article I just wrote for my school’s publications///pilgrimage reflection

Pax Christi Conference &  Living Stones Pilgrimage
May 10-23rd, 2015- Palestine/Israel

As the rest of the Prep was finishing classes and preparing for final exams, Mr. Stephen Oldham, a faculty member of the Religious Studies Department, was participating in the 70th anniversary conference of the largest international Roman Catholic peace organization, Pax Christi, convening in Bethlehem on the West Bank of Palestine where representatives from forty countries enthusiastically presented papers on their particular strategies and actions inspired by the mission of this organization “to build the Reign of God on earth as it is in heaven- a Reign of peace with justice.” Inter-connected with the conference was a parallel exploration of the critical humanitarian, political, economic and spiritual realities present today in the “Holy” lands, especially through the lens of the Holy Land Christian Ecumenical Foundation (HCEF), a Palestinian Christian organization whose mission is to protect and further the culture and human rights of the Palestinian Christian community. One of the educational programs, organized by the HCEF, is to offer these “Living Stones” pilgrimages to international groups. In their first letter to us, the mission was clear: “ God touches our lives in many ways and I assure you that through this journey God will change your life…..you will not only experience Biblical history, but you will also meet the Christians living in the Holy Land today- the Living Stones who are descended from the very first followers of Jesus. You will hear their stories and be part of their communities-experiences that will not only broaden awareness, but deepen faith.” This was a very ambitious statement which was fulfilled in the minds/hearts of my small community of twenty-eight pilgrims representing all the regions of the United States. We were not just tourists rushing to the various sacred sites of the Bible for a photo shoot; but were pilgrims seeing the sites, sharing prayer and Eucharistic liturgy,  listening to the words of the prophets/Jesus and the Palestinian Christian people suffering since 1948 under Israeli military occupation, reflecting on those words as they seared into our hearts and finally posing the challenging question echoed in the lives of the great saints and heroes of old: “What is God asking of me in response to these ‘ Living Stones’ testimonies as a Christian, educator, American and member of the human race?” The specific itineraries, experiences and pictures of this pilgrimage were diligently recorded by myself each evening in a Word Press blog which you can access any time at: pilgrimage74@wordpress.com. The discipline of writing this blog was demanding especially using a Kindle Fire keyboard with my tri-focal eyeglasses. I was the last person each evening to go to bed. Most nights working well after midnight. Now, I have been blessed with a detailed remembrance and challenging mandate from this life changing trip. Let me share a few highlights with accompanying pictures along with some suggestions for further exploration into the issues which is the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

The first impression from this trip was the tremendous sense of life, faith, hospitality and struggle intertwined in the lives of the Palestinian people that we met on this journey. Our enthusiastic tour guide, Yacoub, was a former high school science teacher. He lives in the traditionally Palestinian East Jerusalem that has slowly been under pressure by Israeli settlements and a series of unjust laws. Ever since the Six day War in 1967, Palestinians, living within the borders of Israel, must pass a Hebrew language test, profess an oath of loyalty to the State of Israel, give up other passports in order to obtain “permanent resident” status (similar to a green card in their own traditional lands) which can’t be passed on to their children. They are allowed to vote in local elections, but barred from national elections. Their schools are of lesser quality (similar to the separate but equal status of African American schools in the US before racial integration); they pay the required taxes but receive little of the social services. Trash collection in the Palestinian neighborhoods is irregular at best so many burn their trash which becomes a health and ecological issue.  It is next to impossible for Palestinians to get housing permits to renovate existing or build new homes. So, they renovate without permits which then renders them vulnerable to having their homes demolished by the state which can come unexpectedly at any moment once they receive a citation. Much of the land has been declared “green “ zones meaning they cannot be developed for housing which sounds ecologically responsible; but is really an Israeli ploy to halt economic development and building in East Jerusalem forcing Palestinians to flee elsewhere which allows the expansion of government subsidized housing/social services for Jewish Israeli citizens with the long rangeplan of having one, united Jewish Israeli capital of Jerusalem.  Given these conditions, no wonder Yacoub has an aggressive edge to his voice and ideas as we tour this un-wholy land.

