Journal in the Holy Land
May, 2002
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The sounds of Zababdeh: 
4:30 AM, Rooster (3 sec.)
4:45 AM, Muslim prayer (40 sec.)
6:00 AM, Church bells (40 sec.)
6:30 AM, sheep
7:30 AM, National Anthem (40 sec.)
18 hrs./day, Generator (5 sec.)
Night-time, shooting (5 sec.)

Wednesday, 5/1/02:  Marthame continued running errands in the Galilee while Elizabeth taught her kids before the coming Holy Week holidays (Eastern calendar prevails for Easter in Zababdeh).  Marthame paid a visit to Nazareth Village, a ministry of the local Nazareth YMCA.  Some years ago, a Nazareth Christian communicated his interest in building a place that would draw Christian pilgrims, teach them something about the life of Christ, and to share the gospel.  Nazareth Village is the result - a reconstruction-in-progress of Jesus-era Nazareth.  Not many tourists are coming these days, so Marthame had a private tour given by a Russian Messianic Jew.  The most powerful thing was seeing things pointed out in the tour which are still in practice in Zababdeh - most notably efforts of water conversation in the desert.  We had planned for Elizabeth to come tomorrow, but after a look at the upcoming Jerusalem Holy Week schedule, we changed our minds so she wouldn't miss anything.  We both rushed to coordinate a rendevouz, and everything graciously came together (as things rarely do here) - subhan allah (the wonders of God).  We had to wait a few minutes at the Jalame checkpoint, as a possible bomb threat was being investigated on the settler road.  Within a few minutes everything was clear, and we headed up to spend the night in Nazareth. 

Thursday, 5/2/02:  Maundy Thursday.  We left Nazareth at five in the morning to arrive in time for our first taste of Orthodox Holy Week festivities in Jerusalem.  We entered Mar Yacoub (St. James) Orthodox Church, the Arab congregation of the Holy Sepulchre, named after the pillar of the Jerusalem church.  As the faithful processed forward for the eucharist, preparations were being made for the Greek Orthodox liturgy of footwashing in the Courtyard of the Holy Sepulchre.  Our friend rushed us up to the roof of the Greek Convent for a spectacular view of the raised platform - Patriarch Irenaeus and twelve priests and archimandrites entered from St. James' Church to the Yard.  The liturgy calls for a retelling of the footwashing before the Last Supper.  The Patriarch removed much of his more extravagant liturgical garb and tied a towel around his waist, kneeling down to wash the feet of the twelve "disciples."  But for the two assistants doing much of the work, it was quite the image of service.  Each of the "disciples" then posed a question to "Jesus", who responded in kind.  Wish we could've understood the Greek.  We headed up to the Greek Orthodox Patriarchate afterwards to see if they had anything to deliver to Zababdeh, helped by an Australian volunteer we met who is considering a call to the monastic life.  The priests in charge seemed quite dumbfounded why they should be sending anything to their priest by way of Protestants.  We did get to greet the Patriarch, who seemed pleased by our presence in Zababdeh. He asked us where we were from, and with a grin shared that he had been in Chicago in 1961.  He blessed some candles we will bring to Abuna To'mie back in Zababdeh.  We got a chance to visit with Bishop Timotheus, who was happy to see us, and will hopefully come back to Tubas, Burqin, and Zababdeh soon.  We then headed up to the roof of the Holy Sepulchre, where the Copts (Egyptian and Ethiopian Orthodox) have their monasteries.  The Ethiopians had set up a tent for worship, and pilgrims had come from that historic country for the feast. There, we bumped into a friend who works as a tour operator/guide. She commented that most years, there are so many Ethiopian pilgrims that it is difficult to even got to the roof. (She also said that last year her firm lost a lot of Ethiopian business because Israel started to grant visas preferentially to groups who booked tours with Jewish - rather than Arab - Israeli operators.) Ethiopians have strong connections with all three faiths of this land - Mohammed said that Ethiopians were unparalleled among the nations; one of the first converts to Christianity was the Ethiopian eunuch baptized by Philip (Acts 8); and the kings of Ethiopia traced their lineage back to Solomon via the Queen of Sheba (I Kings 10).  The liturgy, music, and language were in complete contrast to the Greeks, with a call and response prayer which was quite ethereal (audio - 7 sec.).  The tent was packed with the faithful, most wrapped in white muslin cloth, many with tattoos on their hands (and some on their necks).  We were too tired to stay, but were told that the footwashing is done by the head of the local church using grape leaves, which he then uses at the end to bless the congregation with water - much needed after standing in a tent on the roof for a couple of hours.  We checked in with our hosts in Jerusalem before heading off to footwashing service number three, this time at the Armenian Patriarchate Cathedral of St. James.  The Armenians have had a continuous presence in Jerusalem for centuries, one of the Quarters of the Old City being Armenian.  Their numbers swelled after the 1915 Armenian Genocide in Turkey, reminders of which plaster the walls of their Quarter.  They also have a seminary in the city whose choir is second to none in presenting beautiful liturgical music (video - 25 sec.).  We have been in this elegant, mystery-laden church several times before, and it is always a treat to return.  It was interesting to see the Anglican Bishop of Jerusalem participating in the service, a tradition that goes back to the 1920s when the Brits sent an Anglican priest to work on ecumenical relations.  He was quite successful apparently (at least with the Armenians), leading to strong ties which are still maintained.  After the service we visited with friends from the Anglican community, including those with Sabeel, who are hoping to bring a group to Zababdeh soon.  We met one of the Armenian priests who was eager to share his current research, that Christ's resurrection took place in his incarnate body, the theological significance such that humans are bound up in the defeat of death.  Sometimes it seems that only among the Orthodox will you still find such conversations about doctrine taking place.  We joined our friends in East Jerusalem for grilled brats and Taybeh beer - not exactly an Orthodox fast, but certainly a rare taste of pork for us these days...

Friday, 5/3/02:  Good Friday.  We joined the Greek procession along the via dolorosa late - the times on the schedule are quite confusing.  All times listed within the Holy Sepulchre actually take place one hour later, the Holy Sepulchre not recognizing the "springing forward".  In any case, finding a large group of hymn-singing, cross-and-candle-bearing pilgrims was not difficult (video - 7 sec.), and we soon caught up.  This year, because of the political uncertainties, the crowd isn't as big as usual, but it is difficult to imagine what a "usual" year is like among the narrow, winding Old City streets.  For the first time since we came here, the vendors along the road look somewhat busy.  The procession made its way to the Holy Sepulchre, where the cross was carried to the Greek Orthodox chapel in Golgotha in remembrance of the Crucifixion.  The crowds rushed to get upstairs, which Elizabeth and a friend of ours decided to forego.  The pushing and jostling for position reminded Marthame of punk rock concerts in college - not exactly a forum for piety.  We met up with our new Australian Orthodox friend, who explained to us the theological significance of icons - to deny them as merely "graven images" (as several iconoclastic periods in the church - including the Reformation - did) is to deny the possibility of the incarnation.  Theological conversations abound...After lunch in the Old City, we headed up to the Russian Church of the Holy Trinity in West Jerusalem.  Historically, it was connected with the "Red" churches, those that cooperated with the Communist regime.  There is also a "White" Russian church community here, St. Mary Magdalene's convent on the Mount of Olives. We were told that a few years ago, the Russian Orthodox Patriarch came from Moscow to Jerusalem and went to visit the "White" church community at the convent. They refused to open the doors to him - such is the animosity within the Russian Orthodox community. The Church of the Holy Trinity was more sunlit and less gold-laden than we expected.  We weren't allowed to take pictures within this church (which is normally closed), but were able to capture some of the elegant liturgical music offered by a women's choir - it's unusual to hear women's voices in Orthodox worship here (audio - 5 sec.).  After a short recovery nap, we headed back to the Holy Sepulchre for the Orthodox "Burial of Christ".  After processing around the Holy Sepulchre Courtyard with a representation of Christ's body held in a carpet (and covered in flower petals), the Greek Bishops and Patriarch enter the Church.  Wherever church leaders go, they are lead by two or three "openers" - men in fezzes pounding long silver-topped walking sticks on the heavy stones to clear the way - a tradition left over from the time of the Ottoman Turkish period.  We were able to get a spot right next to the sepulchre itself, sharing the crowded space with Romanians and other Orthodox faithful.  We couldn't see much, though, particularly due to the number of TV cameras and photo media present (as well as dignitaries from the Greek Consulate).  We also didn't understand much of the liturgy (since it was in Greek), but at about 1:30 in the morning we thought that they were almost finished.  That's when we noticed that they were only halfway through their prayer books.  We went home; we clearly don't have the endurance to be high, high church Orthodox.

