Although my blogs included a lot of information, there were little bits and pieces of interesting details that I didn’t have room for. So, I decided this last blog would be a bullet-point collection of things I still want to share. They are based on what our guide told us, and I apologize if I may have misunderstood
Abandoned Palestinian farm
any of his explanations.
Here they are, in no particular order.
• I always wondered why Jesus stayed home so long before starting his public ministry. The answer: he couldn’t become a rabbi until age 30.
• It was unusual that Jesus “went up a mountain” to preach the beatitudes. Normally, in theater or any other “performance” setting, the speaker is below, with the listeners on risers above because voices carry upwards. Jesus did the opposite; because he was God, his words came from above and still managed to carry so that all could hear him.
• It was
The Jerusalem cross.
unsettling to see Israeli military compounds, most of them abandoned and filled with grafitti on the walls of the squat, rectangular structures. Also hard to see the bombed and deserted dwellings of Palestinians on the West Bank.
• The Jerusalem cross is found on all Catholic Churches in the Holy Land. The symbolism of the five-fold cross is variously given as the Five Wounds of Christ, Christ and the four evangelists, or Christ and the four quarters of the world.
• An interesting experience were the co-ed bathrooms,
Signs are written in Hebrew, Arabic and English.
with stalls designated for men or women. I picked the wrong one, but no one ran screaming. At another place, the stall had a hole in the ground meant to be straddled. I was told that stall was for men. Good thing. I wasn’t about to do any straddling.
• In the story of the wedding at Cana, the Bible says Jesus arrived “on the third day,” and that’s when they ran out of wine. Jewish weddings lasted for five days beginning on Sunday and ending on Thursday so as not to interfere with Sabbath. The actual wedding took place on the third day, and there were still two more days of celebration left. To run out of wine with two days left was a huge embarrassment.
• Cana is now an Arab town.
• In the days of Jesus, those who were blind, deaf or impaired in any way were not allowed to live in Jerusalem or worship in the temple.
• Nazareth was settled by a group of “pure” Jews of the Davidic line, who left Jerusalem because only the physically “pure” could worship there. There were only about 100-200 people in Nazareth when Jesus, Mary and Joseph lived there. Today there are about
Careening down a narrow street in a cab.
76,000 people in Nazareth, with more Christians than in Jerusalem.
• A kibbutz means “group,” and it was Jewish people who lived together and took care of each other in a land that was mostly Arab. At one time there were about 128 of them. After 1948, when Israel became a nation, the kibbutz was no longer needed because the the whole country was theirs. A few kibbutzes remain, large enough to have factories and the things a developed city would have. Those who live there don’t have to pay taxes, and Jews can become a member only by birth.
• Settlements are civilian communities inhabited by
Litter is everywhere.
Israeli citizens who are predominantly Jewish built on lands within the Palestinian territories which Israel has militarily occupied since the six-day war in 1967, currently existing in parts of the West Bank, East Jerusalem and within the Syrian territory on the Golan Heights.
• One day we saw a settlement of Jews built on a hill specifically to prevent Palestinians from expanding north from Bethlehem toward Jerusalem.
• The Sea of Galilee is 600 feet below sea level. It was once the opening to a huge volcano.
The Jewish cemetery in Jerusalem. Those men had the doors to two tombs open, but I don’t know what they were doing.
was the perfect time to be in the Holy Land, since it was spring and there was greenery for now. The hillsides were full of red poppies and yellow mustard. By April everything will be brown and temperatures will be rising.
• Israel grows cucumbers, zucchinis, bananas, avocados, olives, figs, mangos, dates and citrus, among other things.
• At one time citrus was a big export to Europe, but with the European Union, those countries began treading among each other first so the farmers of Israel began growing mangos, which don’t grow in Europe. They discovered that there was more profit with the mangos than there had been with the citrus.
• A “tel” is a mound made by civilizations built one atop
The Dead Sea. The water was once nearly up to the road.
another as each preceding one is destroyed by natural disasters or war. The Tel at Bet She’an is 19 civilizations high.
• At the multiplication of the loaves and fishes Jesus instructed his apostles to distribute the food to the people, rather than do it himself. It was a precursor to priests distributing the Eucharist to the faithful.