At the Pax Christi conference we were treated to traditional Palestinian music and dance from the local cultural organizations. I was invited up to the stage to join the female choir clothed in the traditional dress of their villages. Walking along the streets of Bethlehem the economic hardships imposed by the Israeli military were obvious. There is a huge wall encircling the city with armed checkpoints. This wall is almost three times the size of the infamous Berlin Wall. It has been decorated with symbols of life and resistance by the famous street artist, Banksy, as well as, ordinary people appalled by this oppressive monstrosity. No longer can Bethlehem Palestinians travel freely to Jerusalem for work. Unemployment has sky rocketed and the town is under the total control of the Israeli government. Water and food stuffs has to be imported weekly. Since the government controls over 90 percent of the water supply, it can be used as a threat to deter any acts of resistance to occupation. Imagine being a youth growing up in this environment. Watching the daily humiliation of your parents in this legendary birthplace of the Christian Savior. No wonder there are moments of tense and violent outbursts rooted in frustration and rage. We experienced this one day as we were going to meet with the members of Wi’am, an organization located adjacent to the Wall which seeks to educate and promote non-violent strategic expressions of resistance and self-reliance especially among the youth.  As our bus approached the Wall, we saw a large gathering of mostly young males gathering rocks to obviously throw at the Israeli unit stationed above them inside protected guard posts invulnerable to this pitiful display. We had to veer away and meet with the Wi’am community in a safer location that day.

Another day we ventured to a refugee camp not far from Bethlehem named Aida. It was established after the 1948 ‘Nakba’ expulsions whereby approximately 450 Palestinian villages were threatened and forced to leave their homes and most belongings by armed militia groups with the establishment of a new nation-state-Israel. The Palestinians call this “Nakba’, the time of anguish and suffering. The Israelis celebrate this time each year joyously as Independence Day. So, inside the refugee camp, we were given a tour by one of the leaders. It is under the auspices of the United Nations. It is a pitiful place. Bullet holes everywhere testifying to the two ‘Intifada’ uprisings of the Palestinians against the occupation. The school building no longer has windows for security in case the military decides to invade the camp as they do periodically for intimidation and harassment effects. Food and water are scarce resources. Little medical services exist. Education is minimal. The camp has received some outside funding to create a center for youth education, technology skills, and recreation. There is little space for the children to play since the building of the Wall in 2002. The Wall is literally next to a narrow road that divides them from Israeli settlements. As we were given the tour, I saw a gathering of youth on the street near the Wall and then suddenly a Blast and a smoke cloud arose…tear gas was shot from the other side of the wall to intimidate the kids. With the wind, our group was enveloped with the sting and choking of the gas. We were given a small sampling of what the camp faces every day.

So, these stories were repeated wherever we travelled among the Palestinian people mixed with the Pax Christi conference workshops and the usual touring of the sacred sites on the Mount of Olives, inside the old city of Jerusalem praying at the Western (Wailing) Wall and walking around the Temple Mount in the shadow of the awesome Dome of the Rock and Al Aqsa mosques, visiting the Tombs of the great Biblical Patriarchs and Matriarchs, the Dead Sea Scroll caves and Essene ruins in Qumran, the wading of the Jordan River, the floating on the Dead Sea lake, the boat trip across the Sea of Galilee, touching the legendary places of Jesus birth and death, inside the synagogue church where legend speaks that Jesus read from the scroll of Isaiah demanding freedom of the captives and justice for the oppressed which infuriated the leaders of that day and today, the Beautiful setting of the Church of the Beatitudes-“Blessed are the Peacemakers”, the Nazareth locations for the grotto dwellings of Mary, Joseph and the Holy family.  This rendered me speechless, boggled my mind and caused great unrest of my heart. How could such injustices continue with such a wonderful history for the three Book religions: Judaism, Christianity and Islam? When will we learn as a human race that oppression causes more oppression, violence creates more violence, security must be balanced with freedom/human rights and never solves the root causes of any conflict and unrest? This was echoed by Israeli peace groups we visited: Rabbis for Peace, Combatants for Peace and the Israeli Committee against Home Demolitions, as well as, the Palestinian Peace groups: Wi’am, the Tent of Nations and the our sponsoring group, HCEF. . All these groups can be accessed via the Internet.

