustrate various of Jesus’ parables. Just outside the front door is a large olive press. We were unable to tour the peace lamp factory due to Shabbat, but we did see the lovely peace lamps, shaped and glazed like white doves.
We also visited the ruins of the ancient church of St. George. In front of the threshold of the church was a large patch of animal blood and bloody handprints beside the door. Our guide explained that the local
folk celebrate significant events by killing an animal there and making the handprints from its blood. However, he said that it was not a sacrifice.
Moving on to Nablus, we had the significant joy of visiting the authentic Jacob’s Well in the lower area of a church. The water is still sweet, 120 meters down, and cold. We drew a bucket of fresh water and dipped our hands in its refreshing coolness. Our guide, Tony, reminded us that Rebecca would have had to lower … and crank up … the bucket 200 times in order to water the camels in the caravan that arrived there on Jacob’s behalf, looking for a wife. For her to draw water for all the animals was
a significant act.
Finally arriving at Nazareth, we drove to the top of the steep mountain and checked in to our rooms at St. Margaret’s Guesthouse. Dinner was delicious and featured fresh salads, pita bread, potatoes, and chicken breast pounded thinly, breaded, and fried. It was delicious. Dessert featured wonderful fresh dates! St. Margaret’s had a wonderful old-world look and feel, with a cool and inviting walled courtyard. Many, but not all, of our rooms open onto this space.
The end of a busy day found us retreating to our various rooms for a well-earned rest.
Linda Matheny (for the group)
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