Saturday, 5/4/02:  Holy Saturday, or sabt in-nour (Saturday of Light).  We arrived at the Holy Sepulchre at 11:00 in the morning for the liturgy of the Holy Fire.  Thanks to the Armenian Patriarchate (and the lack of pilgrim crowds), we got passes to be inside the church for the service.  We were waiting with some of the ex-pat Anglican community, as well as a small group of Ukrainian Orthodox accompanied by several priests and nuns.  We visited with Sister Anna, a Romanian nun serving in the Greek Orthodox Patriarchate, who was happy to help explain things to us and to share her seat for some much-needed foot relief.  The first procession belonged to the Arab Orthodox community.  A group of young men entered the church playing drums and chanting enthusiastically.  It was very familiar to us, but contrasted greatly with the severity of the Greek liturgies of these days.  At about 2:00, the bells rang 33 times (for each year of Christ's life), signaling the arrival of the Greek procession. They processed around the Sepulchre three times (a symbol of the Trinity, and a common practice in Orthodox services) carrying banners.  The faithful were anxious to touch the banners and receive blessings from them, touching their bundles of 33 candles to them.  Orthodox tradition holds that the Greek Patriarch enters the Holy Sepulchre on Saturday accompanied by a couple of witnesses with an unlit candle.  He lays the candle of the stone of the tomb.  After a while, light shoots through a crack in the stone (which the truly believing can see like bluish lightning in the Church), miraculously lighting the candle, which is then passed throughout the church - the "Holy Fire" is also brought to other Orthodox Patriarchs (delivered by lantern and plane these days) to share this miracle.  While we were not faithful enough to see the flash, there was no mistaking the arrival of the light.  A great, loud cheer went up, and the bells began to peel (audio - 12 sec., video - 12 sec.).  The fire quickly passed throughout the Church, from one bundle to another (33 candles together make quite a torch). It was, at the same moment, thrilling, moving, and terrifying, as we were tightly-packed in with very enthusiastic people jumping and cheering with big sticks of fire. Fortunately, after a few minutes, everyone put out their big packs of candles, a few people keeping small single candles lit.  The Ukrainians were noticeably moved, touching their hands to the fire and rubbing their faces.  We had wanted to burn Abuna Tom'ie's candles with the Holy Fire, but had left them back with our friends in East Jerusalem.  We were able to transport the fire (from candle to candle) as we walked across the Old City, through a visit with friends in West Jerusalem (thanks to a tea candle) and for the car ride back to Abuna Tom'ie's candles. Clothes and arms coated in hot wax was the price, but Marthame's arms were already too hairy.  After supper, we headed back to the Holy Sepulchre to see the Ethiopian procession of the Holy Fire, which is markedly African in contrast to the Greeks.  We headed up the stairs from the Courtyard, passing through the Ethiopian churches.  Pilgrims cloaked in white were packed in there, looking as though they may have been sleeping there for a couple of days.  After worship in the tent on the roof, the community processes around the rotunda three times.  The church's Custos (equivalent of a Bishop) is under a bejeweled umbrella in the midst of the procession, which quickly becomes one of drumming, singing, and dancing (video - 14 sec.).  Many Arab Jerusalemites come to see this, apparently one of the most popular events of Holy Week.  We headed back to Nazareth, deciding to forego the Greek Easter Vigil, so that we could return to Zababdeh in the morning in time for worship.

Sunday, 5/5/02:  Al-Masih Qam.  Haqan Qam.  (Christ is Risen.  He is risen indeed)  We made it back to Zababdeh via our now-usual two taxi run - one from Nazareth to Jalame, the other from Jalame to Zababdeh.  Tank treads were on the road, evidence of a late night visit through Zababdeh.  We arrived in time to join Abuna Aktham and the Latin Church of Visitation for Easter morning services (video - 12 sec.).  The Bishop of Nazareth, Boulos Marcuzzo, joined us this morning, as did two other priests of the Patriarchate.  Marcuzzo is the bishop who came to Zababdeh last year for a visit and the Israeli army fired on his car.  Fortunately, no such excitement this time; he (and we) arrived without incident.  In the Latin community, Easter is the day for baptisms, a potent symbol of the Resurrection.  Twenty-one children were baptized today, one after another, following the Mass.  It was fun to see all of the kids dressed in their newest, whitest clothes, accompanied by their extended families (which meant the church was almost as packed as it usually is for Sunday worship). After Bishop Marcuzzo anointed each of the children, they were brought forward one by one, held over the font, where water was poured over their heads - much more than a Presbyterian sprinkling.  Not a single child left without being brought to tears.  Afterwards, everyone processes around the altar (lot of processing going on these days). We then joined the Bishop, as well as the Latin clergy from Zababadeh and Jenin, for a magnificent Easter feast.  Traditional Arabic Mansaaf was followed by chicken and vegetables and, of course, the lamb.  People make up for lost meat-eating time here in style.  Our four-day marathon continued as we headed to the Orthodox Church for an early afternoon baptism.  Unlike the Latins, the Orthodox do not do multiple-baptisms only (or mostly) on Easter.  However, they do hold them as a separate service.  There were many details to follow in the liturgy.  Marthame stood with Abuna To'mie as the child's God-father held young George.  Abuna blew on the child's forehead, as he and the family symbolically rejected Satan.  Then a large copper basin was filled with cold water (Abuna was very specific about the temperature).  A cup of blessed olive oil was put into the basin (video - 9 sec.), but first young naked George was anointed: his eyes to see God's work, his nose to smell the scent of Christ, his mouth to speak God's wisdom, his ears to hear the word of Christ, his chest for the health of his body, his hands to do God's work, his feet to tread the head of the serpent (a reference to evil), his back to carry his cross.  Then the moment for which Orthodox baptisms are famous - young George was dunked into the water three times, a traumatic moment to say the least.  Somehow, though, it seems fitting - first of all, that the child is (in the words of Paul - Romans 6) "buried with Christ" in baptism, and that the entry into the Christian community of faith is a jolting one.  Abuna cut locks of hair from the front, back, and two sides of George's hair, blessing his head in the sign of the cross.  Finally, one last procession to round out our week.  We visited with Abuna To'mie later in the evening to bring him the candles and greetings from Bishop Timotheus.  He was appreciative.  His wife asked why Marthame didn't just become an Orthodox priest, especially after such a week.  We said it'd be better to bring the rest of the Presbyterian Church with us rather than abandoning them to their Protestant ways like lost sheep.  They laughlingly agreed we should stay and suffer with our Calvinist brothers and sisters.

Monday, 5/6/02:  We waded through the 200 emails in our inbox, and lazed about enjoying a day without school to recover.  We then headed off to Qabatiya, a nearby village which is home to many of our students and teachers.  Yesterday, a mother and her two children were planting in the fields on the road to Qabatiya when an Israeli tank arrived to investigate a mine that had been planted.  The family, frightened by the presence of a tank, fled.  They were shot and killed as they ran because they were "suspicious."  The Israeli army apologized, but this is not an isolated incident - a number of "accidental" killings have happened over the past year and a half (not to mention over the 35 years of Israeli Occupation), further fueling anti-Israeli sentiment in this area.  Fortunately for us, today the way to Qabatiya was clear, so we were able to visit with two students from our school and their family.  Their mother is a Romanian Christian, and their father is a Palestinian Muslim.  They have found a way to strike a healthy balance at home, even within a culture (both Christian and Muslim) that doesn't understand such a possibility.  We walked past the school where men of the town, including the older son and the father were brought for "processing" by the Israeli army.  The last year and a half has really taken its toll on many families - theirs is no exception.  We spent a good day of conversation talking about religion - gives one hope for conversations that could take place between Christians and Muslims.  We returned to Zababdeh to visit with families, share Easter greetings, and eat eggs.  Two tanks came on the road towards Zababdeh, but turned off into the fields of chickpeas before entering the village, ilhamdulillah.

Wednesday, 5/8/02:  Late last night there was a suicide bombing in Israel - 16 killed, including the bomber.  The images on the TV show a scene of incredible devastation.  The feeling of horror is accompanied by the feeling of dread, not knowing what or where the Israeli response will be.  Nonetheless, today the school was at full capacity.  We've already lost a month (our Jenin students twice that), so everybody seems more determined than ever to roll ahead and salvage as much as possible of the school year.  Marthame headed up to Jenin to get our new "business" cards printed (hard to believe we've gone through them all) and visit with one of our friends who works as a lawyer.  She, like the local legal profession (except NGO-based legal/human rights workers), is at a stand-still, largely because people can't afford to use them. Ominously, the decimation of the Palestinian Authority, especially its police and civil infrastructure, threatens to leave people under a kind of Wild West justice, without the semblance of law, order, and due process they had attained. The anxiety in Jenin hung in the air as word spread about tanks on the road and  helicopters overhead. Everyone was planning to go home early, including Marthame, who arrived home without incident. 

Thursday, 5/9/02:  Zababdeh's "martyr" is found among the "martyr" posters pasted up on walls and business doors around town. The big news at school today was the tank parked out in the fields.  The Israeli army has a training camp next to Zababdeh (the scene of frequent shooting - either practice or skirmishes, we're never sure, but unsettling nonetheless), and during the recent incursions, tanks have been based out of the camp.  "Area A" designation (within which Zababdeh falls), created in Oslo for Palestinian autonomous areas, has become largely irrelevent, and Israeli tanks coming and going through the area is one clear sign of that.  This one was parked in somebody's field of hummous (the word not only for chick pea dip, but also the beans themselves), an Israeli flag prominently waving over it.  Everyone is still nervous, but until now, there's been no overwhelming reprisal for yesterday's attack - just a bunch of little ones.  The Bethlehem stand-off still continues, with the bizarre twist of the Italians not knowing they were to receive exiles.  This also means that hundreds of people are stuck in their homes nearby (including some friends of ours).  Enough.  Late in the afternoon, as we sat out on our porch with a student from the University, two tanks went rumbling along through the fields - the sound of their grinding motors is unmistakable.  They then headed up the hill, probably on their way to Qabatiya.  One isn't sure of much these days.