To conclude, let me offer a few resources to enable you, the reader, to further explore and hopefully respond to the crisis present in this un-holy land. A few books I read on the trip which gave personal testimony to the issues: I shall not Hate by Dr. Izzeldin Abuelaish, a Palestinian doctor raised in a refugee camp on the Gaza Strip which is still under strict quarantine by the Israeli military and a humanitarian disaster; The General’s Son by Miko Peled, the Israeli son of a very famous Israeli general turned peace activist; and Understanding the Palestinian-Israeli Conflict by Phyllis Bennis, an American Jewish analyst from the Institute for Policy Studies in Washington, D. C.  A few movies to watch: Omar, The Other Son, Five Broken Cameras, Walk on Water and Paradise Now. If you can see only one, I suggest Five Broken Cameras which is a first-hand video account filmed by a Palestinian villager of Bil’in over a five year period in which slowly an Israeli settlement encroaches upon the land and livelihood of this traditional place that depend on the olive trees for economic and spiritual sustenance. Despite the military repression, this film documents the resilience, non-violence and pro-life stance of this beleaguered people.

Beyond reading books and my blog, watching films and reflecting on these resources, what can one do? I suggest finding organizations promoting justice and peace in Palestine in your area, writing letters to the editor of your newspapers, asking your Congressional representatives why the US keeps spending approximately $3-4 billion dollars in military and economic aid to Israel per year(which is over half of all the foreign aid the US spends worldwide)  as they continue this occupation of Palestine which violates the international resolutions of the United Nations and the Fourth Geneva Convention and dooms millions of our brothers and sisters to lives lacking basic dignity and respect. I am reminded of the recent statement by Pope Francis, spoken as I was in Palestine, recognizing the State of Palestine and calling the efforts of Palestinian President, Mahmoud Abbas, to be an “angel of peace.” This occurred at the Vatican during the recent canonization celebration of two 19th century Palestinian nuns.

One additional challenge would be to join the international movement employing the tactics of BDS- boycott, divestment and sanctions- that were utilized by the world community in resistance to the South African apartheid system. The non-violent apostle of that time, Archbishop Desmond Tutu, visited the West Bank. In 2014 he wrote an article published by the Huffington Post: “ The sustainability of Israel as a homeland for the Jewish people has always been dependent on its ability to deliver justice for the Palestinians. I know firsthand that Israel created an apartheid reality within its borders and through its occupation. The parallels to my beloved South Africa are painfully stark indeed.” He urged putting pressure on Israel through these economic means. One simple action being suggested is not to buy SABRA and TRIBAL brands of hummus and then writing a letter or email to the companies stating the motivations for the boycott. A local Philadelphia site for further information is:

http://www.makehummusnotwar.com/characters_21.html.

I wish to thank the Prep administration and faculty for their support of this wonderful journey. The people, places, sights, sounds, food, challenges, human cries and struggles will forever be part of my life. Let us pray and work together for a just peace in this trouble and blessed land.

By Stephen Oldham, June, 8, 2015

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The General’s Son by Miko Peled /Five Broken Cameras/ Boycott Sabra and Tribal Hummus

I am sitting on my front patio in the early eve of a beautiful sunny day. The birds are chirping and the newly planted shrubs, iris and flowery ground cover is growing. All is peaceful. Echoes of Palestine still fresh in my memory.

I have just finished a book, The General’s Son, by Miko Peled. Miko is the son of a very famous general of Israel. Matti Peled was a devoted Zionist who joined the Palmach militia at age 16. He distinguished himself during the war of independence in 1947-8 and the 1967 6 Day War that extended the boundaries of Israel to include the West Bank, Gaza, Sinai peninsula and the Golan Heights. He was administrator of the Gaza refugee camp in the 1950’s which inspired him to go back to school to study Arabic and Arabic Literature. After leaving the military, Gen Peled became a  professor of Arabic literature at Tel Aviv University and a bitter critic of the Israeli occupation of land which should be a Palestinian state.

Miko recounts a stand taken by his mother after the 1947-8 Nokba expulsions of 450 Palestinian villages by the Israeli militias. Being the wife of a war hero, she was offered to move into a house left by a fleeing Palestinian family. She knew this family and refused stating to her son: “How would this family feel having their house stolen?” At the time they were living with the in laws and could have taken advantage to increase their economic status like many were doing. They refused.

