Saturday, February 27
Today I participated in a hike into the Judean desert to learn about desert monasticism. We saw a beautiful cliff side monastery and then walked by foot into Jericho. We had a wonderful guide At one point there were over 3000 desert monastics. Now there are barely 50. And after having hiked briefly in this area, I can see why. It is hot without cover from intense searing sun.
This valley is “the valley of the shadow of death” from the 23rd psalm and the place Jesus had in mind when he told the story of the Good Samaritan.
My camera died on this trip, so I ended up taking pictures with my phone, which I will share with you when I return.
Friday, February 26
Today Julie and I did the ramparts walk in the morning. These are the “newer walls”, about 800 years old.
This is Jaffa Gate, one of the entrances into the old city of Jerusalem.
A view from the ramparts.
Here you can see the golden roof of Dome of the Rock.
A soccer game.
Jerusalem is divided into four quarters, the Jewish, Christian, Muslim and Armenian. There are still many Armenians living here. The banner above is in memory of the Armenian genocide.
This is the room where the last supper is supposed to have happened. It was not at all like the picture in my mind.
This is King David’s tomb. Men and women are separated. I didn’t want to get too close, but you can see there some ultra orthodox men praying.
We stopped in an interesting church, supposedly the site of the arrest of Jesus.
One of the most beautiful parts was the ceiling.
There is evidence that the caves under the church were indeed used to hold prisoners.
Going back to the Armenian quarter, we had lunch at an Armean restaurant which was wonderful.
And we ended the day by traveling to Abu Gosh, an Arab town outside of Jerusalem where there is a crusader era church, now part of a French speaking Benedictine convent and monastery.
Thursday, February 25
This morning there was a panel discussion here at Tabtur about the future of the region.
After lunch, I struck out on my own and went into Bethlehem, going through the checkpoint yet again.
Wednesday, February 24
I didn’t get the chance to update the blog yesterday as we didn’t get home until after 11:00. But here’s the news…
Today we went into Bethlehem, by walking through the check point. For those of you who don’t know, Israel constructed a huge concrete wall around the town of Bethlehem along the border of the West Bank. If you are Jewish Israeli you are not allowed to enter area A of the West Bank. If you are a Palestinian, you need a special permit to leave the West Bank and must do so on foot, you are not allowed to drive through. If you are American you still need to go through the checkpoint. This is an enormous building with metal detectors, interrogation rooms, guards. It was a very interesting experience.
This is the view from the Tantur grounds looking toward Bethlehem.
The wall in Bethlehem.
This is a project called “Story Board”. An NGO collected Palestinean stories and posts them on the wall.
Here is a Palestinean home surrounded by the wall on three sides.
There is lots of art work and graffiti along the wall. I liked this one.
Later in the day we took the bus to Jerusalem. Here is a street scene in the old city.
Below is Damascus gate in the old city. This has been the scene of several stabbings recently. The police and military presence here is extreme. If you look closely at the small opening above the entrance, you can see a sharp shooter in position.
Tuesday, February 23
We went to Acco and Haifa. Acco is an ancient city where they just unearthed the old Crusader buildings after hundreds of years. This was the main port of entry for the European Crusaders, the place where they recovered from their journey thus far and gathered strength to continue to Jerusalem. The city was run by two groups, the knights Templar and the Hospitallers. The knights Templar were in charge of protecting the pilgrims and crusaders as they traveled to and from the holy land. The Hospitallers provided medical care and hospitality.
Below is the huge refectory hall where everyone, pilgrims, Knights, monks, etc. ate. After the Turks defeated the crusaders they buried the entire complex in sand, which, ironically, preserved it all in pristine condition.
The harbor in Acco is a beautiful working harbor.
Below is the secret tunnel system of the Knights Templar. They used this to Get from the harbor to the buildings underground.
The conflict is everywhere. This sign indicates that the Arab owners will not sell to Israeli buyers.
This sign indicates that the residents of this house made the hajj to Mecca.
We liked the birds here. The white/ gray one looked like a cross between a duck and a turkey!
The Turkish baths here operated for hundreds of years. Now they are part of the museum.
A warship in the Haifa harbor.
This is Elijah’s cave, now a Carmelite church.
February 22, 2016
Today was rainy and cold so we did a museum day! We went to the Israel Museum where I got to see the Dead Sea scrolls. These ancient texts were written on parchment and papyrus around the first century BCE. They were found by Bedouin shepherds in 1947 and are the oldest copies of the Hebrew Scriptures in existence. They were the product of the Essenes community, an ascetic desert monastic community. Some speculate that John the Baptist was a member of this community.
They are housed in the building below which was constructed to look like the top of the ceramic jar in which the scrolls were found.
February 20, 2016
Hello dear friends! I arrived in Tel Aviv safe and sound on Saturday afternoon.
Today I went back to Tel Aviv to visit a fascinating Catholic parish, Our Lady Woman of Valor. Recently built, the church is primarily Filipino and conducts Mass in that language. For some time there has been a fairly large population of Filipino residents here, many come to participate in service jobs like home health aides.
This parish has begun an amazing mission to aid and assist the migrant and refugee community in Tel Aviv. This group is primarily Eritrean and Sudanese and struggle against terrible odds. There is no “Refugee Status” here and so they are in constant fear of arrest or deportation. To srcape by people have to work incredibly long hours and have no safe place to bring their children. And so this parish has created small day care centers. The kids were super cute. One boy was so enamored with my camera that he took it right out of my hands and started taking pictures!
The picture you see below is graffiti which says “migrant workers go home” in Hebrew. It was on a wall near the church.
After this visit we went to Jaffa for lunch. This is a beautiful old town where Jonah supposedly launched for his amazing journey. It was an old Arab town that was completely purged of Arabs after the war in 1948. Although all Arabic was obliterated from signs and buildings at that time, little bits of Arabic is beginning to be seen again on street signs. This town is full of artists and tourists. The Mediterranean was wild today, with waves crashing over the retaining wall.