It was an amazing day with new friends touring the holy land, meeting people of all imaginable backgrounds: Arab Christians, Arab Muslims, Sufis, Samaritan Jews, traditional Jews, settlers, winemakers, all kinds, all God’s people! Praying for peace and imagining a world without a need for borders. It seems impossible, but when you meet with them, break bread with all of them, see all their children smiling the same smiles, you start to realize it shouldn’t be so impossible— we are all the same.
Forgive the massive upload of so many photos in one post but in the interest of my limited time on the blog, I have erred on the side of inclusion when choosing photos to share. Not to mention this was a jam-packed day full of such a variety of activities and we have 43 pilgrims in this group—that’s a lot of photography subjects! Tap/click on any image for its standalone file if you wish to share.
We started our tour by making our way from Netanya to Nablus in the West Bank of the Palestinian Territories. Our first stop was to the Greek Orthodox Church that sits atop the two-millennia-old Jacob’s Well. I was pretty thrilled that they were actually allowing photos of the well today!
Pastor Chris read the passage from John’s Gospel, chapter 4, where Jesus encounters the Samaritan woman at this very well we visited. Jesus said to her, “Drink this water, and your thirst is quenched only for a moment. You must return to this well again and again. I offer water that will become a wellspring within you that gives life throughout eternity. You will never be thirsty again.” My prayer on this pilgrimage is that we all will find even deeper currents of this life-giving wellspring and that we would share the resulting light we experience with all we encounter on this journey.
Next, we made our way into Nablus city to tour an olive oil soap factory that’s been making hand-cut soap for 180 years. It has made Nablus famous throughout the middle east for its soap.
We then began walking through the old city of Nablus to sample various snacks, spices, and sweets of the merchants. We were also invited to tour a famous Sufi mosque where were able to hear from the local Imam, a moderate Muslim who campaigns for peace. Our pastor is making plans for him to visit our church in Houston in the interest in inter-faith dialog and peace.
Next we arrived at an event prepared by Slow Food Nablus, the culinary school for The House of Dignity which is an empowerment and education program for Palestinian women. The women of this community are incredibly joyful and were so happy to serve us. Our meal was an unbelievable feast we will not soon forget. After the meal, I wandered around the dining hall to capture some more local street scenes. If you haven’t noticed, I have a slight obsession with doors.
Next up, we visited a Samaritan museum on Mt. Gerizim. This Samaritan Priest explained to us much about the Samaritan faith and its deep history in the region. After that, we were treated to a breathtaking view of Nablus and environs from the top of the mountain. Next, we were able to hear a Jewish perspective, from a winery owner on Mt. Gerizim who allowed us to sample his award-winning wines at Har Bracha Winery.