Gen. Peled vehemently opposed the military occupation of the West Bank and Gaza after the Six Day War. Miko recounts his father’s views: ” He later also claimed with certainty that holding onto the West Bank and the people who lived in it was contrary to Israel’s long-term strategy of building a secure Jewish democracy with a stable Jewish majority. If we kept these lands, popular resistance to the occupation was sure to arise, and Israel’s army would be used to quell that resistance, with disastrous and demoralizing results. He concluded that this would turn the Jewish state into an increasingly brutal occupying power and eventually into a bi-national state. My father said all this as the gun barrels were still smoking and before Israel began its settlement project in the West Bank and Gaza.” His father is later ostracized by the Israeli government as a kind of traitor though many of them attend his funeral years later.

Miko writes about his own journey as the son of Matti Peled. After his conflicted military service which pulls him between his Zionism and defense of the rights of Palestinian people for their land, Miko travels to England and Japan to study Karate under a famous master. He then begins to teach this discipline to Israeli and Palestinian children. He marries, has children and moves to California. He still returns to Palestine and has been involved in nonviolent protests and resistance of the occupation as a fierce critic of the Netanyahu govt.

I suggest also watching the documentary, Five Broken Cameras, on Netflix. It records a five year span of nonviolent resistance by the people of Bil’In of the encroaching Israeli settlements destroying their village economy and spiritual relationship with the olive trees that has provided sustenance and purpose for generations. The repressive tactics of the military is appalling. You can see the growth of this settlement as it illegally violates the land and people of the village. It is all recorded by this amateur Palestinian villager. A must see to feel the intensity of this injustice.

What can you do? First, read and get informed. Second, reflect and pray. Third, write and visit your political representatives. Why is the U.S. giving $3 billion to Israel to repress the rights of the Palestinian people by this internationally illegal occupation? Fourth, support Palestinian rights and humanitarian aid organizations in your area.

Lastly, consider joining the BDS (boycott, divestment and sanctions) movement. Like the South African anti-apartheid campaign, this movement seeks to place economic pressure on Israel to end the illegal occupation and settlements in order to seriously explore a just solution to this humanitarian disaster-whether a two state or one bi-national state. A good start is to boycott Sabra and Tribal Hummus and to write a letter to these companies to inform them. Below is one of many sites advocating this campaign. Many of you may also recall the successful boycott of Gallo wine during the farm workers campaigns by Caesar Chavez. Peace.

http://justicewithpeace.org/node/2484

Returning Home: Postscript reflection

It has taken a few days to acclimate with jet lag and to realize I am back to the normal routines in Philly finishing the school year, marking exams, and sharing the photos/stories with my spouse, family and friends. The normal post-trip malaise takes hold. The memories are still clear and poignant. It has been helpful to receive a few emails from my fellow pilgrims including an invite to respond to a Washington Post article on the Israeli settlements. Composing my response was liberating for me. With these new experiences and knowledge, there is a sense of obligation not to remain silent on the plight of the Palestinian people. By writing this letter to the editor, I was witnessing to the truth, as I experienced it, which is freedom. As I write, I see the human faces of those I was privileged to meet at Aida refugee camp, the folks at the HCEF center, the Tent of Nations farm, the Palestinian youth dancers, the Palestinian woman’s choirs, the speakers of Wi’am, Combatants for Peace, Christian Peacemakers, Rabbis for Peace, the staff at the HCEF Inn, our tour guide and bus driver, the people at the Nokba commemoration, the nameless huddled masses waiting for their cars to be examined at military checkpoints, the angry, the frustrated youth near the Wall, the Israeli military soldiers who looked so young covering their fear with outer displays of brash, aggressive displays. All of them. Seared into my memory.

I also finished the book, I will not Hate, written by the Palestinian doctor who lost three daughters and a niece in Gaza during an Israeli military invasion in late 2008/09 when two shells from a tank exploded into the children’s bedroom. He still refuses to hate based upon his Muslim faith and his experiences of Israeli people in his life who were kind, loving and respectful of him from working on an Israeli farm as a youth to being a doctor at an Israeli hospital with his Jewish colleagues to an Israeli reporter that assisted him and reported truthfully the oppression faced everyday in Gaza. Still his solution is establishing face to face relationships with the ‘other’ at the grassroots level through sports, education, humanitarian organizations,etc. To be able to dialogue honestly with empathy and respect for the other’s humanity and truth. He has formed a foundation to support Palestinian girls education in memory of his slain daughters. He believes that the women/ mothers on both sides are the best hope for Peace since children show us the way in their innocence.