Friday 5/10/02:  The Bethlehem situation is "resolved" finally, 26 going to Gaza, 13 (at least one of whom is Christian) going to Cyprus until exiled elsewhere in Europe, and the rest going home.  The fate of the internationals who brought food into the Church of the Nativity a few weeks ago is less clear - they don't want to be arrested by Israel, claiming that the nation has no sovereignty over the Church.  There was an attack in southern Israel, in Beersheva, this morning.  Marthame had planned to go off to Nablus to visit with Father Hossam, and after much thinking, decided to go ahead.  Elizabeth didn't go because she probably couldn't make the trip and get back in time for her class tomorrow. She spent much of the day doing lesson plans and writing. Today being Friday (the Muslim day of prayer) and the situation being what it is, Marthame had to wait for an hour in Zababdeh to catch a ride.  That took him to Tubas, where he waited for two hours for the shared taxi toward Nablus to fill up.  Finally, a handful of students from Nablus' An-Najah University headed down, and filled up the taxi, which stopped at the village of Zawata.  Then began the long, dusty walk downhill, across the Israeli military road, and into the village on the other side where taxis head off for Nablus. When the military decides to use the road, or when they decide no one should cross, it's dangerous.  Otherwise, it's simply an enormous pain in the neck for everyone. (Except for a handful of enterprising villagers, who rent their donkeys out those unable to hike over the "road's" dusty mounds of rocks.) He finally arrived at the Anglican Compound, at the edge of Nablus' Old City.  When the heated battle and destruction were taking place in Jenin Camp, the Old City here was taking a beating. The Anglican Compound lost one of its old stone walls.  Fr. Hossam took Marthame around to see the damage, which after seeing "Ground Zero" in Jenin, is not nearly as shocking.  But the losses of life here (80) along with the historical nature of the city (e.g. two thousand-plus year-old soap factories gone), and the overall destruction (as opposed to the centralized obliteration in Jenin) are enormous (video - 15 sec.).  Most of the damage was done from the air by F-16s and Apaches, as the ancient streets in the Old City were too narrow for tanks.  Now, in many places the winding streets you'd usually find are gone, replaced with what resembles a parking lot.  The clean-up has continued (people are in need of getting on with their lives), but what is missing looms like a gaping cavity.  The caretakers of the Compound, an Orthodox Nablus family, spent the entirety of the battle and onslaught in their home (and a few days of it in one room) with a tank parked outside.  Most of their windows were broken from the sound, and a few were broken from stray gunfire.  One metal shutter had an enormous hole blown through it.  But they are safe, and it was good to see them.  Fr. Hossam took Marthame to see St. Philip's Anglican Church (and to sing some Easter hymns - audio 20 sec.), where the city's Anglican community worships once a month.  The other three weeks they worship in Raffidye (now a neighborhood of sprawling Nablus), but there used to be two thriving communities.  It's all part of the shrinking Christian presence.  Word came that Israeli tanks had entered the city and had headed toward 'Askar Camp, so Fr. Hossam left for Raffidye.  Fortunately, the tanks stayed near the Camp, so he returned to the Compound for a late night game of pinochle.

Saturday, 5/11/02:  One of our good friends in Nablus is a Dutch nurse who spent the entire time of the incursion at the Anglican Hospital.  We would get updates from her about the situation in Nablus, since she has an antiquated "Cellcom" cellphone (Palestinian service was completely knocked out for weeks).  She and Marthame went through the Old City to see more of the damage - the comment was often how much better things look now (hard to imagine).  People are trying to get on with their lives, their businesses.  Perhaps that's the sign of hope.  They wandered down towards the Jordanian hospital, set up more or less like a MASH unit, providing free services for the people of Nablus - everything from a pharmacy to surgery is available.  They have been serving about 1700 people each day, something that is clearly needed these days.  It does raise the question of long-term solutions, though, seeing that there are several hospitals in Nablus upon whom doctors and nurses depend for their livelihood, and which may have to close their doors from lack of business.  In a crisis like this, temporary emergency help is welcomed, but we hope it won't come at the cost of the local infrastructure.  The director of the hospital gave Marthame a poster of King Abdallah to take home.  Marthame and our friend then headed down to Jacob's Well, the site of Jesus' conversation with the Samaritan woman about "living water" (John 4).  Father Justinus, the Greek Orthodox priest/caretaker, has been in his position here for 20+ years.  He was sent to build a cathedral, and work is progressing impressively.  For the first 16 years, though, it didn't - the Israeli military government didn't give out many building permits (required to build new buildings to repair and expand existing ones), so Abuna Justinus (who is quite the artist) spent them decorating the inside of the convent with beautiful mosaics and icons.  One picture is of one of the previous caretakers, who was killed in 1979 by a radical rabbi and his followers who wanted to take the Well over.  The work (all by hand) is continuing - hopefully it will be finished soon.  Marthame then headed up with Fr. Hossam to the Christian neighborhood of Raffidya to have lunch and to visit with his fiancee, the first time that either of us have seen her since their engagement in August.  Their wedding will be this summer, so they're busy making plans. (Since his family is in the Galilee and hers is in Nablus, they are faced with the problem of location. His family, Israeli citizens, are not allowed into the West Bank; she and her family are Palestinians not allowed into Israel. It looks like they will have to foot the expense of getting all their family to Jordan in order to get married.) Marthame then stopped by to see the dear and gentle Abuna Yousef, Melkite priest of St. John the Baptist church. Unlike his usual manner, though, he was clearly agitated by the situation - not so much by what had happened in Nablus, but more by the siege of the Nativity Church.  He observed that Sharon made his controversial visit to Al-Aqsa, to which the whole Muslim world reacted strongly.  Meanwhile, the Church was surrounded by tanks for forty days, eight people (including a bell-ringer, priest, and a couple of people hanging up laundry) were shot, seven of them fatally.  The response?  In his words, the pope's envoy asked Sharon for permission to visit the Church, was told no, and accepted this word.  His faith in the soldarity of the wider church with the Christians of this land has waned greatly - but his faith in Christ is strong.  He also shared his plans for a Christian cultural center and housing complex to be built on the grounds of the Melkite Convent - something to help stem the tide of Christian emigration.  The need is for funding.  We hope he can find it.  After visiting with a friend of ours studying at An-Najah University, and eating Nablus' specialty dessert of knaffe, Marthame headed back to the Anglican Compound to join in with the family's nightly ritual of dinner and late night movies from Jordan (featuring the 1968 Peter Ustinov comedic vehicle Blackbeard's Ghost - "surreal" only scratches the surface of this place).  The family (a grandmother, her two sons, daughter-in-law, and two grandsons) shared their stories of what it was like to be here during the military activity.  Sixteen days without leaving home with little (and then no) water and no electricity.  For a stretch of five days, they were stuck in one room (the only one without windows), unable to stand up beyond a crawl, as glass shattered in the other rooms and the constant sound of tank and machine gunfire echoed, punctuated by the periodic horrific rush of an F-16 bomb.  This is the frustration Palestinians share in common - many people, regardless of political or military involvement, suffer similarly.  the "terrorist infrastructure".  Hard to imagine.  One of the sons spent most of those five days entertaining the two grandsons, doing shadow puppets on the wall.  At one point, they devised a shirt for use at checkpoints - by tying strings from the sleeves to the bottom of the shirt, you could raise your arms and your shirt in one movement (something many young Palestinian men have been forced to do in the last several months).  They jokingly made plans to market their new invention. Such is humor these days...

Sunday, 5/12/02:  Marthame and Fr. Hossam left early for Zababdeh, leaving Nablus back for the village of Zawata, making the long trek back up the hill, across the military road, for the waiting taxis.  The number of people filing into Nablus (the morning commute) was staggering - people dressed in their business best, struggling downhill, making their way between the donkeys bearing people or their bags, through the white dust, coming out on the other side coated with a thin layer of the stuff.  Last week, as Fr. Hossam returned to Nablus for Easter prayers, soldiers appeared on the military road.  Three times the people commuting into town were forced to retreat back up the hill in what seemed like a twisted game of cat and mouse.  After a late night, an early morning, an empty stomach, a steep climb, and a winding road, Marthame needed to stop along the road a couple of times for - uh - personal moments.  Needless to say, he didn't join Fr. Hossam as planned for morning worship, but spent the rest of the day recovering under Elizabeth's watchful eye.  What's incredible is that Fr. Hossam makes this journey every week - twice!

Monday, 5/13/02:  Marthame was planning to head up to Jenin to take care of some errands while Elizabeth continued with her daily class  - the pared back schedule has meant that she is no longer teaching the 11th graders, nor the 1st through 4th graders.  While she misses most of them, the extra time (especially as we wrap things up and put together our summer travel itinerary) is quite welcome.  Today was Arafat's first day out of Ramallah in months, and he was planning to visit Bethlehem, Jenin, and Nablus in a borrowed Jordanian helicopter.  Marthame, Abuna Aktham, Abuna To'mie, the Sheikh, and the village mayor headed up to the Jenin governate for the reception.  Representatives of most of the surrounding villages were there, and we could see the Christian community well-represented from Jenin and Burqin as well.  When Arafat arrived, he was followed by a group of clapping and shouting and chanting shabbab (young men).  In some ways it was reminiscent of Saddam Hussein's staged rallies, but for the most part it felt quite genuine.  The soldiers and police, many of them now unarmed, had a difficult time controlling the crowds, and our view was soon blocked by a swirling, shoving mob (video - 5 sec.) - not unlike the scene at the Church of the Holy Sepulchre we encountered a few weeks ago.  Two observations mingled, one being that Arafat still commands great celebrity, if not adoration from his people - such was the rush to greet him and shake his hand.  The other is that his security forces can't even do crowd control - how can they clamp down on "terror"?  He left in a rush, barely stopping at Jenin Camp, which brought him strong criticism.  His popularity, which surged when he was locked down in Ramallah, is on uncertain footing.  As we visited with friends this evening, we could hear a tank on the move near the military camp.  We never expected that we'd be so familiarized with its sound - nor that dababe (tank) would be one of the first words children learn.  We also got a chance to visit with one of our dear friends from the long-neglected Melkite (Greek Catholic) community of Zababdeh.  He's hopefully on his way towards ordination, working with the Bishop of Haifa.  His story of traveling in Israel the other day (even with proper permissions) was harrowing - two unmarked cars stopped his taxi, not long after he walked across the Jalame checkpoint, and pulled their weapons as they threw the doors open and demanded IDs.  "They were very nervous," he said about the policemen.  We hope the ordination process is worth the trouble.

