Holy Land perspectives

20140602-075706-28626056.jpga Palestinian View of Jerusalem

Some experiences in life are just too extraordinary to articulate and especially without space or time to process.

In the last four days I have:

Breakfasted in a courtyard in a quiet old Armenian hospice courtyard in the heart of the Old City in Jerusalem, overlooked by a memorial to the Armenian massacre of the early 20th century;

Driven through a tranquil quiet green valley to pass from Jerusalem to Beit Jalah in the Palestinian Territories without passing through an obvious checkpoint or passing by the grim separation barrier;

Spent two days participating in a large gathering of Israelis and Palestinians meeting each other for the first time in most cases and who, by the end, seemed to have known each other for ever;

Sat in a looklalike well-known coffee bar overlooking a deserted Manger Square in Bethlehem, where the fantastic service involved running down the road to another house to make me the Arabic coffee I ordered;

Attended an evangelical Christian service in a small church in Bethlehem carpeted like a mosque with the spatial feel of a synagogue, and where a red glitter merry Christmas sign substituted for a cross behind the alter;

Travelled up through the West Bank in a car with Prodigal Daughter and three Palestinian hosts from Bethlehem to visit Nablus for the first time – for all of us;

In a Greek Orthodox Church, visited the 32 metre deep ancient Jacob’s Well already a few thousand years old with a “modern” fourth century wall to allow visitors to peer in without falling in;

Visited the ancient Samaritan community of Jews who have lived peaceably in Nablus in Palestine since before the Babylonian exile and who have Jordanian, Palestinian and Israeli citizenship;

Dropped off Prodigal Daughter at the Allenby Bridge crossing into Jordan only to discover there are two approaches to the crossing – obviously with hindsight, a Palestinian approach and an Israeli approach. She’d entered through one (familiar to most) and had no option but to exit through the other (unfamiliar to most). Assured by Palestinian officials that her visa would still work the same way, we waved her off with all fingers crossed;

Breakfasted this morning back in Jerusalem in an ancient Benedictine monastery surrounded by French Catholics visiting the Holy Land.

I’m still making sense of it all.


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