The website is: daughtersforlife.com. Check it out! I will continue this blog with other reflections, books and actions regarding the Palestinian-Israeli conflict. Peace.

foundation for supporting Palestinian women education

Day 12: Sea of Galilee-Mt. of Beatitudes, Tabgha (Mult. of Loaves), Capernaum

Today we travelled North-East past Cana, Magdala Bethsaida, Tiberias to the Sea of Galilee. Again, the landscape changes due to volcanic soil and semi-tropical weather near the Sea of Galilee that is really a large lake. To get there we passed by the Horns of Hattin where the Crusader army was routed by the Moslem forces of Saladin. Half were slain and the other half were ransomed from slavery then left to return to their homes in Europe. Tiberias was a Roman city and also known for the important Jewish interpretations of the Torah known as the Talmud. As we travelled one can see the rich soil producing a variety of mango, avocado, olive and other fruit trees. The Sea of Galilee or called the Lake of Tiberias is quite beautiful with almost a torquoise color and gentle waves under spacious, fluffy clouds. One thing I also noticed the last two days is the absence of the military everywhere which contributes to a more peaceful environment to enjoy the sites.

The Mt of Beatitudes gently rises in elevation to offer a panoramic view of the lake with bright flowers and palm trees. The church there was a visual disappointment; but I did appreciate the beatitudes encircling the altar from above reminding viewers the essence of Christianity- Blessed are the poor, merciful, meek, peacemaker- much needed in these lands, those persecuted for righteousness sake as I remember Archbishop Oscar Romero of El Salvador being beatified tomorrow. These are the attitudes of Jesus that creates the consciousness of the Blessed Community given a mission to build the world of justice with peace.

We had liturgy a little farther down the road at a site called Tabgha that commemorated the “Primacy of Peter” and the famous line from the gospels after the Resurrection when Jesus tells him to “feed my  sheep.” On the walking path there was a poster with a list of all the popes. It is a beautiful setting with a number of outside altars to support the variety of pilgrims. We celebrated liturgy in a lovely semi-circle amphitheater with stone rows for sitting and  facing the Sea of Galilee. During the liturgy, Fr. Joe told a story from Peru where he was a missionary for 15 years. There were two friends of his at a place to eat near the mission. When they receive their plates of rice hand beans, an elderly woman of the made gestures to them asking if she could have the leftover scraps. The two men ordered an additional plate of the rice and beans. She was delighted. Later, another woman came and the men thought they would have to buy another meal; instead the first woman picked up a piece of cardboard, wiped it off and placed half of her meal for the second woman. That generosity of the widow’s mite is the spirit behind the Beatitudes and the Multiplication of the Loaves. Scarcity transformed into bounty. Fr. Joe challenges us by gently asking the question: “Am I good news to the poor?” Throughout this site there were boulders of volcanic rock from this area.

After liturgy and picture taking, we proceeded to to another site that commemorates the story of the Multiplication of the loaves and fishes run by the German Benedictine community. The previous one was a Franciscan place. There seems to be some friendly competition here. In the church under the altar is a rock that the site proclaims is where Jesus laid the loaves and fishes to bless and multiply them. Interesting. The altar is built around this large rock. After a time for quiet reflection and, of course more pictures, we proceeded to the restored ruins of a town called Capernaum where Jesus visited the home of Simon Peter and the fisher people recruits for this new Blessed Community. The Franciscans did a spectacular job re-constructing the ruins so one can view the layout of the prosperous town with a grand synagogue featured in the center facing Jerusalem. The stones of what is believed to be the home of Peter is featured underneath the Church which is shaped like a boat. Quite fascinating to read the explanations and descriptions of the ruins. Apparently, the one we are viewing was the second one constructed around the 6th century. The wealth of this town is displayed by the fancy carvings in the huge pillars that held up the thatched roof. I could visualize the story of the paralytic being lowered through this thatched roof to Jesus for healing. Apparently there was an earthquake in the area at some point destroying the town which was never rebuilt until

the 20th century because the fear of future earthquakes. Our guide stated that the last earthquake hit around 1927. We then finished the trip with a quite breezy boat ride on the lake imagining the stories of the stormy seas. The ship’s mate played the Star Spangled banner and also displayed the US flag. This shows the close connection between the two nations. There is a t shirt displayed in a number of shops that reads: ” Dont worry America. Israel has your back.” There is a picture of a F 16 on the shirt. So much for the peacemakers.