Tuesday, 5/14/02:  The biggest news to reach the school today was the new copy machine.  It was ordered several months ago, but only now has the road been re-opened enough to transport it here.  Elizabeth found time to go for a walk with a friend from the University. It was very nice to get out into the fields and hills again, seeing up close the local nature after a long absence. It's clear spring has ended and summer arrived, as the wheatfields and grasses in the hills yellow the landscape, which is still spotted with green olive trees and fields of cabbage and zucchini. Thistles are in full swing: blueish, purple, yellow, white all going gangbusters. Meanwhile, Marthame visited with our Melkite friend, learning some of the prayers from their Byzantine Mass - both for self-edification and to share some in worship during our summer itineration.

Wednesday, 5/15/02:  Today is the day Palestinians mark Al-Nakbe (the Catastrophe), the founding of the State of Israelwhich led to their subsequent exile and/or humiliation.  Rallies and speeches were planned.  Along with Israeli incursions last night into four different places in the West Bank, we were anxious - not for ourselves, but for the fact that we expected visitors today. A few ex-pat friends of ours living in the Galilee came this morning.  The plan was for them to come to the Jalame checkpoint where we would meet them in a taxi to take them back to Zababdeh for quick look around before heading off to Jenin Camp so they could see the scene "with their own eyes".  They arrived a little after 9:00.  They arrived in Zababdeh a little after 10:00 (taking the circuitous tractor roads - two of our guests, who spent six years in Kenya, said they felt more at home in the West Bank than in Israel), visited Abuna Aktham at the Latin School, then headed off to Jenin Camp, arriving around 11:00.  A trip that would've taken fifteen minutes a few months ago (from Jalame to Jenin) now takes closer to two hours.  Marthame went with them along with our friend from the Melkite community.  It was the first time either of us had been since we went with students from the Arab-American University of Jenin.  Someone has been adding to the graffiti on the ruins, adding slogans like "Live Free or Die", "Give me librty [sic] or give me death," or "We won't forgive, we won't forget" (reminiscent of Elie Wiesel's sentiment).  They didn't have long, but were able to get a sense of the breadth of destruction.  What's most striking is how much more work is still to be done - a couple of dump trucks and a bulldozer or two were active, but the destruction remains pretty overwhelming.  People whose houses were destroyed are coming back during the day from wherever they're sleeping to sift and dig a little and to just stare at it all - or so it seemed to us.  Our friends headed back to the Galilee, having spent most of the day in the car, but having seen a bit of what's here - they promised to return.  Another friend was planning to come from Jerusalem, as he had done a few months back - last time he was turned back at the Hamra checkpoint.  This time, believe it or not, he actually made it - they were turned back from one checkpoint, but made it through another one.  We were able to take him around to visit some friends and to see the village.  He'll stay with us a few days - at least, that's the plan.  We're also hosting one of the University's professors who has returned here for a week to help get the Business School up and running.  Just a long day of playing host - something we haven't gotten to do much of since we've been here, but something we thoroughly enjoy.  Tomorrow will bring more of that, n'sha'allah, as another group is hoping to come on a Christian solidarity visit to Zababdeh.  We hope that they arrive without event, as our guests arrived today.

Thursday, 5/16/02:  When we lived in Chicago, we had a phrase to signify small moments of grace - "the God of the parking meter" - things that aren't earth-shattering, but are wonderful, helpful small occurrences - a sign of God's omnipotence and omnipresence.  Today, "the God of the checkpoint" was at work. We left Zababdeh in Abuna Aktham's car, heading down to the Tayasir checkpoint to meet the Sabeel group who were coming to visit us.  They had arrived a minute or two before us, and the group leader needed to do very little negotiating.  The bus, with yellow (Israeli) plates and Jerusalemite driver, entered almost immediately.  The group of twenty-five American Christians, mostly Episcopalian including two bishops (Washington and Massachusetts), headed up with us to Zababdeh.  Fr. Hossam was able to make it up from Nablus early in the morning and took them around the town.  Our visitor from Jerusalem joined in with the group.  First stop was St. Matthew's Anglican Church, where we shared a bit of fellowship and greetings - including those from Zababdeh's sister church in the Diocese of Olympia, WA - before singing together "How Great Thou Art" in Arabic and English (audio - 13 sec.).  We visited the Pennman Clinic, one of the outreach ministries of the Anglican church, before heading off to visit Abuna Tom'ie at St. George's Orthodox Church.  He spoke of the history of the Greek Orthodox Church and of Zababdeh's churches at the "forgotten church" before singing "Al-Masiih Qam" (Christ is Risen), a traditional Byantine hymn (audio - 21 sec.), and leading us in prayers. Meanwhile, Elizabeth had to slip off to teach her last class of the school year. It was a nostalgic moment for her as this group of 20 seventh-graders was her first real class (i.e. kids for whom she was the only English teacher and whom she saw every day). The kids were very sad to hear theat it was her last day with them, but a little happy to get the chocolate candy she brought them. Elizabeth will miss these kids a lot. As her class let out, the group was arriving at the school, guided through the halls by Abuna Aktham. This is the first group that has come to visit Zababdeh in a year (apart from the random individual or group of three or four people), and the kids were in full-chaos mode, standing on their desks to wave to the visitors, shaking hands with whomever would stop to do so (which they all did).  It was a real treat, topped off by a quick stop in the Kindergarten where the children are getting ready for tomorrow's graduation - cute factor 10+.  We shared a traditional Palestinian meal in the Anglican church hall before boarding the bus for Jenin Camp.  We were able to connect with some young men from Jenin who know the story of the Camp quite well and were glad to bring visitors there. The group was clearly stunned by what they saw, as most people are.  Some commented that they were sickened - an appropriate reaction when you're talking to people who are pointing to where their homes used to be and telling tales of the fear.  More than one person broke down in tears as they talk about the affect on their children, their spouses, themselves.  We parted company with them, promising to see some of them in Boston and Maine this summer, sending them off to Nazareth as we headed back to Zababdeh.  It was a long, exhausting day, but wonderful - the schedule gelled well, the group was enthusiastic and pleased, and it was a long-overdue chance to show of the area of Zababdeh that we've come to know and love.  There is so much more to see, including the Christian communities in Tubas, Jenin, and Burqin, not to mention the Arab-American University of Jenin, but for six hours, we saw quite a bit.  We look forward to doing it again soon.  On the road back, we got a call that we should be careful - tanks were parked on the road between Misilye and Zababdeh.  The traffic coming the other way gave us the same warnings.  Sure enough, we could see the path two tanks had carved through what used to be someone's field of hummous, one of them pointing their barrel directly at the on-coming traffic (that is, us).  That's the absurdity of this place - we were having some banal conversation, stared down the tank barrel, and then returned to our banal conversation as if passing a tank barrel were just simply a normal daily occurrence.  Marthame and our friend headed up to the University's coffee shop to visit with friends of his who had come up from Jerusalem.  The conversation was fascinating as we left behind the controversy and emotion of political conversations for that of religion - those who see Islam as a monolithic faith would be lucky - as we have been - to have such encounters and see the variety of opinion and practice in the Muslim world.  When we were all back home, we could hear the sound of a tank shell being fired in the distance - again, a banal conversation was interrupted only to be continued immediately.  Heek hayatna ("that's our life" - the Arabic equivalent of c'est la vie).

Friday, 5/17/02:  We headed of to the Latin church for worship this morning.  Today is first communion, and the Rosary Sisters have been preparing the third graders for weeks now.  Abuna Ra'ed, who works in the Latin Patriarchate and is a Zababdeh native, was there, as were three Italian priests on a visit collecting information for Pax Christi.  The Bishop of Nazareth, Boulos Marcuzzo, was making his way here, but was turned back at the Jalame checkpoint.  This morning at 4:00, fifteen tanks entered Jenin - that may explain the tanks near Zababdeh last night.  He headed down to the Tayasir checkpoint where, though he was the first car in line (with consular plates and Latin Patriarchate flags to boot), he was made to wait for forty-five minutes before the soldiers bothered to come to his car.  He arrived a bit late, but in plenty of time for the first Communion.  First communion struck a familiar chord with youth Sundays - the children who had been prepped were also responsible for the lay leadership of the Mass - Scripture readings, prayer requests, etc.  Immediately after the Mass, the crowds shifted down to the Church Hall for cute-factor #2, Kindgarten Graduation (video - 11 sec.).  Before the adorable little ones received their adorable little diplomas, there were a few speeches, presentations, and songs (audio - 14 sec.).  One of them is a new Lebanese song which has become quite popular, "Nahnu mish irhabi", with the chorus, "We're not terrorists.  We're the people of freedom - Muslims and Christians."  Everywhere you go in the West Bank, people are singing this - Muslims and Christians. Unfortunately, some folks - including the head kindergarten teacher - weren't able to come because of the new Jenin incursion.  We simply hope they'll be able to continue with school.  We shared lunch with Bishop Marcuzzo and the other guests before getting a ride up to Nazareth in his car.  Our wait at the checkpoint was much shorter, but as each car approached, one soldier's job was to aim his gun at the driver, who must leave the car and approach the other soldier.  Yipe.  Bishop Marcuzzo has been in the Middle East for forty years, leaving Italy to study at the Latin Seminary in Beit Jala.  Before becoming Bishop in 1994, he spent six years (in the 70s) serving a Christian tribe along the Nile in the southern Sudan, where he learned a great deal about the traditional tribal religions and how they interact with Christianity.  We shared ice cream and coffee at the Bishopric, along with the Italian visitors, before heading off to our friends to catch our breath.  Tomorrow, we head off to Jordan and then to the Evangelicals for Middle East Understanding conference, so this is a short breath-catcher.  Nonetheless, it is a relief to be out of Jenin for a while.

