Wednesday, March 02, 2011

Project Israel- Samaria

We started off from Bethlehem (where we're lodging for the rest of the trip) and headed north into the region of Samaria. First, we went to the town of Taybeh (pronounced tie-BEH), which is the only Christian village in Palestine. We visited the Taybeh brewery, which makes really great German-style beers and is one of the few thriving businesses in the Palestinian Territories.

Next we visited a factory where clay olive-oil lamps are made in the shape of doves and sold as reminders to pray for peace in the Holy Land. It's an initiative of the local Catholic parish, and has received the blessing and endorsement of many Catholic bishops.

We also visited a first century-style (it may or may not have been built during that time) house called The House of the Parables- named as such because of the artifacts found inside that are used as images in Jesus' parables: lamps, wineskins, a winnowing fork, etc. It's also the kind of house that Jesus may have been born in, with the animals being stabled on the lower level of the house. Note the partial manger in the last picture.

After lunch at a place where you could customize your own falafel, we drove up to Mt. Gerizim, the focal point of cultic worship for Samaritans- a group that Judeans did not look upon favorably. More on that in a moment.

Next we drove to the city of Nablus, where the probable site of Jacob's Well, site of Jesus' encounter with the Samaritan woman (John 4) is located. Over the well sits a Greek Orthodox Church where a priest produces beautiful hand-made icons.

Finally we visited the Israeli settlement of Beit El, where they claim to have the site where Jacob had his dream of the angels ascending and descending the stairway (sometimes translated ladder) to heaven, and the promise that his descendants would inherit the land he saw (Genesis 28). It also claims to be the site of the temple built by King Jeroboam (1 Kings 12) as an alternative to the Temple in Jerusalem.

Our guide at this site was a settler named Hagi Ben Artzi (who happens to be the brother-in-law of the current Israeli Prime Minister, Benjamin Netanyahu), who describes himself as a "Fundamentalist Zionist". Many of the opinions he expressed disturbed me and our entire group, but I don't know that I'm in a place where I can fully reflect on them just yet. This will be another post that will come in the next week or so.

Tomorrow we travel south to Hebron, Negev, the Bedouin village of Khalil al Amour, B'tselem (Israeli Human Rights Agency), and visiting with an organization called "Breaking the Silence". Until then, be well!

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