Today was a day for old monks, ancient wells and women with five husbands and the cave of ten healed lepers; it was also a day for new wine, microbeer, and Palestinian art.
Oh, and the ancient ruins of a church where animal sacrifice continues to this very day. Well, yesterday to be exact. The blood was still in pools on the floor.
I am feeling richly blessed, full measure, pressed down and overflowing.
I don't even know where to begin, so I'll start at the beginning.
We started the day at an old monastery that was built around the cave in Burquin where it is believed the 10 lepers who were healed by Jesus lived. The only one who returned to thank Jesus was a Samaritan.
And yet, Jesus healed them all. And, only the Samaritan returned.
Then we skipped over to Nablus to visit St. Photini the Greek Orthodox monastery. St. Photini was the Samaritan woman who met Jesus at Jacob's well. She was the one with five husbands.
To stand in that cave with Jacob's well in the middle of the room was one thing. To drink from that well was quite another. The Greeks have built up quite an ornate church on top of that well with icons and murals everywhere you look which were all done by the same man - Fr. Justin. He's the really old monk pictured above. And yes, he wrote all those icons.
Fr. Justin said it took him six years to complete that mural. He had hurt his neck doing it so it was slow going for a long while.
Our guide wants us to get a full picture of Palestine so while we were in Nablus, we went over to the business of one of his many and varied "cousins" who runs a pastry shop. He wanted us to watch how it is they make Kenafeh - a cheese pastry made with shredded wheat which is soaked in sweet sugar-based syrup and baked to perfection.
So we watched them shred the wheat on a special machine
And then, they fill it with this amazing sweet cream.
And then, they roll it up and soak it in sweet syrup.
And then, of course, we ate some.
Warm, right out of the oven.
Can I just say, OMG????
We left there and went over to Taybeh, the only 100% Christian town in the Palestinian Authority. There, we stopped by a microbrewery and winery which is run by Palestinians who had been living and working in Brookline, MA, and then took the money they earned and invested in a distillery where they now distribute wine and beer to 9 countries around the world, including - you guessed it, Brookline, MA.
She couldn't have been more delighted to share memories with folks. Indeed, she was just back in Brookline three weeks ago. One of her sisters still lives there.
Her sister's name is Nadim. Just like the wine.
So if you are looking for a lovely Palestinian beverage to have with your meal, see if your local package store carries Taybeh wines or beer. We had a taste. It was really terrific.
After an amazing lunch at another of our guide's "cousins," we went off to visit the ruins of the church of St. George in the Village. I don't have any pictures to show you. This is the church where they still do animal sacrifices - in thanksgiving for a cure for a disease or the safe birth of a baby, etc.
The goat or sheep or lamb is sacrificed and then the meat is cooked and distributed to the poor.
Our guide was quick to point out that they don't sacrifice the animal in the ruins of the church proper but at the doorway to the church. Because, I guess that makes it better.
Yeah, so I didn't stay there long.
We ended the day visiting a Palestinian Artists Collective known as Sunbula.
It's a tiny store with a mighty mission which "began as a small project called Craftaid during the first Palestinian Intifada (uprising) in 1988 by Carol Morton, the wife of the late Rev. Colin Morton of the St. Andrews Scottish Church in Jerusalem.
In April of 2010, we opened our second shop, “House of Palestinian Crafts,” in the East Jerusalem neighborhood of Sheikh Jarrah.
Since being founded Sunbula has become Palestine’s leading fair trade craft organization, and is regarded as a trusted provider of the finest quality Palestinian crafts while directly supporting hundreds of women and their families through income-generation and development work."
Go check out their website here - especially their Nativity Sets which are ever so much more accurate and authentic.
I can't even begin to explain what it feels like to be in an ancient cave where Jesus was in the morning, and in a microbrewery run by folks with ties to Brookline, MA in the afternoon.
This is the reality of Jerusalem, of all of Israel and Palestine.
Deep roots in ancient history with many branches in modern reality.
Tomorrow morning will find us praying at the Western Wall. I've written down all your prayers and will take them with me to place there in the wall.
My heart is overflowing with gratitude.
I'm so grateful for all of your prayers.