Saturday, 5/18/02:  The commute from Nazareth to Amman to Beirut was simple - if a bit roundabout.  Lebanon is just north of Israel, and really not that far from the northern West Bank but there is no border crossing between the two countries (unless you happen to be a UN peace-keeper).  We left Israel through the northern Beisan/Sheikh Hussein border crossing, sharing a taxi down to Amman with an Israeli Arab from the Galilee.  There are many new checkpoints along the road, a sign of a nervous Jordanian government, trying to prevent arms or aggression crossing its borders to either of its western neighbors.  After visiting with some friends from the Zababdeh diaspora in Amman, we headed off to Beirut.  Traveling in the Middle East usually requires two passports - one to "taint" with Israeli stamps, one to "taint" with countries who have not signed treaties with Israel (Lebanon and Syria being among them).  We were nervous arriving in Lebanon that they would wonder about our two year passport (usually a sign that we're doing the passport shuffle), but being part of a group invited by the Middle East Council of Churches meant no worries.  We headed through the neon Beirut night towards our accomodations north of (and above) town in formerly-sleepy Jounieh. During the war, many people moved out of the crossfire up the mountain into Jouneih, which has become a popular classy night-spot, perhaps due to its proximity to the famed Casino de Liban.  The first thing you notice about Beirut after living in the Middle East for a while is the billboards - which seem very Western, with plenty of barely-clad shapely ladies showing their goods. Everything from cellulite-removal to chewing gum uses skin to sell.  Very unlike the West Bank - or anywhere else we've been over here. As strikingly Western as Israel is, even Tel Aviv doesn't rival Beirut for bearing flesh (on billboards, TV, at the cafe, or on the beach). We arrived at the Conference Center at the Monastery of Our Lady of the Mountain in Jounieh, a spectacular mountain drive.  Our room overlooks the bright lights of Beirut along the Mediterranean coast.  It's a long way from Zababdeh.

Sunday, 5/19/02:  As the last conference participants arrived throughout the morning, we headed out to the caves of Jeita.  Snuggled in among Lebanon's many rolling hills, these caves sport imposing stalagtites and stalagmites, delicate curtain formations and many other patterns built by the patient work of water over millenia.  Unfortunately, photography is forbidden, so what we saw will have to be preserved in our minds (and a handful of postcards).  From everything that we've heard about the beauty of Lebanon, this may simply be the beginning of a week of awe.  We returned to greet newly-arrived conferees, coming from Iraq and the States and everywhere in between.  We began, as we rightly should, with worship (audio - 11 sec.) - the Maronites, Syrians, Latins, Protestants, Armenians, all were represented and participated.  Lebanese TV is covering the entire conference - not unusual coverage for a country that is half-Christian.  We shared in fellowship and food (always a necessity) before being formally welcomed by both the Middle East Council of Churches and Evangelicals for Middle East Understanding.  The hope for this meeting is to be the people of the incarnation, living a message of solidarity for the Church - not only here in the land of its birth, but throughout the world.  There is deep appreciation for us Westerners simply being here, especially at a time when most people think we're nuts for coming to countries our nation considers pariahs. 

Monday, 5/20/02:  The conference continued full speed today - the days are very, very full.  It began with a Bible study focusing on hope, led by an Egyptian Presbyterian pastor.  The Armenian Catholicos of Cilicia (the names of the church hierarchy are wonderful) spoke about hope, sharing his thought that, "in a society where certain kinds of sicknesses are dominant, the church needs to bring healing."  There is quite an Armenian diaspora in the Middle East. As the first Christianized nation, Armenia has sent pilgrims and emigrants to Jerusalem for well over a thousand years. In Iran, Armenian communities have been known for their quality craftsmanship since the days of ancient Persia. From there, they spread west to Iraq and beyond.  The Armenian genocides, which climaxed in 1915, claimed the lives of one and a half million Armenians, out of a total of two and a half million Armenians in the Ottoman Empire. Those who could escape the Young Turks' policy of murder and "relocation" fled over the borders, swelling Armenian communities already in Arab lands. We also heard from Coptic and Greek Orthodox church leaders, sharing their visions as well as their challenges to us as Western Christians.  There were also several panels, including one on church partnership, and another on equipping the church.  The centerpiece was the panel of Iraqi church leaders from the Armenian, Syrian, Chaldean, and Evangelical (Presbyterian) churches.  It was a real treat to have them attending the Conference and enriching our gathering. We were especially excited to see a few familiar faces, of people we had the privilege to meet last year during the 5th Christian Conference in Iraq: "The Church Serving Peace and Humanity."  The words from our Iraqi brothers and sisters - then and now - were clear.  They are very concerned about the possibility of intensified military actions against their country, and the ensuing effects on their communities. This comes in addition to the anguish caused to them by  eleven years of crippling sanctions.  As the Chaldean Bishop Shlimon put it, "Our churches in Iraq are hungry, thirsty, naked and in prison. The Lord will ask you about this in the day of judgment. He will say, when I was hungry you didnít feed me.  Because you have not done this for your brothers and sisters, the churches in Iraq and the Middle East."  The prophetic voice was strong and sharp.  We are weighed down by the sense that simple presence in solidarity is not enough - Western Christians are called to concrete action.  We finished off the evening by watching a documentary, the Journey of the Magi.  For Christmas 2000, a group of pilgrims rode camels from Iraq to Bethlehem, following the traditional journey of the ancient kings (video - 5 sec.).  Since we were with the crowds to welcome them when they arrived in Bethlehem, it was very interesting to see parts of the rest of their journey. Tonight began EMEU's 33 hour prayer vigil, which Elizabeth has been coordinating. Remarkably, she's convinced even travel-weary, jet-lagged folks to fill up hour-long prayer slots throughout tonight and tomorrow night. In fact, the Iraqi Chaldean Bishop signed up to start us off at 10 tonight - three wee hours before Marthame made his way to the vigil space in the sanctuary. "Stay awake with me." (Matthew 26)

Tuesday, 5/21/02:  Marthame's birthday, but little time to have a formal celebration.  Simply being here in Beirut is enough of a present.  The Conference continued full steam, with a Bible study on the meaning of reconciliation, and then presentations and panels on expectations the Eastern Church has of the West, the work of Christian missions, and Christian-Muslim dialogue.  We were struck that Protestant, Orthodox, and Catholic leaders unanimously said the Eastern Church calls on the Western Church to be a prophetic voice for truth and peace - a voice dispelling misconceptions and misunderstandings which not only rend us from one another, but threaten to tear the world apart along East-West lines.  In particular, the conflict in Palestine and Israel is a primary concern, mentioned again and again by Middle eastern Christian leaders throughout the conference and afterwards.  The Anglican Bishop of Jerusalem Riah Abu-Al-Asal delivered a keynote address on the situation affecting his parishes and parishioners. The two of us participated in a panel on the subject, sharing our own perspectives on the conflict raging.  We received a lot of good responses from people - our presence in Jenin surely has given us credibility among the Middle Easterners.  It was also helpful to have this time to reflect on how to share what's happening for when we return to the States.  Elizabeth attended the evening meetings, which offered conferees an opportunity to discuss and share their own experiences and work in the region.  Meanwhile Marthame moved around working on a final conference statement to put together the many voices we have heard before we regrouped for a radio interview with CompassionRadio.

