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Competing Worships

May 17, 2009


Sunday, 8:40 am local time


Brace yourselves, I feel a rant coming on.

Today is Sunday, and some of us elected to worship at the Church of the Holy Sepulcher this morning. The church houses some of the most important sites in the Christian narrative, including Golgotha and the Empty Tomb. Pretty holy, right? The church is humongous, too, encompassing at least as much square footage as Princeton’s quad. Thousands of worshipers visit every day; we saw the church yesterday, remember, but we decided to come back early this morning – 7 am – to view some of its sites before we worshiped on our own. Fewer people, more room – good idea.

Click to read more about the Church of the Holy Whatever…


Old City and New City

May 16, 2009


Saturday, 9:56 pm local time


The city of Jerusalem has been destroyed twice, besieged twenty-three times, attacked fifty-two times, and captured or recaptured forty-four times. In 1948, it became the capital of the new state of Israel; in 1967, Israel annexed divided East Jerusalem. The city covers 125 square kilometers; the Old City covers less than one square kilometer. It is a holy place, and a wholly other place, and a place that yearns to be whole. It is, in name – but not in spirit.

Click to read more about Jerusalem…

Shabbat Shalom

May 15, 2009


Friday, 11:58 pm local time


Now we’re on the other side.

Kefillit Yadidiah is a modern Orthodox synagogue about 20 minutes from the Jaffa Gate of the Old City, a 15 minute walk from where we’re staying here at St. Andrews. “Modern” Orthodox means that, although they seek to follow the laws of the Torah, they try to be more egalitarian than their ultra-Orthodox brethren. Women are separated from men by a screen down the middle of the synagogue, but it separates left and right rather than front and back; women are equidistant from the holy ark that holds the Torah and from the ‘pulpit’ from which most of the praying is done. Women give sermons and pray and sing, so as far as Orthodox synagogues go, this is pretty feminist, says our guide Debbie. Debbie is the president of the council on Jewish-Christian relations here in Jerusalem; we will be meeting with her more in depth later in the week.

Click to read more about Shabbat Shalom…

Over a Pint

May 15, 2009


Friday, 12:47 pm local time


We just met the first female Palestinian beer brewer.

The village of Taybeh (pronounced TIE-bay) is located about thirty minutes inside the West Bank from the nearest checkpoint, and it is home to the first (and only) Palestinian microbrewery. Back in 1993, right after the Oslo Accords, the Khoury family – actually cousins to Samir, our guide – started the brewing company bearing the label of their hometown. They export four types of beer to Israel, Tokyo, and Germany, as well as selling inside of the occupied territories, and business is doing well.

Click to read more about the Taybeh brewery…

On those “Jesus Sites”

May 15, 2009


Friday, 10:54 am local time

We’re sitting outside the New Jericho Hospital. Ronell’s reacted badly to the sun, or the mosquitoes, or something – anyway, the skin on her arms has broken out so badly that she needs to get a topical ointment before we leave the city. Ever cheerful, Ronell apologized for making us wait, and she, Gordon, and Jawdat our driver are in there right now. She’ll be fine.

This gives me the opportunity to write a little about yesterday, though. We took a quick tour through the Galilee, up the Jordan River from Jericho and back. We stopped first at a riverside location run by a kibbutz, commemorating the witness of John the Baptist at the Jordan. On the surface, it looks cool; donations from out the world have paid for paintings on tiles of the verse from Mark 1: “At that time, Jesus came from Nazareth in Galilee…” Urdu, Bulgarian, Hebrew, Hawaii Pigdin (!) – something like over 40 languages represented.

Click to read more about the Jesus Sites…

What Does Princeton Have to Do with Jerusalem?

May 15, 2009


Friday, 9:28 am local time


This is our last morning in the West Bank. Last night, we had the privilege of viewing, from a distance, the celebrations of a Palestinian wedding. At least, I assume they were Palestinian; Arabic-speaking, definitely, but to have a grand wedding and even bigger reception at the Intercontinental Hotel? I have a hard time believing that those on this side of the wall could find the resources to pull it off. It was exciting, though, very high-energy, a lot of people, a disco dance floor. Today, though, we make our way to Jerusalem; by tonight, we will be having Shabbat dinner with some Israeli Jews. Different worlds, only a few kilometers apart.

Continue reading about going to Jerusalem…

Long Pants in the Galilee

May 14, 2009


Thursday, 7:17 am local time


We’re leaving earlier than normal this morning. Today, as Chip puts it, we’re going to see a lot of “Jesus sites” around the Sea of Galilee. Many of these necessitate modesty, and so the long pants are making an appearance today, joined by the first showing of the closed-toed shoes. Alas. We’ll hopefully have enough downtime this afternoon for to make up for yesterday, so see you on the other side of the lake.