|The birthplace of Jesus at the Church of the Nativity in Bethlehem|
The last four days of touring holy sites have prompted numerous silent recitals of "I didn't know that" that are helping me to grow my knowledge of the Bible.
|Camel rides at our desert camp in the Negev near Arad-- a "once in a lifetime" experience because I learned that camel-riding is not particularly comfortable!|
|Part of the underground water cisterns at Herodion|
We stopped the other day at the Greek Orthodox church sitting on top of Jacob's Well in Nablus (formerly Shechem). We were able to drink the cool water from this deep (40 meters) well and to pour it back into the well and wait a few seconds for it to splash far below. I really didn't know about Jacob's Well before but now I learned that Jesus was here (as recounted by the New Testament story where he met the Samaritan woman at the well), and I experienced the remarkable feeling that comes from being in the same place as He was.
|A large and expanding Israeli settlement near Bethlehem on the West Bank (seen from our tour bus)|
Last night, on a more contemporary note, we listened as an invited Palestinian professor and artist described the conflict with Israel from his perspective. It was a bleak view of unremitting efforts by the Israeli government to build more and more settlements and through various other means to drive native Palestinians off their land, producing a "greater Israel" from the Mediterranean to the Jordan River as a fait accompli. The professor also had a conspiratorial view of the Palestinian Authority, whom he viewed as corrupt collaborationists with the Israeli government. Certain things I have observed here--such as lengthy daily checkpoints for Palestinians who come to work in Israel and the economically-depressed looking Palestinian cities that are losing the more educated to emigration--may be consistent with such a bleak view, but maybe I'm too (naively?) optimistic and inclined to the belief that good will can be found on all sides to accept it totally. But it's still early in our time here.