As I write tonight, I hear the call to prayer just beginning as the sun sets and the cool breeze (finally) drift through the balcony, from which I can see some of Nazareth, Nazareth Ilit (the Jewish town hovering above it in 2nd photo), Mount Tabor (from where it is said the Transfiguration of Jesus took place, on left in 1st photo) and the Jezreel valley (also called Armageddon), a fertile plain over which caravans have travelled for millennia and Salindin defeated the crusaders. It is too much to take in.
Talking to many here, it is clear that hundreds of tourists have suddenly cancelled their trips due to the war. It is perfectly safe here. It is sad to see the shops almost empty of visitors. There are some Koreans and Europeans, however.
I visited Sipphora National Park, a Roman city dating from the 1st C BC. I mentioned the name yesterday, as Ziphora, the Jews call it Zippori. After centuries the spelling changed. It was a major thoroughfare and stronghold. After Herod’s death in 4BC, one Jewish uprising captured the city. The Romans quelled the rebellion, burned the city and sold all Jews into slavery. This story of occupation and the news of this brutality, only 5 kilometers away, would have reached Jesus’ young formative ears.
As it is in Israel, they have done the archeological excavation to reveal its history. Their efforts to uncover this history is juxtaposed to the covering up the Palestinian village history next to it, wiped off the earth except for its ancient cemetery. A son of one of a former inhabitant said that had it survived, it would have grown to be larger than Nazareth. He had to purchase a ticket to enter Sipphora in order to visit the site of his ancestral home and land. He refused and never went back. This is one of over 500 Palestinian villages in Israel whose occupants were forced out by Jewish terrorists during the Nakba of 1948.
My friends Ted and Jane Settle, showed me the Mar Elias schools in Ibillin where they are volunteering for 3 months, coordinating the guest house for many international visitors (at least those who have not cancelled). A Palestinian priest (now retired as Archbishop) of the Melkite Catholic Church, Elias Chacour founded the high school in 1982. It now has 2500 students, K -12, who come from 70 villages, from a 50 mile radius, drawing Muslim, Druze, Jewish and Christian students. The education is exceptional with an emphasis on building peace. Much of this is supported by US and European “Pilgrims of Ibillin”.
A mural in the school’s auditorium depicts images of bridge building and peacemaking, with many faces we would know and some locals we would not recognise. Among them was an aspiring 11th grader who along with 12 others were shot in the back by Israeli Defence Forces during a peaceful, non-violent protest. Jonathan Cook (yesterday’s blog) witnessed it.
I wandered into a minimart for a cold drink about 3.30 and didn’t get away until 5.30. As I drank, I chatted with the shop owner, his wife, brother and others. Discovering I was an American (of course, they had many family members in the US) and as we witnesses the updated Gaza tragedy on Al Jazeera TV, they asked if people in the US saw this, the destruction, the children killed, the mothers weeping. I said that many do, but many do not. They couldn’t imagine anyone knowing this and yesterday sending $239 million for more Israeli weaponry (Israel: world’s 4th largest military and 4th largest weapon supplier). I shook my head also in disbelief, at a lose to explain to them and myself the disconnect.
They insisted I stay for a “light” meal of lamb and coffee. My new friends Abed, Hayet and Cohel were Muslim, but as you can see from the photo they sold alcohol, so they were flexible Muslims. They decried the religious Muslims who did not follow the Koran, a book of peace, as I grieve for Christians who do not follow Jesus word’s of peace and Jews who neglect the words of justice to which they are called.