March 11 through March 17
On Monday, I walked Michael and Angelina down the stairs to meet with Johaina, the Director of the Mariam Bawardi Elementary School and the Middle School (the guest house is on the top (fifth) floor of the elementary school, so we walked down four flights of stairs). Since their screening equipment and other supplies were still in customs, they had to adjust their plans for working with students at the school. Johaina had received permission slips back from the parents of four students who had already been identified with hearing problems and had some kind of hearing aids. It was decided that Tuesday morning would be the time for meeting with these students and their parents and Johaina showed us the nurse’s room on the basement floor that could be used for this purpose. Johaina also had the results of the screening tests for these students of which she made copies to share with Angelina for the audiologists to look at to determine how they might best be of help.
At the same time, I took the art teacher, Jessie Smith, to Johaina and she directed her to the classroom where the art teacher was working with the elementary school students. We told Jessie to come back up to the guest house by 9:15. Jessie reported later on her good experience with the art teacher and the children in the art class. She later provided a donation for the art teacher to help buy art supplies. Jessie is taking pictures of art projects on the other side of the 3rd floor.
The whole group would be walking over to a room behind the church to meet with the Archbishop at 9:30 and then they would be joined by a group of students coming from Notre Dame University at 10:00 for a joint meeting with the Archbishop. The group from Notre Dame would also be coming over to the guest house for lunch around 12:00. (We were using this room because some rooms on the 6th floor were being renovated to provide cubicles and desks for tutoring of high school students and the hallway was cluttered)
After getting the audiologists and the art teacher connected, I walked down to the high school to gather up books, DVDs, and other materials to carry over to the room where the Archbishop would be meeting the two groups so I could set up tables with these materials for sale. Also I helped to set up juices, coffee and wafers for the guests to enjoy.
Getting to this room is like walking through a maze. You enter the large building, in which the Church of the Sermon on the Mount and the Niwano Peace Auditorium are located, in the back of the Niwano Peace auditorium and walk around behind the auditorium to steps, up the steps, and back around, now at the level of the church, to a room that is bright and sunny, much better for pictures than the sixth floor room where we usually meet. Right outside the room is a hallway large enough for us to set up tables on which to place the Archbishop’s books and the other materials we have for sale and information.
Traveling with the HearCare Audiology group were some people doing professional video and making reports back on the group’s trip to Israel/Palestine for a TV station in Ft Wayne, Curtis Smith, a weather reporter, and Tim Langston, a videographer. They set up early and did an interview with the Archbishop
and then were delighted with the fact that here in Ibillin, they, from Ft Wayne, IN, were meeting up with students from Notre Dame University also in Indiana. Interviews were conducted with some of them as well. You can see their reports at this web site (http://www.indianasnewscenter.com/weather/hearing-the-call/),
Comments on these reports; this group spent over a week in Israel/Palestine. The work they were doing in providing professional, careful and sensitive attention and care, and hearing instruments, to children with hearing disorders did bring rewarding smiles to them on the faces of the children and parents. It is an effort well worth making. However, if you look at all of the reports shown on the site above, it is as if the apartheid wall and the oppressive occupation of the Palestinian people in the West Bank, now recognised by the United Nations as Palestine, does not exist. There are no pictures of the wall or the check points and no mention is made of either. Additionally, they listened to the Archbishop who speaks specifically about the unequal, injust treatment of Palestinian citizens in Israel, and Mitri Raheb pastor of the Christmas Lutheran Church in Bethlehem and one of the contributors to Kairos Palesetine: A Moment of Truth, a document which affirms that resistance to injustice and oppression is firmly grounded in the Christian principles of faith, hope, and love, and which asks Christians around the world to hear the call of the Palestinian Christians. None of this is reflected in the reports. Actually their reporting is a pretty good case study of how persons can travel in Israel/Palestine, even persons who are paid to “see” and “hear” and either are not willing to “see” and “hear” or at least not willing to report on all that they see and hear.
Following the Archbishop’s talk with these two groups, I took the Notre Dame students
into the Church of the Sermon on the Mount to show them the iconostasis and the beatitude iconsand then we walked over to the guest house where they ate lunch. After lunch we walked up to the roof for a quick look around. From the roof, on a clear day, you can see all along Mount Carmel and to Haifa.