Wednesday, 5/22/02:  This morning came twice for Elizabeth: once at 3 when she headed off to her time at the vigil, which she spent in silent prayer, some singing, and focused especially on the Church's ecumenical relations. After an hour, she headed back to bed for a bit, and arose again at 7 in time to grab a bite of breakfast and attend the final ceremonies. First we all heard the Conference Statement Marthame had been working on with - among others - an Armenian Bishop, an Egyptian seminary professor, and an American New Testament scholar.  From there, we closed with worship and fellowship.  We had to bid farewell to some new dear friends, particularly those from the Iraqi delegation.  Marthame and the Armenian Bishop of Baghdad had shared many wonderful conversations together.  Some of us will be staying for a tour of Lebanon and Syria, including visits to many churches, but many will be leaving soon.  And so, it is time for some goodbyes.  After lunch, we headed off to see the city we've had so little opportunity to know over the past four days.  Our first stop was to see ruins of an old Roman bath.  The floor of it was built above the stoves, supported by columns, so that the steam from the fires would circulate and warm the water.  Great engineering. From there, we took a wider tour of downtown.  There is a massive reconstruction project underway to repair the damages of the fifteen year civil war.  Until 1990, the whole country was torn apart by the fierce fighting of various political and military factions.  It has often been portrayed as a Muslim-Christian conflict, but there was much more to it than that - there was Christian-Christian fighting, Muslim-Muslim fighting, the collapse of Cold War alliances, the Palestinian refugee crisis, and a twenty year Israeli Occupation and military offensive.  All of this has left the country in shambles, but there is hope that democracy is again taking root and the reconstruction will help the city reclaim its former glory.  Now, shot-up buildings stand next to brand new ones.  Restored churches are flanked by neglected ones.  It's in process, and is a sign of hope to a country that needs it.  We spent some time wandering along the coast before heading up to the Near East School of Theology.  Started in the 19th Century by Protestant missionaries, the School has been committed to training clergy and laity alike as has developed quite the reputation as a global center.  Names like Colin Chapman and Kenneth Bailey have been involved as faculty over the years.  NEST's president, Mary Mikhael, welcomed us along with some of the students and took us on a tour.  We had met Dr. Mikhael when she came to First Presbyterian Church of Wilmette before our departure two years ago - it was great to see her again and to see NEST.  The bulk of the group headed back for dinner at sidewalk cafes in the classily-rebuilt downtown.  It felt much more like a European than Middle Eastern town, except for the argiles (water pipes).  Meanwhile, Elizabeth ventured off to the American University of Beirut, where her uncle taught long ago (1948-51 and a few years in the 60s). By the time she arrived, department offices were closed, but she did get to stoll along the tree-lined paths and enjoy the cool evening, which also brought students outside to play sports, attend a jazz concert or just wander.  It was very nice for her to see with her own eyes what she had only imagined from her uncle's stories. 

Thursday, 5/23/02:  We will spend a few more days in Lebanon, but will continue to use the Monastery as our home base.  This means a lot of time spent in busses, but the countryside in Lebanon is breathtaking.  It is far more luscious and fertile than the Galilee.  Lebanon is well-known for its ancient cedars (of which few are left, but are kept in preserves), so much so that Solomon built his Temple from them.  Lebanese see the cedar as a national symbol - its strength endures, as does theirs.  We headed down to southern Lebanon, for which we had to receive special visas.  This is the area that was under Israel Occupation until 2000, an occupation that ended, we were told, due to the fierce resistance of Hezbollah.  The people of the region are grateful for that liberation, as is evident by the waving of Hezbollah's yellow flags everywhere you go.  Our first stop was to meet with church leaders in the town of Marj Ayun at the Greek Orthodox Patriarchate. In addition to the Orthodox bishop, we also met with the Greek Catholic (Melkite) bishop and the National Evangelical (Presbyterian) pastor of the town.  They also underscored the importance of the newly-received liberation of the area as well as their deep concerns about continued Christian emigration which is weakening all of the ancient churches in this land.  They also underscored the cooperation between Christians and Muslims, something we have heard many times over the past few weeks from leaders and people alike.  We headed from there to the infamous Al-Khiam Detention Center/Prison, used by the Israelis and their puppet army, the SLA (Southern Lebanese Army).  We had seen a documentary on the place last year on BBC - the evidence of torture and brutal interrogation is rampant and has fed a lot of anger in this part of the world.  It was chilling to look at the men's and women's prison cells, the solitary confinement boxes (too small to be called rooms) and torture posts, and then to hear from former prisoners. The place is now run as a museum as a testament to the suffering that took place here.  The power of place and its stories was lessened by the feeling that our presence was being capitalized on as a propaganda tool - but that's true of most places these days on all sides of the various conflicts in the region.  After lunch, we headed up to Sour, the site of ancient Tyre.  Jesus once ministered here (Matthew 15), a reminder that in his days the borders between these places were a lot more flexible than they are now.  We entered the ruins of ancient Tyre by way of the necropolis, heading towards the central attraction, the massive hippodrome, where we stopped to reflect on Jesus' passing through here.  We're trying to take time along these two weeks to do some Bible study in different places to reflect on the meaning of our time here.  We stopped in Sidon for ice cream on our journey home, a welcome break in a long day of bus travel.  It was an intense day, a difficult one to sort through - meeting with bishops, seeing the prison and signs of Hezbollah, and walking through the ancient ruins - all images that swirl in our minds, as we try to sift through it all and understand this region better.

Friday, 5/24/02:  Another long bus ride, another set of ruins, this time the spectacular site of Baalbeck.  These are more impressive than those of Tyre, including a temple at the center of it all that is mostly intact.  Amazing stuff.  We then went off to the city of Zahle to visit with the Syrian Orthodox bishop there.  The Syrian, Armenian, and Coptic Orthodox churches are part of what are known as the non-Chalcedonic churches.  At the fifth century Council of Chalcedon, the debate was on Christology - was Christ fully human, fully divine, or both? Most of the churches decided the latter, but those three (for reasons theological and political) chose to say that Christ was God merely appearing to be human.  This has been the source of controversy and division through the centuries.  In the West, we come in contact with these ancient debates and heresies afresh through movements like fundamentalism and historical Jesus studies.  One feature of the Syrian (or Syriac) church is their continued liturgical use of Aramaic, the language of Christ.  They consider themselves the safeguarders of this ancient treasure.  After lunch and conversation together, we visited the church where the Bishop and some priests prayed the Lord's Prayer in - most likely - its original language (audio - 40 sec.).  Haunting and moving.  From there, we visited the town of Zahle, which is a fairly large, all-Christian city tucked along either side of a steep valley cut into the mountainside by a fast-moving stream.  One of our hosts recalled sneaking medical supplies into the hospital there during the war.  We walked along the cascading river, watching kids play in the bumper-car arenas and stopping for some ice cream and fresh bread.  The tables of the restaurants which bordered the river overflowed with fresh fruit - cherries, oranges, watermelons, loquats (askadinia).  We then headed off to the "Anti-Lebanon" mountains (which face the Lebanon range), towards the Presbyterian Retreat Center for the Synod of Lebanon and Syria.  Along the way, we saw many bombed out houses that remain unrepaired from the 70s and 80s.  We also saw many Syrian flags and many Syrian soldiers, not something we were expecting to see in Lebanon.  During the civil war, Lebanon invited Syria to intervene.  They did, and they have not yet left.  Lebanon isn't strong enough yet to ask them to leave, either.  Syrian soldiers in the East and Hezbollah in the South are part of the remaining problems facing a united Lebanon.  The retreat center sits overlooking a dramatic valley.  It has been there since the mid-19th century, serving the Protestant (Presbyterian) churches of the whole region - people used to come from as far as Egypt and Iraq for summer programs.  The region has undergone dramatic changes that make that almost impossible. Now the center serves primarily just the Synod of Lebonon and Syria, which includes about 45 congregations.  Only recently did the Center re-open after being occupied by various military groups, engaged in house-to-house combat on the property.  The whole place needed to be rebuilt, and it is quite well along the way.  Some significant damage remains, including the wreckage of the cabin where one-time hostage Benjamin Weir and his family used to stay in when they visited from Beirut.  The Center's director, Najle Kassab, is a graduate of Princeton Seminary and the first female licensed preacher in the denomination. With us were a number of women who had arrived from many congregations in Syria and Lebanon for a retreat and bible study, preparing them to teach the letter of James to their women's groups upon returning home. We shared in fellowship, prayer, and dinner before making the long, late drive back to the Monastery.  Tomorrow, we head up north...

Saturday, 5/25/02:  This morning we headed up to Tripoli (in Arabic, Tarablus), the Northern capital of Lebanon.  It is a great deal poorer than Beirut and has not received the re-building attention that Beirut has.  The main street there was lined with pictures of the parliament leader who is headed up to the North next week to ask for a local woman's hand in marriage to his son.  For the time being at least, he seems very popular.  Our first stop was the old Crusader Citadel of Sinjil (the Arabization of the ancient name "Saint Gilles"), which gives a view over the slums of Tarablus and on towards the Mediterranean Sea.  One person suggested tearing down the Citadel to provide for more housing - not a bad idea. We then headed back a bit South to Belmont Abbey (known locally as "Balamond") and Balamond University, a Greek Orthodox institute.  After lunch and a conversation with a local man working with Palestinian refugees and their rights, we headed over to visit with one of their seminarians.  Balamond seminary is a center in the Middle East for Greek/Antiochian Orthodox clergy, and it currently has about 100 students (70 undergraduate theology students and 30 graduate students).  At each of the Byzantine churches that we've visited, we've been learning more and more about the Eastern tradition.  Even among the PhDs in our group, there is very little knowledge in the West of Orthodox theology.  Our focus is so much on Western theological controversies and histories that we tend to forget the traditions that are so rooted in this land.  As one priest among our group patiently explained, the prime difference between Protestants and Orthodox is that Protestants look to the Bible for their guidance, while the Orthodox look to the Tradition for theirs - tradition of which Scripture is a part.  Iconography, said to have originated with St. Luke's painting an icon of Mary and child, is another part.  Each icon has an original, of which all writings (icons are written, not painted) are emulations.  As with the Scripture we currently have, icons have an original "text," which has been copied and handed down through generations. A canon of image to complement the canon of the Word - we have much to learn.  Our last stop for the day was the ruins of the ancient port city of Byblos.  Given the bus conversations about Scripture and iconography, it was a fitting place to reflect.  The name "Byblos" comes from the Greek word for papyrus, an export this town was well-known for.  "Books" were simply bound-together sheets of  papyrus 2000 thousand years ago, and the Bible derives its name from that word - and, indirectly, this place.  We reflected on that amidst the ruins of ancient Byblos,  most prominently three layers (each carefully excavated and moved to a display site) of a Phoenician temple site. It was in the "Obelisk" temple" that small gold-encrusted human figurines were found (and copies of which inhabit every tourist kiosk nearby). And at the nearby royal tombs was found a sarcophagus inscribed with an early Phoenecian  alphabet (lauded as the mother of all alphabets). Copies of this, too, are available for sale nearby. We then wandered over to modern Byblos for some shopping, stumbling across a shop which deals in fish fossils.  Due to a massive fish kill 100 million years ago (from plankton waterbloom) and propitious preservation conditions, much more than half of the world's fish fossils come from Byblos!  We then found our way to the marina where we ate some fish that was a little fresher than that, enjoying the lovely sunset over the Mediterranean.  Our last full day in Lebanon on this trip, but we have a feeling it won't be our last time.

