Day 3: Jacob’s Well, Nablus Old City, Samaritan Village, Har Bracha Winery

Today, after much-needed travel recovery in Netanya, our group from Ecclesia Houston kicked off the official tour with Breaking Bread Journeys.

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.

Holy Land Day 1: Tel Aviv, Jacob’s Well, Nablus Old City, Samaritan Village, Har Bracha Winery

Again I have the unexpected honor of traveling with Ecclesia Houston on a very special tour of the holy land with Breaking Bread Journeys, led by Pastor Chris Seay. We’re hearing from all sides of the complex issues that face this land and its diverse population, while we also visit sacred sites and enjoy local foods and wines prepared by those we’re hearing from. This is my fifth Ecclesia group to shoot for; it’s an absolute thrill to be with them again.

Our journey began in Tel Aviv yesterday where we caught a breathtaking sunset. A local friend told me it’s only this clear about 2 days of the year. We caught the sky at a good time after recent rains.

Click/Tap any photo to start a slideshow. 

We started our tour by making our way from Tel Aviv to Nablus in the West Bank of the Palestinian Territories. Our first stop was to the Greek Orthodox Church that sits atop the two-millenia-old Jacob’s Well. I was pretty thrilled that they were actually allowing photos of the well today!

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.

Jacob’s Well, Nablus Old City, Samaritan Village, Mount Gerizim, Har Bracha Winery

Again I have the unexpected honor of traveling with Ecclesia Houston on a tour of the holy land with Breaking Bread Journeys, led by Pastor Chris Seay. This is my fourth Ecclesia group to shoot for; it’s an absolute privilege to be with them.

We started our tour by making our way from Tel Aviv to Nablus in the West Bank of the Palestinian Territories. Our first stop was to Jacob’s Well. Although the warden of the Greek Orthodox Church that sits on top of Jacob’s Well was not allowing photos of the well today, I was able to document some scenes of the beautiful church and its gardens. I’m sneaking in a photo of the well itself from my last group, because the warden changes his mind from day to day whether or not photos are allowed. I personally don’t think it should be anyone’s right to decide that a millenia-old well which has importance for two of the world’s major faiths should not be photographed. But that’s for another blog post. On to the photos…

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Next we made our way into Nablus city to tour a 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.

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We then began walking throuhgh the old city of Nablus to sample various snacks, spices and sweets of the merchants.

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This is a space on which the local women’s center (“The House of Dignity”) would like to build a playground for the children of the community, a luxury that does not yet exist in the old city.

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We then wound our way through the narrow streets of the old city to visit Slow Food Nablus, a culninary school operated by The House of Dignity women’s center. Of course there were several doors that caught my eye; I love to shoot doors as as consisntent theme to follow all over the world.

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Next we arrived at Slow Food Nablus, the culinary school for The House of Dignity. Chris was interviewed by a student reporter about his visit. The food they served us was prepared using only local ingredients and was absolutely delicious. The women of this community are incredibly joyful and were so happy to serve us.

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After hearing from Fatima, the director of House of Dignity, we made our way back through the old city to our bus…

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Next up, we visited the Samaritan museum on Mt. Gerizim. A Samaritan priest explained to us much about the Samaritan faith and its deep history in this area.

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A group shot from the top of Mt. Gerizim overlooking the city of Nablus below…

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Next we dropped by the nearby Har Bracha winery for a wine tasting…

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