March 18 -24
Continued from Sunday on the last blog.
Today a big event is scheduled for the guest house. The leaders of the schools of the different catholic groups came to the the guest house for a late lunch and a meeting. The basic purpose of the meeting was to discuss how they are in the task of education together, their relationship with the Ministry of Education as private Christian schools, their rights and their responsibilities.
We had to set up the dining area of the guest house for two purposes, for eating and meeting. From this we learned that we can accommodate many more people than we had originally thought. We had the tables for eating set up to accommodate 32 and then another set of tables set up in a U shape with the head of the U for the Archbishop and the latin prelate from Jerusalem, and the leader of the group. This was set up to accommodate over 30 sitting around the tables. As it turned out, there were enough present to overflow the eating area and so we moved chairs along the U shaped arrangement and many of the guest sat and ate at these tables.
Food preparation had been in the works for many days, especially all day Saturday. As told for the Sunday part of the last blog, we drove to Akko with Nawar where, after visiting a short time with her friend Badia and Badia’s husband, he walked us over to the souk and the fish market to purchase fresh fish. These fresh fish were stored in the refrigerator in the guest house kitchen and awaited another Badia’s, our cook, attention on Monday.
Badia arrived early in the morning and thoroughly washed each and breaded each fish. Some she baked in the oven
and others she fried on the stove top.
In addition to the fish, she made a large pot of special rice cooked with carrots. She also had the person who runs one of the kiosks help out by providing a large quantity of french fries. She also made four salads, one of which is our favourite, a combination of avocado and fennel, parsley, mint, and lemon juice.
Jane and I went out to pick some roses so Jane could make the room look nice.
Clean Monday as the beginning of Lent in the Easter Rite Churches. From Wikipedia “Clean Monday: Clean Monday (Greek: Καθαρά Δευτέρα), also known as Pure Monday, Ash Monday, Monday of Lent or Green Monday, is the first day of the Eastern Orthodox Christian, Saint Thomas Christians of India and Eastern Catholic Great Lent. It is a movable feast that occurs at the beginning of the 7th week before Orthodox Easter Sunday.
The common term for this day, “Clean Monday”, refers to the leaving behind of sinful attitudes and non-fasting foods. It is sometimes called “Ash Monday,” by analogy with Ash Wednesday (the day when the Western Churches begin Lent). The term is often a misnomer, as only a small subset of Eastern Catholic Churches practice the Imposition of Ashes. The Maronite Catholic Church and The Mar Thoma Nasranis of India-Syro-Malabar Catholic Church are notable amongst the Eastern rite that employs the use of ashes on this day.”
Because it was clean monday, no meat could be served, therefore the trip to Akko on Sunday to purchase fish that could be served on Monday.
The meal was well received, even Jane ate some of the fish.
The meeting continued for about three hours. As I found out later, they were discussing common issues of curriculum, staffing and dealing with the Ministry of Education.
Clean up took until 5 pm, including rearranging the tables back to their original placement and removing the other tables set up in a U shape. A big sigh of relief when we were finished.
Today we had a visit from a group from Switzerland. It was set up so they would meet in the Library (part of the guest house) with Emil and then have lunch at the guest. Following this I was to take them for a tour of the Church of the Sermon on the Mount and then over to the village of Ibillin to a family we had discovered because of the curiosity of Audrey Porksen, our friend from England, when she last visited. I had arranged with A’ssad Daoud to bring them over to meet with him and his family.
As the group was about to go into the library for the meeting with Emil, Micha arrived to return a laser pointer I had loaned to him for his trip and power point presentation in German the previous week. He joined the group and it was later reported that when a question was asked about volunteers, he sort of took over the meeting. This resulted in some internal controversy which is of an ongoing nature. Micha used to be in charge of the guest house and volunteers. He was removed from those responsibilities and Elias Abu Ghanima put in charge of the guest house and volunteers. However, Micha continues to find ways to insert himself in the visits to the school and use of the guest house. His trip to Germany is part of his efforts to encourage greater involvement by the Catholic Church in Germany with the Mar Elias Schools. As part of this we now have a brochure on Mar Elias Educational Institutions that I prepared in InDesign and then he had translated into German. For purposes of dealing with the Catholic Church in Germany, Micha is the contact person. This has already resulted in ttwo groups coming to stay at the guest house and in May we are expecting a couple to come to stay in the guest house for at least five nights while they travel around the Galilee region. They are part of the leadership of the German group with whom this relationship is being developed.