We then proceeded home to eat dinner, pack and be ready to go to the airport at 1;30 am!! Yes, that early due to a change of time by the airlines. We will have a 7 hr layover in Istanbul. Some of us are considering going on a tour of that spectcular city if possible. Stay tuned. Peace.

 

Humanitarian Crisis in Gaza

This post is based on two books that I have been reading this trip. The first one I have been using in other posts here by Phillis Bennis, a Jewish political analyst working at the Institute for Policy Studies in D.C. She wrote: “Understanding the Israeli-Palestinian Conflict” and ” I Shall Not Hate” by a Palestinian doctor, Izzeldin Abuelaish, who was born and still lives in Gaza. This is not a scholarly paper. I am just offering a few bits from these books to incite some shock and interest in these forgotten human beings in Gaza. This inspiration came today as I was meditating in the synagogue chapel where there was a picture of Jesus reading the scroll from Isaiah about coming to bring good news to the poor and liberty to captives. How do we respond to these words in our world today? The people of Gaza could use some liberation. What can I/you do to help?

Doctor Abuelaish opens his book by saying that living in Gaza is being witness to a human tragedy. The U.N. reports that the highest population density in the world is Gaza- home to around 1.5 million residents many of whom have been in refugee camps for decades. The World Food Program reported 70% malnourished in June ’06,  Israel has occupied the area for much of the time since the 1967 war. There is a 70-80 percent poverty rate along with rampant hunger and hi unemployment. In 2006 with the election of Hamas through a U.N. certified fair election along with the capture of an Israeli soldier, Israel responded by kidnapping half of the Hamas legislators along with half of the  members of the cabinet ministry. Hamas is considered a terrorist organization by Israel and the United States. It has been linked to the use of suicide bombers and the launching of Qassam rockets into Israeli territory in reaction to the Israeli occupation. Israel also launched major attacks on the civilian populations and destroyed its only power plant causing a long, dark, thirsty summer in 2006. Loss of innocent life, demolished homes and farms, no gas, no visas, no electricity leads to the intolerable suffering of the Gaza community. This collective punitive justice approach by Israel has made Gaza the human tragedy. Targeting an entire population for the actions of a handful of fighters is against international law.

Fifty percent of the population are under the age of 18. There are 8 refugee camps in Gaza and two cities, Gaza City and Jabalia. According to the doctor, they are noisy, crowded and dirty. One of the camps called Beach Camp has 81,000 people in less than one half sq. mile. The entire area feels the unrelenting oppression of being in a state of “lockdown” with Israel controlling the borders along with Egypt who is afraid to be flooded with refugees amidst their own internal conflict. According to the doctor, the rockets many times miss their targets with little or no loss of life and are signs of desperation that invite the over-reactive Israeli counter-attack with F-16 bombers raining death on defenseless children. Article 33 of the Fourth Geneva Convention states that “no protected person may be punished for an offense he or she has not committed.” Taking hostages is strictly prohibited. The capture of enemy combatants is not forbidden. The rockets launched onto Israeli lands and people are also violations of international law and should be condemned; but they don’t compare with the devastating air and land attacks by the Israeli military.

Just a few pieces of information to get you curious and want to find out more. What I am hearing over here in Palestine is that human aid workers and medical personnel have tried to enter Gaza only to be turned back by the Israeli military at the borders. Don’t take my word on this crisis. Find out for yourselves and ask your Congress person why the US has not pressured Israel more to allow aid into Gaza and to end this illegal and unjust occupation- blockade that is literally killing the people of Gaza. Consider that the US sends 75% of its foreign aid to Israel according to the Bennis book. 1.8 billion military aid and 1.2 billion economic aid along with another one billion in grants for military supplies per year. If you also add tax exempt private aid, then the figure rises to 5 billion dollars per year. Therefore the US should have some leverage on this humanitarian crisis if it had the will to do so. This is a political problem, not a religious one. However, religion could be a motive for reaching out and helping the people of Gaza by bring the good news of liberation from this imprisonment.

