Hello friends . . . grace and peace,
We were made quite aware of separation on our Sunday in Israel.
So much separation: The walls that separate the Jewish settlements in the West Band from the rest of the Israeli occupied Palestinian lands, the separation of the Samaritans from the Jews. Fr. Kamal reminded us of the recent statement by Pope Francis that the area needs to build bridges, not walls.
We left our hotel at 7:30 a.m. and headed north toward the city of Nablus, part of the West Bank and a 90-minute drive from Jerusalem. It’s the home of 90,000 Palestinian refugees. Our first stop was at the Samaritan Woman Church, built in 1914, that was the site of Jacob’s Well. The well is where Jesus encountered the Samaritan woman and told her she had five husbands and the man she was currently with was not her husband. (John 4:1-42) The significance of the conversation was that Samaritans were looked down upon by Jews but Jesus was there for all nations. Once again, Jesus is calling all people, not just chosen ones. He is proclaiming a Kingdom, not a promised piece of land. For Christians, to follow Jesus is to embrace these things.
The well is beneath the church and we were able to crowd around it. Fr Kammal dropped cupfulls of water down the 40 meters, then asked women in our group to turn the crank and lower a pail to the water level. When it was brought to the surface, the pail was full of clear water from the spring. Several of us took a drink. Aran took video of Fr. Kamal pouring the water but it was posted to his snapchat which we can’t make work on this blog. However, here’s footage of Fr. Ralph doing the same thing 3 years ago on their 2012 pilgrimage.
Walking down the steps from the church’s main floor, we were shown a shattered concrete step where a bomb, placed there by a Jewish extremist, exploded and injured a nun. Across the street was a refuges school sponsored by the United Nations in which boys and girls are taught separately.
From there, we drove up a winding road to the top of Mount Gerizim to the temple of the Samaritans. Approximately 350 Samaritans, half of the number living in Israel, reside in the Mount Gerizim community. A Samaritan priest met us and took us into the temple, where we sat in front on the Torah. With our guide, Brishara, helping to translate, he explained the Samaritan tradition.
Lunch was in Nablus, (see Aran’s video here) then we bused back to Jerusalem, arriving in time for some to do some shopping. Several members of our group ventured into The Old City, bought some falafel, some spices, some fabrics, and several other fun things for friends and family.
Before dinner, several folks attended Evening Prayer at St. George’s Anglican/Episcopal Cathedral in Jerusalem. The music, the prayers, the liturgy, it all had a wonderful familiarity. And yet, praying the Litany for Peace in an area of the world that desperately needs it, somehow has a much different feel. On a day of being made aware of separations, we ended it with this simple prayer, posted at the back of the Cathedral . . .
The Dead Sea awaits us Monday.
“Pray for the peace of Jerusalem…” – Psalm 122:6