After the meeting, I took the group over to the Church of the Sermon on the Mount and then I got into their bus and drove with them over to the village to the home of A’ssad Daoud. He welcomed us into his backyard, a lovely area with overhead grapevines now starting to leaf out and a beautiful pond with large fish in it.
A’ssad talks about his family, the previous and current home (built in 1885). We go into a building in the back yard that houses an old olive press, not used since the early 1990s, but kept is good condition. He shows them the area of the old house in which people are welcomed (restored), and next to it a room where camels were kept. It turns out that Ibillin was on the trade route from the Decapolis (an area to the east of the Jordan River and mentioned in the New Testament) to Akko. The villagers protected the caravans from thieves.
From their backyard we can walk through a gate to the place where there is an archaeological dig with findings going back to the 1st century in Roman times and other remains down throughout the crusader times. One structure of interest is a old bath. The Jewish archaeologists claim that is is an old Jewish bath used for cleansing. However, A’ssad points out that a source of fresh running water is necessary and there is no such source. This may be part of the ongoing attempt to make the only narrative of Israel a Jewish narrative.
Also in this area is the home in which Mariam Bawardi was born and lived the first years of her life. The Daoud family is in the process of slowly restoring it in the way it looked when she was in the home, in the 1850s.
From here we walk around the corner and up the road a little to get to the Greek Orthodox Church. A’ssad is the architect in charge of renovating the church. He has done a lot to make sure that the old parts of the church are not destroyed, but preserved and integrated into the renovations. Part of the renovations are new icons which eventually will cover all the wall space of the nave and sanctuary. An iconographer is in residence from Greece writing the new icons.
The time with A’ssad goes quickly and the group finds it necessary to be on its way. This has worked well and I will be planning to bring more groups over to meet A’ssad and his family.
After lunch two of the 11th graders that we have been working with, Abdallah and Hassan came up to the guest house and we worked on some English lessons with them.
With the time difference of 6 hours, US had moved to day light savings time but Israel has not, we were to face time with Tyler after he got home from school, about 3:30 his time and 9:30 our time, not 10:30.
This would turn out to be a very special day. We planned with Johnny Mansour to visit the destroyed village of Ma’aloul, near Nazareth. All that remains in the village, in addition to the destroyed homes of the villagers, is a Melkite Catholic Church, a Greek Orthodox Church, and a Mosque. Of these three, only the Melkite Catholic Church is in good enough condition to be used, in fact we hope to return to the church on May 6th when they people of Ma’aloul have permission to return for a worship service in the village and the church, a worship service we understand that will be attended by Christians and Muslims. Permission for a worship service is granted only once a year.
We left iblllin about 9:30 and drove east toward Nazareth. We turned off south before the road we usually turn on to get to Nazareth and skirted around the south of Nazareth and then came back north to reach Ma’alul. We had to turn off on a dirt road where we were met by Ali Saleh and Jad Salem. Jad is 87 years of age, born in 1926. He was raised in Ma’alul and was in the village when the IDF came into the village in July of 1948.
We followed them slowly over the dirt road. It was in pretty good condition which was a good thing since we did not have four wheel drive or much clearance under the car. We stopped first at a Muslim grave site and got out to take some pictures.
We next approached the Melkite Catholic Church.
It is intact and locked, basically to prevent cattle from entering the church building and making deposits like this
in the church building. It is quite an irony that the cattle from the Jewish settlements nearby are free to roam the Palestinian land of Ma’alul while at the same time the residents are not permitted to return to their homes. While they may visit, they are not permitted to hold worship services in the church except on one day of the year.
Ali unlocked the door to the church and we entered.
it was a large room with the iconostasis and the sanctuary (the area behind the iconostasis) on the left as we entered. There were no chairs set up in the nave (what we protestants call the sanctuary), but stacked on the far side of the nave. We spent some time taking pictures of the room, iconostasis and individual icons.
Ali opened the door at the back of the nave and we exited that way and walked around the building taking pictures from many different angles. We were shown a picture of the church taken after the church was built in 1936 and before the villagers were evicted in 1948.
Ali Saleh, Johnny Mansour, and Jad Salem
Ali commented that when the Palestiniians lived here there were no trees. Now there are many tall evergreen trees. Perhaps you made a donation when you were in grammar school to plant trees in Israel. This is how they were used, to hide and cover up the destruction of Palestinian villages, over 500 villages.
We walked up to the Orthodox church and took more pictures. it was locked so the only pictures were of the outside.