Sunday, 5/26/02:  We began the day in worship at Tripoli's Presbyterian Church, which had been totally destroyed in the war. The Synod was able to rebuild the edifice, but not its numbers: before the war it served about 200 families. Now maybe 50 remain.  After multi-lingual worship and fellowship (the Lebanese accent is difficult for us "Palestinians"!), we headed off for the second half of our trip across the Syrian border.  Due to our residence of the last two years, and due to relations between Syria and Israel (and the fact that our visa stamp comes from Israel), crossing into Syria is usually impossible.  Even with a second passport, it is difficult - the authorities will grill it with an aim to uncovering how you might have entered Israel at some point.  Thus, entering with a group - at least for the time being - was the best way for us to get here.  While we waited at the border crossing, the pastor of the nearby Presbyterian church and his wife brought us an extravagant lunch on the bus - meat and cheese pies, beverages, even dessert!  There was more than enough to go around (and then some).  This, combined with the fact that they were allowed into the military border control area because they were delivering food, was a potent reminder of Middle Eastern hospitality.  We then headed past towns like Homs for our evening resting place in Wadi al-Nasara (the Christian Valley), so named because of the presence of so many Christian towns and villages through the centuries.  Syria has an estimated Christian population somewhere between ten and fifteen percent.  It's not as much as in Lebanon (nearly half) or as numerous as Egypt (in the millions), but it's at least twice the percent in Iraq - which is more than twice that of Israel, Palestine, and Jordan. Our hotel rests beneath the shadow of the Krak des Chevaliers, the mother/grandpappy of all Crusader castles.  It was so long ago that it is hard to remember at times that the Crusaders held great portions of this whole area for a couple hundred years - it seems like a blip in history, but it is good to recall that it's about as long as our nation has existed.  While we were exploring the immensity of the castle, we saw a Jordanian group filming a historical drama for TV.  Seeing the actors decked out in costumes was jarring, especially as they were surrounded by the modernity of lights, cables, and cameras. We also enjoyed seeing the mix of Crusader and later Mamluk architecture in the building.  Most of the 40 villages in the Valley below have remained Christian, with the exception - ironically, perhaps - of the village closest to the Krak.  In the Valley, we visited St. George's Monastery, another Greek Orthodox site.  With fifteen monks and a 1500 year old church, they also have active summer camps, especially for youth and laity, including training in Byzantine music, some of which they sang for us in the ancient chapel.  A return trip might be in order.  One interesting piece of history there is a document from the time of Mohammed's followers which explicitly forbids anyone from touching the Monastery.  Given the Crusader history (which was not kind to the indigenous Orthodox communities either), having such a document has been helpful in the passing centuries.  It is written in an elegant, almost illegible ancient Arabic, then "translated" to a more modern script.  We headed back to the hotel for supper before gathering out on the balcony to de-brief.  Given our recent experiences, it seemed like a necessary thing to do.  Much of the talk centered around strategy - how do we share these stories when we get back?  It's a good question, one that we're asking ourselves a lot as we get ready to head back for two months of visits State-side this summer.  Looks like it's one we'll be asking for a while.

Monday, 5/27/02:  On the road again today (theme music courtesy of Willie Nelson - 3 sec.).  We've packed up our bags, and piled them on the bus for another day on the move (it'll be that way for a while, but Syria's so big, there's no other way to see the country).  Our first stop was at what is now called Simon's Citadel, but is famous for its ruins (video - 22 sec.) and one of its former residents, St. Simeon Stylites.  As the Christian world was struggling with Constantine's tolerance, there were many reactions.  One, among the monastic community, was to reject the world that much more and take a harsher approach.  Simeon was one such character, heading out into the desert for the life of a stoic hermit.  However, his peace and solace was disturbed as his fame spread. Eventually, he moved to live on top of a column to get away from the crowds of people who began to follow him. It also gave him the opportunity to take literally Jesus' words to "consider the birds of the air." (Matthew 6) The higher his column, the more people came to appeal for his teaching and wisdom; thus it cycled until he lived on a platform atop a column sixty feet high. We were told that he had a chain around his neck attached to the column so that he wouldn't fall off in his sleep.  Tradition has it that one night, a bishop was raised up to ordain him (against his will) while he was sleeping.  In 491, after his death, an enormous cathedral was erected over the spot.  It was quite the pilgrimage spot for centuries.  Now, it is quite the impressive collection of ruins.  We reflected on these things as our Melkite companion shared St. Simeon's prayer with us (audio - 17 sec.).  After lunch, we headed off to Aleppo (Halab in Arabic).  Along the way, we passed the town of Hama, famous for its enormous, graceful wooden waterwheels, constructed by the Ayyubids (whose rule began following Salah ad-Din/Saladin). The town is also infamous for a massacre which took place there during the presidency of Hafez al-Assad (Bishara's father).  The Muslim brotherhood had taken up residence there, using it as a base to plan violent radicalism (frequent bombings, assassinations).  The army, trying to put a stop to such efforts, surrounded the town and demanded evacuation of all civilians and surrender of all militants. Few complied.  They then stormed the place.  Reports of casualties buried in mass graves range as high as 20,000, but no one is sure.  As our guide justified this brutality, the rhetoric sounded eerily familiar to Israeli descriptions of the battle of Jenin.  We arrived in Aleppo and headed out to investigate the city, our first real chance to wander unchaperoned in Syria.  We went shopping for an 'oud with one of our group, an ethno-musicologist from California with Lebanese heritage.  We found one store, where we visited and played some music with the management (audio - 14 sec.).  Afterwards, we attended an ecumenical conference with the Syrian Orthodox Metropolitan of Aleppo, a Syrian Orthodox priest, Greek Orthodox priest, and the minister of Aleppo's Armenian Evangelical church.  The conversation ranged, as usual, but one item of great interest was that of Christian-Muslim relations.  According to all the leaders represented there, the Syrian church shares great relations with the majority Muslim culture.  Stumbling blocks remain, of course, especially that of intermarriage and conversion (a "one-way street", they said).  Aleppo is a center of Christian population in Syria, and the Syrian government has been very intentional about maintaining religious tolerance.  Syrian churches enjoy free electricity from the goverment, as well as help with building new churches.  Given the image we receive in the West, such messages are not only surprising, they are welcome.  We headed down to the church for shared prayers - the Syrians praying the Lord's Prayer in Arabic (audio - 40 sec.), the Greeks praying "Christ is Risen", and us singing the Doxology.  After dinner at our hotel, overlooking the enormous cathedral at the center of town, a few of us headed towards the storied Hotel Baron for drinks.  A vision of faded grandeur, the Baron is famous for its former guests, including Agatha Christie and Laurence of Arabia.  We soaked in the ambience (and a little arak) before heading back to get a few hours of sleep.

Tuesday, 5/28/02:  We began our day at the souq (market) for some shopping time. The souq is quite expansive, and the entire maze is covered - a pleasant luxury when the dust is blowing and the sun is pounding down outside.  Elizabeth bumped into an American neurologist who first came to Syria 20 years ago on a Fulbright. With his assistance, she ended up buying a rug! This was something she had hoped sometime to do during her time in the Middle East, but which has utterly intimidated her. But a deal was made (largely because of the neurologist's help and Elizabeth's willingness to walk away to catch the bus). We then headed off to meet with Sheikh Ahmed Hassoun, the Grand Mufti of Aleppo. He and Metropolitan Ibrahim (Syrian Orthodox) together received us in the mosque. Sheikh Hassoun spoke of religious tolerance, noting that as a youth, he prayed in Jerusalem and Bethlehem churches. Jews, he pointed out,  have lived in Syria throughout history and they were free to visit their shrines. However, in his estimation, extremists in all religions think they have a monopoly on God. Listening to religious authorities, one always wonders how much is rhetoric and how much is sincere; to us Sheikh Ahmed seemed sincerely to be working hard against radicalism in his community.  He stated that the beginning of radicalism in Islam is simultaneous with the establishment of Israel, and that Israel is the only country in the region to expropriate the name of a prophet for its nation (Israel, that is, the name given to Jacob).  He ended with a call: "We need to join hands and create heaven on earth." After the meeting began our long drive to the ruins of Palmyra, stopping along the way for lunch under the shade of more ancient water wheels.  Palmyra is an oasis in the middle of the Syrian desert, so the drive brought us into sand, sand, and more sand.  Along the road were the most curious structures, houses shaped like bee hives.  These ancient homes dotted the landscape like teepees, built out of mud and reinforced ever so often with more mud.  We stopped to see some up close.  Many of them were abandoned long ago, but bedouins have taken to living in them.  This is a common phenomenon in other parts of Syria as well, in the so-called "cities of the dead."  Old, vacant towns are left from Byzantine times, and new residents - such as bedouins - come to live in their ruins and use the ancient structures as building materials.  Such is the richness of Syria's ancient treasures that this practice is very widespread.  The jewel in the crown of Syria's ruins is Palmyra.  We arrived at our hotel, the Zenobia, built right at the center of the ruins (possibly over Queen Zenobia's palace).  Because of this, it likely won't be here much longer, so to stay here is a treat.  Some went off for camel rides, others to bargain with the barkers who wait at the edge of the hotel parking lot.  The rest enjoyed the desert coolness as the moon lit up the scattered columns.