• Galilee was also known as the Land of the Shadow of Death.
Two thousand-year-old olive trees in the Garden of Gethsemane–which means they were there when Jesus was.
in the cities are three and four stories high, with many of the stories unfinished. Open windows that don’t even contain glass stare blankly down upon the streets. The reason is that families live together, partly to care for each other (no nursing homes) and partly because space is limited. As they get permits and as money is available, they add a story and finish it when the next generation is ready to move in.
• According to our guide Raouf, Muslim and Jewish prayers end cursing each other and the Christians. “They may smile at you, but they don’t like you,” he told us.
• Arabs once worshiped palm trees because the trees were able to live in the desserts, so the people thought a god lived within them.
• The city of Jericho, at 10,000 years, is the oldest
Sign above one elevator in the kosher hotel.
city in the world, and is 900 feet below sea level. Its name means “good scent” because its spring allows gardens and flowers to flourish. It is located in the barren hills of the “Wilderness.”
• Jerusalem is 2,500 feet above sea level, the Dead Sea is 1,400 below sea level.
• The Dead Sea is shrinking every year, and in 50 years may be gone entirely.
When excavations are done around the churches, mosaics from centuries gone by often emerge.
Church of the Ascension contains the rock of the Ascension. Originally it was no church, but just columns surrounding the holy rock. The Persians destroyed it, the Crusaders rebuilt it and put a domed top on it. It’s in Arab territory, and the Muslims allow only one Mass per year to be said there, on Ascension Day.
• The Valley of Judgement in Jerusalem is a Jewish cemetery, and it is believed that those who are buried there will be the first to be resurrected.
• In the Jewish cemetery in Jerusalem you can see little pebbles on the tombs. Those are placed there by people 1. who weren’t able to attend the
The East Gate to old Jerusalem (now bricked up). Jesus entered through that gate on Palm Sunday. In front, a Muslim cemtery, placed there to defile the land for the Jews.
funeral and came to the gravesite later, and 2. who will be buried in the nearby Mount of Olives but will be “in” the Valley of Judgement by placing the pebbles within it.
• We call the olive garden “Gethsemane” where Jesus began his agony, but the name was actually Geth Shemain (guessed at spelling) which means “oil press.”
• Shepherds were looked down upon as defiled because they lived with their animals. Thus, they couldn’t go into Jerusalem–but they were the first to be invited to see the baby Jesus.
• People like to shop in Bethany on the West Bank because things are cheaper there. Lots of places
Breads for sale by a street vender.
there sell appliances, cars, spices and produce. We even saw a side of beef hanging outside, with a bull’s head–a real one–advertising fresh meat
.• At the Church of the Visitation (when Mary visited her cousin Elizabeth), an Arab guide was leading a group of Christians. Returning to our bus, Raouf said, “Did you hear what that guide was saying? Not good. That’s what happens with a Muslim guide. He has no understanding of what happened there.”
• Our guide said that wherever there is a Christian church, there will be a mosque nearby, and that it’s done intentionally. The
Palestinian women waiting for a bus.
Christian churches are usually built on the sites of former churches that date back to the Byzantine period or earlier, before there was a Muslim faith, so they were there first.
• The sounds of a muezzen singing the call to prayer from the minaret, the tower rising over each mosque, sound very foreign, especially when waiting outside a church to go in for Mass. Listen to the call here and here.
• I was surprised and dismayed to see so much dirt and litter in the towns, in the streets, between buildings, in the front yards. Everything seemed to just be tossed helter-skelter with no thought to aesthetics. However, in the narrow streets where walked for the Stations of the Cross, I saw shop owners with brooms and dust pans, picking up cigarette butts and other trash.
• I took a
The base of this sructure was built by Herod the Great.
wild taxi ride when three of us were given special treatment when we had some steep hills to climb at one location. The driver honked, zipped and zoomed, daring pedestrians and other vehicles to get in his way. I confess I sometimes shut my eyes.
• I finally learned that the hotel shabat elevator is one that becomes the exclusive use of the Jews on the Sabbath because it stops at each floor automatically so they don’t have to push buttons, which would be considered work.
This marks the end of my tales from the Holy Land. Thanks for making the journey with me!