While on the grounds of the village, Jad talked about what life was like in the village before 1948. He was about 22 when the Israeli armies came through and evicted the people from the village. There is part of the village on the hill across the way (now there is an Israeli military base there). The Israeli army came to this part of the village first and shot and killed a small girl. The came next to the village area near the church and killed five more of the villagers. The villages fled from their village according to the desire of the Israeli army. The village homes were demolished as part of the plan to leave nothing behind to which the villagers could return.
Other information provided while talking with the men. The village was made up of Christian and Muslim families that shared life together in many ways. Specifically they talked about two features of this sharing of life. For whatever reason, the number of male births outnumbered considerably the number of female births. That meant that a lot of weddings were held i the village. On the night before the wedding, if it was a Muslim wedding, the bride would come and spend the night with a Christian family. The reverse was true if the wedding was a Christian wedding. At the wedding, there would be both Christian and Muslim men and women standing with the groom and bride respectively. And all children born in the same month were baptised together, regardless of Muslim or Christian.
Following our time at the site of the churches, we got back into the cars and drove back down the road a short distance where we stopped to go look at the Mosque. It was not in good shape as you can see from the picture below.
Then back in the car and to the place where we met. On our drive home Johnny took us a different way actually through the Jewish settlement where Ilan Pappe has his home. It reminded us of the north side of Berkeley.
The first day of Spring is mother’s day in Israel. Badia and Elias brought Jane a beautiful blouse that she will wear when it gets a little warmer.
A’ssad called about noon asking that we come to his home to talk with him and his brother, Madji and his mother, A’bla, about the upcoming visits to their home by visitors from Sweden. We walked up to their home in the village and enjoyed sitting in their backyard under the grape vines and talking about a variety of issues, including what A’ssad would talk about with the people from Sweden. A’ssad talked a great deal about the history of Ibillin and about the work he is doing on the Greek Orthodox Church. We mentioned our visit to Ma’alul and he told us that he had done work for the Melkite church there and its restoration. He also commented on what is being done in the St George Melkite Church in Ibillin — that they are not restoring the ceiling properly. They also took us into their house and showed us the large room that is consider a reception area and then into a beautiful room that we would call a living room. During our conversation we had juice to drink and then toward the end A’ssad’s mother brought out the Arabic coffee. Of course we had to talk about making coffee. They prefer to buy coffee beans and grand their own. They also grind cardamom seeds, the whole pod and seeds inside, and add that to the coffee just at the end of making the coffee. The water is heated almost to boiling, then coffee added, back on the heat to raise the temperature again constantly stirring (with a sooon lifting the water up and dumping it back in). This until it almost foams over, off heat again constantly stirring, back on the heat again until it almost foams over. Off the heat again add the cardamom, and back on the heat for a short time. Then you are done. For those who like sugar in the coffee it is added now — Jane and i do not add sugar, but Badia does.
Crochet hanging in the Daoud home.
Old coffee grinder (crusher)
Mariam Bawardi Mosaic icon made in the St Gerasimos Greek Orthodox Monastery in the Jordan Valley near Jericho
The coffee was very good, and of course with some kind of sweet to eat as well.
After our time with the Daoud family, we walked to the pharmacy for a few thing then across the street to the fruit store. While we were there Salha called and asked where we were. When she found out that we were at the fruit store she told us to wait there and she would pick us up. Soon we saw her and with her was her sister in law and her nephew, all dressed up for mother;s day. We drove back over tot he guest house and they all came up for some coffee. Salha had brought Jane a mother’s day present of large vse filled with different kinds of candy.
Salha and her sister in law were on their way to Salha’s parent’s home where her mother was roasting a whole stuffed lamb and all the family (a lot of people) were coming to celebrate mother’s day.
After they left Jane and I went out for a walk and saw the white breasted kingfisher.
Today Jane met with Noor and Ashraf as usual. Ashraf is beginning to be able to express himself more easily in English, not like translating from Arabic to English. He will soon have an oral interview that will affect his application to college where he wants to study psychology.
Today also the faculty gathered at 10:45 for their brunch and someone provided Manaesh. It was delicious.
The strong winds coming out of the east are bringing terrible sandstorms to our area. In Bethlehem, President Obama could not take the helicopter to get from Jerusalem to Bethlehem and had to go by car. That meant he had to drive right alongside the apartheid wall and go through a check point. He did not have to wait in line for hours like the Palestinians, but at least he saw the terrible wall and the checkpoints up close. We called the sandstorm affecting Bethlthem, the ruach of God, the breath of God.