Wednesday, 5/29/02:  Palmyra!  (theme music courtesy of the Oak Ridge Boys - 4 sec.)  Elizabeth woke up at a quarter to 5:00 and saw the first rosy hints of sunrise competing with the light of the full moon. Without hesitation, she pulled on shoes and a warm jacket and headed out to wander among the ruins. She intended only to go to the closest columns and then return to bed, but the views and the light were so beautiful that she couldnt go back until the sun came up. In her wanderings, not only did she see the grand site in beautiful light without an entourage of postard and kaffiye hawkers, she also followed her ears to an owl and its young atop some columns, and peered at a dung beetle busy at work with its precious ball.  She returned to the hotel after watching the sun rise through the cream-colored ancient remains of the city. As a group, we went out after breakfast to see more ruins, and more ruins - collonaded streets, temples turned into churches turned into stones, monoliths, great treasures everywhere.  Because of the (slightly sulfurous) springs nearby, the city developed as an oasis for the massive caravans passing through the area.  The Hebrew Bible even records that King Solomon built at "Tadmor", the Arabic name for the place (II Chron. 8).  Several hours was not enough to see or understand it all.  After a rest and a refreshing drink, it was off to visit the tombs.  Outside the walls of the Old City lies Palmyra's cemetery.  The Greco-Roman residents would build large family tombs, stacking members several high and placing a life-like relief carved in stone (all of which have been removed) in front of the tomb.  More and more are being discovered all of the time, and many simply remained buried to preserve them.  We entered one, which could have contained nearly 200 bodies.  After lunch, while Marthame enjoyed the modernity of a hotel swimming pool, Elizabeth headed off to modern Tadmor to visit the museum and to do some shopping. The museum was not especially impressive, but it did have many of the relief-carved burial stones, which gave a fascinating look across the milennia at the faces of ancient Palmyra.  As the sun began to set, we headed out into the desert to see the camels (video - 17 sec.) that were purchased for the Journey of the Magi 2000 project.  At sunset, we headed to the Crusader castle to get a view of the expanse of old Palmyra's ceremonial center - quite impressive, reminding us of Jerusalem's Old City (a walled city with its center of worship in one corner and its cemetery just outside the walls).  Starving, we followed the fires to a nearby tourist attraction, the Bedouin restaurant (theme music courtesy of U2 - 3 sec.).  There, we were treated to yet another expansive meal of Arabic salads before digging into a large pot of mansaaf (meat and rice with yogurt sauce) as a musician played traditional music (audio - 11 sec.).  As we enjoyed fresh fruit and hot beverages, the dancers and more musicians arrived (video - 6 sec.).  Three men, two women, two drummers, and man playing something like a flute.  After one extended dance, they invited others to join in (which we did).  All in all, a wonderful Syrian desert day.

Thursday, 5/30/02:  Farewell, Palmyra.  We headed on our way to Damascus, a place we'll be staying for a few nights.  That'll be most welcome.  Along the way, we stopped for a rest break at the Bagdad Cafe where we could also buy t-shirts.  Since five of us on the trip went to Iraq together last May, it was a must-see.  We stopped for lunch in the beautiful Christian village of Ma'aloula, one of several villages in the area where a dialect of Aramaic is still spoken.  It is not exactly the same as the ancient language spoken by Jesus, but rather a modern version of it.  It  is communities like this which are a welcome resistance against the monolithic global and regional cultures.  We also visited the beautiful little shrine and monastery dedicated to St. Thekla.  Known from the apocryphal Acts of Paul and Thekla, Thekla was a disciple of Paul's who was threatened with death because of her faith. However, tradition holds that the earth swallowed her up to save her from that fate, and a steep canyon marks the site of the miracle.  As our Melkite companion explained, books such as Acts of Paul and Thekla are not canonical (that is, not part of the Bible), but the stories contained in them that the church considers worthy of passing along, become part of the Christian Tradition.  Thekla is one such instance, and he shared with us the prayer of St. Thekla from the Melkite prayer book (audio - 14 sec.).  We then went to visit the Syrian Orthodox Patriarch at the Monastery of St. Ephraim. He spends his time between the Monastery and the Patriarchate in Damascus under the title "Syrian Orthodox Patriarch of Antioch and all the East."  Not bad.  The name "Syrian Orthodox" has created some confusion, leading some to believe it is a national church related to Syria.  In Arabic, there is a clear distinction between the two words translated as "Syrian", so some have begun calling the church "Syriac Orthodox" to distinguish.  The seminary itself is quite new and is an important center for theological training in this ancient church.  Again, we were privileged to hear the Lord's Prayer in Aramaic.  We arrived in Damascus, where we were greeted with signs announcing a boycott on US goods in response to American Middle East policy.  Now we know why we've had a hard time finding Coca-Cola in Syria.  About half of our group felt rested enough to attending an ecumenical meeting hosted by the Middle East Council of Churches, our wonderful guides throughout our stay here.  Clergy and laity alike attended from the various denominations, and the topics ranged far and wide.  The question of proselytism seemed foremost on the minds of the local clergy, particularly the Orthodox.  It seems that from time to time missionaries come to the Middle East seeking to share the gospel among Muslims, but find themselves unable to translate their message to them - thus, they end up sharing their version of the gospel with Christians (some call it "sheep-stealing").  Some shared privately that such folks could present a healthy challenge to the ancient churches, but there was also great concern about their dismissal of the ancient churches as not real Christians. Also, many were troubled by outsiders coming in to change Muslim hearts, failing, and leaving the local church to clean up the mess and bear the brunt of resentment.  It's clearly a problem that must be addressed.  The ecumenical spirit is impressive.  We are talking about how to round out our time here in Lebanon and Syria with something liturgical.  We talked about communion, but the diversity of practices, theologies, and hierarchies means little chance we will be able to find common ground.  Such is the struggle for Church unity.

Friday, 5/31/02:  Our first visit this morning was with the Greek Patriarch of Antioch and all the East.  When the European countries partitioned the Middle East, Antioch became part of Turkey - it remains disputed between the two countries, which means that the Patriarchate has moved out of necessity.  Meeting with him was a truly powerful experience - a humble, theological, faithful, impressive figure.  Reflecting on the question of proselytism, he called us in the West to recognize that Islam is a reality to be understood, not ignored.  As such, we in the Church must find our language for speaking with Muslims and sharing our faith - conversion is the work of the Holy Spirit, but proclamation and witness are ours.  As such, our whole language must change.  We could've listened to him dispense wisdom for hours, but we had another important appointment to keep - this one with the Grand Mufti of Syria, Mufti Kuftaro, for Friday lessons.  The Middle East Council of Churches had set this up with the aging Islamic leader who has made his career out of bridging Muslim-Christian relations.  We met with his son as the congregation prayed, hearing about the mosque's benevolence society and its work.  The women headed up to the second floor with the other women while the men headed down front to sit with the Mufti.  He spoke as we listened to translation via headphones (unfortunately not very clear for the women), speaking about the need for Muslims to follow the way of peace faithfully.  It was mostly a word of folk-wisdom from our perspective, but people were hanging on his every word.  After he had spoken for an hour, one of our group was invited to speak.  Rev. Dr. Gary Burge, Professor of New Testament at Wheaton College and the President of Evangelicals for Middle East Understanding, had been asked to share a message to the people.  He did so, preaching on the story of the Good Samaritan (Luke 10).  As worlds collide these days, the need to break down barriers and work past stereotypes and preconceptions is more necessary than ever.  It was truly an unique moment - people hanging on Dr. Burge's every word, grateful for the opportunity to break down boundaries and to find ways to forge a future together - not boiling down our distinct faiths so that they become bland versions of the original, but finding the places of contact such that we can live together in peace and understanding.  From there, we headed off to the Melkite Patriarchate.  Centered in the Old City of Damascus, along the Street called Straight (the site of the scales falling from St. Paul's eyes - Acts 9), this is the head of the Greek Catholic church throughout the world.  Unfortunately, the Patriarch was in the States opening a new church there.  We met with one of his bishops, a great treat for us - and especially for the Melkite priest in our midst.  The bishop gave him an altar cloth, newly blessed by the Patriarch.  Each cloth contains a relic, meaning that when the congregation celebrates the eucharist, they are in communion with the Patriarch as well as the communion of saints.  We shared with the bishop our work in the Jenin and Nablus areas, particularly with the Melkite communities.  We visited the Church of the Patriarchate and noted its very high pulpit, reminiscent of John Calvin's old church in Geneva.  As we prepared to leave, the bishop called Marthame over, handing him an altar cloth like the one he gave to the Melkite priest.  "This is for you," he said.  "This means you are in communion," said the priest.  It was a very moving moment, one hinting at a rich and beautiful unity of the Church.  We headed down Straight Street, winding our way through the narrow streets and past the relic American cars until we arrived at the Presbyterian church, meeting with Pastor Boutros.  We had a wonderful meeting together, heading up to get a mountain view of Damascus (video - 17 sec.) before going back to our hotel for dinner. This meal was in the rotating restaurant - this hotel has more restaurants than all of Jenin.

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