Below is a link to a panel discussion led by the Brookings Institute is D.C. Notice how aid to the victims of this tragedy does not take center stage in this discussion along with the numerous violations of international law.

http://www.brookings.edu/blogs/brookings-now/posts/2014/08/5-points-from-a-brookings-event-on-israel-hamas-conflict-in-gaza

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Day 11: Exploring Nazareth

We awoke to a very pleasant day with a sunny, cool breeze. After a buffet breakfast, we drove down into old Nazareth to explore  Jesus hometown. As we meandered through the narrow streets, our first stop was one of two sights laying claim to be the area where Mary was greeted by the Angel to announce that she was the chosen one to carry and birth Jesus. The first site belongs to the Greek Orthodox church. They claim Mary was at the one town drinking water well when she received the news. This well is now part of a church of course. The second site at the purported house of Mary located in the crypt of the Basilica of the Annunciation.

The annunciation at the well
The annunciation at the well

There is the well

The annnunciation church at the well
The annnunciation church at the well
Synagogue church honoring Jesus reading the scroll of Isaiah.My favorite.
Synagogue church honoring Jesus reading the scroll of Isaiah.My favorite.
Picture behind altar in synagogue church
Picture behind altar in synagogue church

excavated by the Franciscans. They found an inscription that reads: “I have come here to venerate Jesus Christ, the Son of God.” This site witnessed multiple destruction and re-buildings. In 1960 Israel gave the permit to build the Basilica which took 9 years. Maybe the Angel visited Mary twice to give her time to reflect before saying yes. Around the corner is a sculpture of Joseph on the grounds of a church that claims in the crypt is a cave where Joseph had his workshop. How about that!  I never imaged people of Nazareth living in caves.

 

We also saw a very simple stone chapel that experts believe was a 6th century synagogue. There are no other spots in Nazareth where they have found an earlier one. Eventually it was abandoned then discovered by the Franciscans who gave it to the Eastern rite

Amazement over discovery of the holy family's cave dwelling in the depths.
Amazement over discovery of the holy family’s cave dwelling in the depths.
front of Basilica
front of Basilica
Conjecture of this being the burial crypt for Joseph and Mary
Conjecture of this being the burial crypt for Joseph and Mary
Sr. Margaret guiding us on  an interesting tour in the crypt and explaining wht the sisters of nazareth have the real home and burial site of Mary and Joseph with a good deal of wit
Sr. Margaret guiding us on an interesting tour in the crypt and explaining why the sisters of nazareth have the real home and burial site of Mary and Joseph with a good deal of wit
inside the first level of the basilica keeping the stones of the Byzantine and Crusader eras.
inside the first level of the basilica keeping the stones of the Byzantine and Crusader eras.
Jesus sitting on the lap of Mary. compare this with the egyptian picture of Horus sitting on the lap of Isis
Jesus sitting on the lap of Mary. compare this with the egyptian picture of Horus sitting on the lap of Isis
Nazareth has a football team in the Israeli league
Nazareth has a football team in the Israeli league
poignant reminder on a Nazareth  store front
poignant reminder on a Nazareth store front
They still love Elvis .
They still love Elvis .
My food pic today- olives everywhere. I love them.
My food pic today- olives everywhere. I love them.
walking along an old city Nazareth street
walking along an old city Nazareth street
two thirds of Nazareth is Muslim. See the minaret.
two thirds of Nazareth is Muslim. See the minaret.

Melkite Catholic Church. So maybe this is the site that fits that gospel story of Jesus reading the scroll of Isaiah that alerts to the signs of the Messiah-  proclaiming the release of prisoners..good news to the poor..etc. and then said that the Scriptures have been fulfilled which caused an uproar leading to Jesus hastily leaving Nazareth before he is hurt. This was my favorite spot today. . So peaceful. I was imagining Jesus today causing commotion over the treatment of the poor, the oppression of different groups in this world, the vast amount of folks in prisons,etc. What would he say about the divisions in these lands that he travelled?

We had lunch at a restaurant that served multi-courses of soup, salad, spaghetti and then roasted beef in a sauce with a macaroon like cookie. Our last stop was a delightful tour given by this witty older Irish nun of the ruins below their house and church that shows different stone construction eras…Byzantine,  Crusader and a first century cave structure that she claims maybe the home of the holy family. Check out the photos.

Today,  Nazareth is a population of 80,000 with 50,000 Muslim and the rest Christian. It is called: “The Arab capital of Israel.” We finished early today so some could wander and others rest. I chose rest and blogging. All these churches tire me out. I’m looking forward to the boat ride on the Sea of Galilee, Capernaum and the Mt of the Beatitudes which will be our last full day before a early morning ride to the airport in Tel Aviv due to a change by the airlines.