Often the Mediterranean Sea looks as if it forms a wall rising straight up from the land. As you move your eyes up the coast, to your right, you can see Akko
and on a clear day all the way into Lebanon. From here also you can gain a better idea of the scope of the campus of Mar Elias Educational Institution. You can also see across the valley to the village center of Ibillin and the Mosque, the Greek Orthodox Church, and the Melkite Catholic Church. In front of the Melkite Catholic Church you can also see the first building erected by the then Abuna Chacour, the kindergarten.
The students from Notre Dame were soon on their way.
Michael and his group were going into Haifa tonight for dinner, so we had the evening off.
We were up early again the next morning to help prepare for breakfast. After breakfast, the audiologists went down to the nurse’s room in the basement and began to see the four students as had been planned yesterday.
As this was in process, Angelina was trying to find batteries for some of the special kind of hearing aids they had carried in with them.. Micha Chacour took her to a local place run by a former student of Mar Elias who also had hearing problems and used hearing aids. The audiologists finished their work, everything was packed up on the bus and all were ready to go waiting for the return of Micha and Angelina. Finally they made it and soon the Michael Spath group was off for Tiberias.
For our part, the clean-up began at least to prepare for the arrival in the early afternoon of three couples from Italy who were on a hiking pilgrimage through Israel/Palestine. As usual we stripped the beds and I carried the bedding and towels to the laundry room on the room and Jane started the wash. While she was up there, Elias O, who was working on the roof, called her to come over to the edge of the roof at the back ans see the strange animal that was on the hillside behind the elementary school. When Jane looked there was the hyrax that we had seen from time to time earlier, but not for a long time. You can look up hyrax on Wikipdeidia.
We actually get quite a few hikers from Italy because the guest house is listed in an Italian hiker’s guide book. They start at the airport in Tel Aviv and take a taxi to Akko where they stay the first night The second day they walk from Akko to Ibillin and stay the second night in the Mar Elias Guest House.
They ddi arrive in the middle of the afternoon. It was one of the hottest days of the year to date and they were red, from the sun. hot and wet from the heat and sweating. They were delighted with their rooms, showers and a place to wash out their clothes and hang them up on the clothes lines on the roof.
After showering, washing clothes, and resting a bit, one of the women asked me if it were possible to visit the Church of the Sermon on the Mount. The guide book mentions the iconostasis and she is an iconographer. So when they were ready, by this time it was getting dark, I walked them over to the church. I had them wait outside while I went inside to turn on the lights and to let the lights come fully on. Then I invited them in. The woman who is an iconography took one look at the iconostasis and exclaimed “Paradiso!”
From their entrance into the church and their behaviour while in the church you could see the reverence with which they approached the iconostasis and the other icons and how much they appreciated the opportunity to come into this place. After quite a while in the church with them exploring all the icons of the iconostasis very closely, we returned to the guest house and Badia had dinner ready for them. They ate well. They indicated that they would like to leave sometime between 6:00 and 6:30 in the morning, We showed them where things were for them to make sandwiches if they desired and where there was fruit they could take with them. I told them I would be up to let them out of the guest house. (We lock it up every night). And we all went to bed.
I got up earily and was just in time for the last of the hikers waiting to take the elevator down to go outside and on his way. The elevator holds only five people, so the others were already downstairs. i rode down with him and found, as I expected, the others waiting at the door to get out also. After opening the door, I pointed them in the directions they needed to walk to get off the campus and they were on their way.
Today we were expecting 35 visitors who were alumni or friends of alumni of Calvin College which is located Grand Rapids, Michigan. Their leader was William Vanden Bosch. They met with Elias AG at 12:30, and then we visited the Church of the Sermon on the Mount
and then came back to the guest house for lunch, again a delicious meal prepared by Badia
They were on their way shortly after 3:30.
Today was the day for my surgery. We were to be at Nazareth English Hospital by 10:00 am. Elias Obaid picked us up at about 9:15 and we arrived at the hospital before 10:00 (you can never tell how much traffic you will hit so it is always wise to give yourself plenty of time). Fortunately we found a parking place right near the hospital entrance and found our way up to the sixth floor where outpatient surgery is performed. The secretary was training a new secretary so it was taking a very long time for signing up each patient. I finally was called to get signed up, had a bracelet put on, payment made (not much), and ushered into a curtained off room to wait my turn to go into the operating room. It did not take too long before I was rolled into the room, the doctor administered the local anaesthesia, and he made his excision (no pain), and began to stitch up the surgical cut, eight stitches in all. I was soon out of the operating room and had to wait a few minutes more until the report was written and I was released, all in all from the time I was taken into the first room until I walked out, not more than 45 minutes.