Later we received a call from Elias O telling us that we should walk down to the preschool where a mother’s day party was in progress. we did. Badia had helped do some cooking for the party — she regularly cooks for the children, over 20 kids, children of parents who work at Mar Elias. It was a great party with professional entertainers to keep the kids and their parents busy. From the expressions on the faces of the children and parents everyone had a good time. Toward the end food was set out and we enjoyed some delicious different kinds of sweets.
At the break, Amal, one of the teachers, brought a special cake she had made, carob topping, cheese on the bottom. Again we enjoyed it very much, as we have found that we do with most of the foods here.
After the break, I went to Veronica’s English class. This is a tenth grade class and they are now together as a homeroom. I set up my camera and tripod, used the color correction card, and then took pictures of those who were willing to sit for a picture.
We spentsome of the day getting ready to leave on Monday for Amman and our trip to Petra and Jerash in Jordan.
Today we were up earlier than usual. Elias and Badia planned to pick us up shortly after nine and we would drive together to Mt Tabor. Afterward we would go to their home for a late lunch. Mt Tabor is the place where the transfiguration of Jesus took place. It is recorded in the synoptic gospels and also referred to in II Peter 1:16-18. The language of the gospels refer to Jesus taking Peter, James and John with him to a high mountain. Today this is Mt. Tabor.
Mt Tabor is located to the east of Nazareth, visible from the roof of the Abuna Firaj Pilgrim House where we stay when we are in Nazareth. The long distance lens makes it look as if Mt Tabor is right on top of Nazareth. Map images below show that it is not.
From the map image below you can see that Nazareth is 1,500 feet elevation, the area between Nazareth and Mt. Tabor drops to 452 feet, and then Mt Tabor goes up to 1,886 elevation. Beyond that to the east when you arrive at the Sea of Galilee you drop to 646 feet below sea level. Imagine spending your days walking this area as did Jesus and his disciples. Of course they did not have watches or smart phones with built in calendars, they were on God’s time.
Large tour groups on buses have to disembark from the buses and take taxis to the top. From the image below you can see why, large buses could never make the switch backs, 15 in all going to the top of Mt. Tabor.
I recently placed a reservation for a group called The True Life in God (http://www.tlig.org) to use the Church of the Sermon on the Mount for an early morning worship service Sunday September 1st with 600 people expecting to attend. The reason for an early start for the service, 8:30, was explained by mentioning that after the service all 600 are going to Mt Tabor and all 600 will have to be transported to the top in taxis — if you are reading this and plan to be any where near Mt Tabor that day, don’t go there!
We manoeuvred the switchbacks with Ronza counting them as we went up. Near the top there is a fork in the road, the left road goes to the Greek Orthodox church and the right, which we took, goes to the Latin Rite church (catholic). We arrived soon, parked and began our walk to the church, the Basilica of the Transfiguration. ( We would find out later that we could not get into the Greek Orthodox church. Ellas and Badia are Greek Orthodox and had come another time and were not able to get into the church then. From the write up in the Lonely Planet about Mt. Tabor, it appears that the writers were not permitted in the church either. There is no detailed information about the church like there is for the Basilica of the Transfiguration.)
The entrance to the area in which the Basilica is located is through a 13th century gate.
The gate is part of the fortress built by the Muslims in the 13th century. Under the fortress are remains of a Byzantine Church, crusader churches, one destroyed by the Turks in the early 1100s, rebuilt and again captured later in the 1100s when the crusaders were defeated at the Horns of Hittin. It was then that the Muslims built their fortress. This inspired the 5th crusade. The fortress survived attacks but the Muslims decided that it would be a constant source of conflict. Truces permitted the return of Christians until their ouster in 1263. (info grom Lonely Planet)
We walked up a long stone walkway to the Basilica,
passing a gate to our right that takes you to a small chapel that according to our guide book commemorates the conversation that Jesus had with his disciples after the transfiguration,
and then entered the Basilica just as a worship service for an Italian tour group was ending
This enabled us to get up close to see the nativity mosaic. We took many pictures inside (the mosaics are spectacular)
and then outside from a vantage point overlooking the Jezreel Valley, over a thousand feet below.
We returned along the road stopping to take some more pictures (Nazareth in the distance) and seeing sky divers using the mountain as their take-off point.
On our way back to Ibillin we drove through the western most part of Shefa”mer and then west of the main road from which we exit to get to Ibillin. We found out we were being taken to Elias’ and Badia’s small plot of land on which they have some olive trees and other plants.
Olive trees in blossom
Then back to their home for a barbecue and delicious salads. Finally home in the late afternoon. We finalised our packing for Jordan with the exception of last minutes items and went to bed to rest before beginning our next adventure, one we were looking forward to very much.