I awoke at 4 am as I had the night before to what seemed like a mortar shell. I found its occurrence repeated at the same time comforting, that it was not the current demonstrations occurring in East Jerusalem. It was, I learned later, the “last call” to those who plan to fast for Ramadan. This started Thursday and will last a month. It will be interesting to observe those who observe or do not.
I visited two historical sites this morning, the YMCA, built in 1928 back when Jerusalem was not Y material, and the King David Hotel, built during the Ottoman rule, mid-19th century. It is impressive as you see below. The sign speaks of the Israeli Zionist Irgun Terrorist group, one of many who violently threatened Palestinians in the late 30’s and 40’s before Israeli’s statehood in ’48 and used violence against the British, during their post WW1 occupation. It is interesting that one of its members, who became prime minister, Menachim Begin, is honored with a museum just 1/4 mile away from the hotel where he killed 92 soldiers.
After a 15 “ bus, and 5 “ taxi rides, I arrived in Beit Sahour, a small town down the hill from Bethlehem and most famous for its traditional site of the shepherd’s experiencing the angelic host at Christ’s birth. (I always thought it was Bethlehem too!) Along with Bethlehem, it has the highest percentage of Christians in all the West Bank. Having said that, the last 3 decades have seen rapid decline in numbers.
I will be working here, at this coffee bar, organic garden and study center, sometimes leading group discussion – my arabic is non-existent – theological, philosophical and biblical. I will also be leading some hikes with time woven in for reflection. Honestly, with 90 degrees, I’m thinking more about coordinating a tour of the Tay Bae beer factory, with some product evaluation at the end.