This was the day we had planning to complete two other tasks while in Nazareth: my Canon lens that needed repair was ready for pick-up at the Abu Castro Digital Camera shop and, since I knew I would be in Nazareth on this day, I had arranged with the people from the International Center for Mary to pick up payment for their stay at the guest house last Saturday night.
The lens was indeed ready. I put it on my Canon 7D and took a few test shots. It worked and I was greatly relieved since we would be leaving for Jordan and a special visit to Petra the next week.
We moved on to find parking so we could walk up to the International Center for Mary which is located across the street behind the Basilica of the Annunciation — very limited parking near it. We did find parking in a lot and then walked across the main street, through a souk area that took us to the road that goes by the Basilica and around behind the Basilica to the entrance to the International Center for Mary. We made it just in time, since they close their doors between 12 and 2. Once inside we found Luc and Marie-Christine (husband and wife who run the center) and received the payment and then went and sat in their beautiful cafeteria area for a cup of coffee and some conversation. Jane went to look at their gift shop and Elias and I stayed and talked with Luc. In a short time we were on our way back to Ibillin with all of our tasks accomplished. On the way back into Ibillin, Elias took us to a special falafel restaurant. it did not look like much, but the falafel was delicious. Elias then drove us back to the guest house.
After breakfast, Jane walked down to the high school to work with Nur and Ashraf. She is finding it very helpful to have them together when she is working with Ashraf. Nur understands English quite well and so he helps explain to Ashraf what he has to do. Jane is working with him to prepare him for an oral interview concerning his plans for his future.
A week ago Johaina, the Director of the Mariam Bawardi Elementary School had asked us if we would like to come to her home for an overnight stay and a visit to Kfar Kana (the Cana mentioned in John’s Gospel where Jesus turns water into wine). We said yes, we would like to come and arranged to come today.
Today after the gifted program was finished, one of the teachers, Kamil, who also lives in Kfar Kana would pick us up and take us to Johaina;s home. So at 2:00 pm we got into his car and drove off toward Kfar Kana. He stopped on the way at his sister’s home in Shefa’mer, the city right next to Ibillin. Her husband is an internal medicine doctor, educated in Italy. We were treated to strawberries, dates, and coffee with some sweets also. Another sister of Kamil came with us on our trip to Kfar Kana. The road to Kfar Kana takes us past Nazareth on the north and then it seemed like we kept going down and down until we finally arrived in Kfar Kana. We had two stops before getting to Johaina’s, Kamil bought some sweets to take to Johaina, and we bought some large bandages for my arm since I could now take a shower and then would have to cover the stitches Then we dropped off Kamil’s sister and on to Johaina’s home. There we were greeted by Johaina, her two daughters, 4 and 8, and her husband, Amil. Her two daughters were quite excited about our coming. Johaina had instructed Badia not to feed us lunch because she planned to feed us soon after we arrived. So after getting our things into the room where we would stay, the girls’ room, we sat down to a delicious meal. We were introduced to a dish we had not had before, green burghel with pasta, kafta with tahini, chicken, potatoes, tabuli, and a salad of fresh greens, After eating, we walked to the Greek Orthodox Church, where the miracle of turning water into wine is celebrated. Before getting to the church, we were joined by Amin’s father (he lives right next to the church) and he escorted us into the back way into the church.
The church was very crowded with tourists. Amin’s father said crowds start coming at 7 in the morning and continue until 7 at night with the tour guides rushing the tourist along, a true image of “running where Jesus walked.” It is here that John 2 writes of Jesus turning water into wine. John two starts, On the third day, . . .” In chapter one Jesus has met Nathaniel. Nathaniel’s home is Cana. We do not know if that is where Jesus met him. However, Nazareth is not a short distance from Kana especially when you are walking. It is, however, mostly downhill, in fact constantly downhill. One of the things that impresses you when you are here for a while and not rushing around like when on a tour, is the mountainous character of the Galilee — and to think that all of the people in Jesus’ time walked. From reading in the Gospels, Jesus and his disciples walked considerable distances and it was not easy walking. However, their sense of time was quite different from ours and they were not being rushed along by tour guides
Afterward we left the oldest daughter, Raghad, with her grandparents and Amin, Johaina, Ranad, Jane and I drove toward Tiberius, We stopped first at a garden center which was quite nice. Here to our delight, we found packaged seeds for za’atar and the small squash they use so much here. In addition to all of the plants and trees, they had a special area in which spices were in abundance. The fragrance of the spices was delightful.
