The other day, I mentioned my teammates and I took some time off and traveled in Palestine and Israel. Instead of writing about everything we saw and did, I figured I would indulge in a little "show and tell." I'll let the pictures I look tell some of the stories from our time off.
This is in Jerusalem. Camels make me so darn happy.
This is the mouth of a camel that is the descendant of a camel David rode. The camel was sitting on a spot where a biblical event of your choice occurred.
Just kidding. I just took a silly picture.
This is the Church of All Nations, in Jerusalem. I am a sucker for mosaics.
The Mount of Olives. All those grayish stones are grave markers. It is a Jewish cemetery.
A picture of the wall surrounding the Old City Jerusalem.
The Mount of Olives, looking onto Old City Jerusalem. (The huge gold dome is the Dome of the Rock, a holy site for Muslims.) While on the Mount of Olives, we wandered about and found this beautiful little chapel marking the site where (tradition has it) Jesus wept for Jerusalem.
Jesus said, "O Jerusalem, Jerusalem, you who kill the prophets and stone those sent to you, how often I have longed to gather your children together, as a hen gathers her chicks under her wings, but you were not willing! Look, your house is left to you desolate. I tell you, you will not see me again until you say, 'Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord.'" (Luke 13: 34-35.)
After Jerusalem, we went to Qumran, where (or near where) the Dead Sea Scrolls were found. We wanted to hike up to one of the caves (see the one on the right?), but we unfortunately did not have enough time.
After Qumran, we went to Massada. The short story of this place: It is on top of this very high, and very steep, hill/plateau. It was once the palace getaway for King Herod -- the guy in the New Testament. Then, when the Jews revolted against Roman rule, rebels took it over to make it one of the last strongholds of the Jewish rebellion. The Romans held Massada under siege. When it was clear a Roman victory was near at hand, the leader of the Jews urged them to choose death over slavery under the Romans. So folks drew lots, and ten men killed everyone in the community. Then they drew lots again, and one man killed the other nine and then himself. The history of Massada is more fully explained here.
This is a picture of the storehouses -- fit for a king, as it were. They were huge, suiting the purposes of royalty (to cater to a life of luxury) and rebels (to sustain life during a siege) alike.
This is the area which the Jews used as a synagogue during the revolt. It was not a synagogue during the time of Herod -- I want to say it was a stable, or something like that, but now I don't remember. But I was inspired by these folks' creativity in making a sacred space in this complex.
Me in the Dead Sea! I knew all the salt in the water made a person extremely buoyant, but I never guessed how buoyant. I am quite convinced one would have to exert a considerable amount of effort to drown in the Dead Sea -- as in, hold one's head under water and breathe very deeply. Otherwise, I don't know that it is possible, because it is so easy to stay afloat. One does not even have to think about it. Here, treading water is completely superfluous.
And, with all the salt, the water had a bizarre texture. It felt thicker.
On my first visit to Palestine/Israel, I was shocked to see civilians openly carrying guns -- sometimes big ones, too. While we were in Jerusalem, walking from the Mount of Olives to the Old City, we passed what looked like a tour group on the road below us. At first glance, it looked very ordinary.
Then we looked again.
A number of the tour's participants were armed. They were far enough away that I couldn't get a good picture of the group and their guns, but one can see them, if one knows where to look. I've circled in white the two most visible guns in the group.
I live in Hebron. Every day, I pass through turnstiles and metal detectors at checkpoints. On Thursday, I watched Israeli soldiers search the backpacks of twenty Palestinian children over the course of forty minutes. A metal fence, a concrete barrier, and a smattering of razor wire separates the street on which I live -- it used to be part of the bustling marketplace, but it is empty now -- from Shuhada Street, which used to be one of the main roads in Hebron. Now the road is closed to Palestinians, with the exception of a couple of Palestinians who can travel on the road, because they have special permits. Of course, permits don't protect them from Israeli settler harassment.
All this is the fruit of the Israeli occupation of the West Bank/Palestine. This "Go in Peace" sign as one is exiting a beach on the Dead Sea is quaint, and unspeakably ironic.
About this Blog
"Ordinary People" is something of an intentional misnomer. I live and work with Palestinians practicing nonviolent resistance to the Israeli occupation. They are doing things that are hardly "ordinary": committing themselves to active nonviolence and to loving their enemies -- following the commands of One who was anything but ordinary. And yet, the Palestinians with whom I work are also very ordinary -- they are not some kind of spiritual superheroes/superheroines who do things most folks can't do. They are simply ordinary people daily committing themselves to living a higher calling -- a calling of love and active nonviolence.