Friday evening, 15 January, Jerusalem.
Report from the ALUCC Holy Land Pilgrims: We started our day in Tiberias and headed south into the fertile Jezreel valley towards Mt. Tabor, site of the Transfiguration. It was a crisp cool morning – we could see Mt. Hermon in the distance. Mass was taking place inside the Church of the Transfiguration – here are pictures of the chancel (the peacock is a symbol of eternal life) and the side chapels featuring Moses and Elijah:
We continued heading south, crossed into the West Bank (two quick questions asked by a border guard holding a machine gun), and immediately began to notice differences. The road was paid for by U.S. Aid, a sign declared. The towns were dingy and strewn with garbage. It reminded me of India. Businesses were abandoned, half-boarded-up. Our guide told us that the West Bank was under Jordanian control from 1948 – 1967 and that now it is 99% Sunni Muslim.
There are still some Bedouins in Israel. After I asked (rather sheepishly!) if there were still any shepherds around, our driver stopped so we could photograph this scene of sheep, shepherds and donkeys:
“Jacob’s Well is closed from 12-2,” our tour guide Walleed said. “So how about a Palestinian lunch first?” And so we turned down an unmarked road towards the town of Samaria. The road is ancient, flanked with giant stone pillars. When we arrived at the center of town, this is what we saw:
Then this wonderfully kind gentleman gave us a walking tour of the ruins of Samaria (now called Sebastia), telling us the history as he showed us the remains from Greeks, Romans, the palace of ivory Ahab built for his wife Jezebel, and the church where they believe John the Baptist was beheaded:
Here are a few members of our group walking up to see the view above the ivory palace:
Friday is the Muslim holy day. This family was picnicking at the ruins of the Roman theater:
Time for lunch – we were told Grandmother made the olives and the bread was baked in special ovens…it was plentiful and delicious:
The hospitality was warm and gracious. Our Muslim host introduced us to the man who takes care of the church, whom he said is the last Christian in Samaria. We left with a great appreciation for the Samaritans’ love of their town, and we headed south again, towards the actual site of Jacob’s Well, now a Greek Orthodox church. This priest embraced our tour guide; we were told he singlehandedly built the church. His predecessor was killed by nearby gangs, so he has already prepared his burial tomb:
And here is Jacob’s well:
By the time we arrived in Jerusalem, the weather had turned cloudy and cool. We viewed the city, but pictures are not great. We checked into our hotel and the 13 of us enjoyed another wonderful meal together. We look forward to the adventures that await, and to sharing them with all of you. Shabbat Shalom.