We drove on to Tiberius, again constantly downhill. The Sea of Galilee is over 240 meters below sea level. We parked and walked down to the boardwalk along the edge of the sea of Gallilee. it being Friday night, it was pretty quiet. We found an ice cream place and enjoyed sitting alongside the sea and eating our ice cream. Two kids are enjoying ice cream.
On our return trip we stopped off at Amin’s parents to pick up their older daughter. Of course that means coffee, fruit and sweets. Amin’s father worked with the UN Peacekeeping forces for most of his working life and proudly showed us a plaque he had been presented upon his retirement. They had the ceiling of their dining room decorated in way that would make me uncomfortable to sit in that room under that ceiling for a meal.
Back at Joahaina’s Their daughters had given up therir beds for us to sleep on. The youngest, 4 year old Ranad, we were told, was delighted because it meant that she could sleep in her mother’s and father’s room.
We were up early since we had to leave for Ibillin by 7:00 am with Johaina and Kamil. The elementary school begins at 8:00 am.
After breakfast we began our return journey and arrived back at the school around 7:30. We took our things upstairs while Johaina and Kamil went to the first floor and began preparation for school to begin.
All day today Badia was busy in the kitchen preparing a meal for 40+ people at lunch on Monday. This was to be a special meal and the day was also known as “Clean Monday” in the Eastern Rite churches. (you can check this in Wikipedia at http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Clean_Monday) The main course would be fish, no beef or chicken. We talked with Nawar, the former Director of the Elementary school and one of the old timers at Mar Elias, and she invited us to go with her tomorrow to Akko where she would purchase fresh fish. We agreed and she said that wo would go some time around noon.
We were up in time for a leisurely breakfast before beginning our 20-25 minute walk over to the village to go to the St George Melkite Catholic Church for worship. After church we went to the fruit store as usual for some fresh fruit and then made the walk back to the guest house.
Around noon I called Nawar and she said she would be over to pick us up in a few minutes. Soon we were in her car and on our way to Akko. Akko is made up of the old city with its Palestinian residents and then mostly Jewish residents in newer housing surrounding th sold city. We drove all the way to the street that goes along the Mediterranean and turned left to go down to the old city. After parking, Nawar took us to Badia’s home, one of her oldest friend’s. She was originally from Ibillin. It is a beautiful old home in the midst of the old city. We knocked on a door of a building right on the street
and when her friend, Badia, opened the door and invited us in we were amazed. We walked through a court yard
and then into a large sitting room where we sat and talked withBadia and her husband. He was dressed in a suit and tie. We found out that he had been the organizer and leader of the scout troops in Akko for many years, now retired. Of course our conversation included coffee and sweets. Then Badia’s husband led us walking through the narrow stone streets of the old city to the souk. We find this most interesting, walking through the narrow streets of the old city, stopping to take pictures along the way.
The home of the parents of Suha Arafat, the wife of Arafat.
We soon arrive at the old souk (the shopping area filled with small shops along each side of the narrow stone street and make our way for awhile until we arrive at the place where fresh fish are for sale. Badia’s husband goes around the table where many different kinds of whole fish are displayed and talks with the owners. He asks for 44 fish for Nawar to take for the lunch tomorrow and a few more for Nawar to take for herself. We followed him around behind the table and are able to see the fish being selected. Next comes the scaling, gutting and cleaning of the fish. Then they are packed in a large box and ice put on top.
Then the box is loaded onto a dolly and an older man begins to walk the box back through the souk and the narrow streets, stopping often as the top pops off. Finally he finds an heavy piece of wood and props in on top. We finally arrive back at the car and load the box into the car.
We then get back in the car for the ride back to the guest house.
When we got to the guest house, I took the box of fish out of the car and carried it up to the kitchen area. Nawar has left. Jane and I opened the refrigerator and check to see how we can get this large box inside. We decides that to do so we needed to remove some of the shelves. It turned out to be a difficult task and we were afraid that we might break something in the refrigerator. We called Elias and Badia and they came over to help get the shelves out of the refrigerator so the fish could fit inside. We finally managed and the fish were put securely into the refrigerator with the lid on tightly – no odors.
Elias and Badia left, with the information that Badia would be back around 7 in the morning to begin preparing the fish.
(Fish dinner to be continued in the next blog)