On Day 6 we left Bethlehem and traveled to the ancient town of Hebron, site of the Tomb of the Patriarchs. it is also the largest city in the West Bank and one of the most tense in the region. The part we visit, just around the Tomb is a highly militarized zone and looks a lot like a ghost town. We arrived and visited first the Mosque which houses the tombs of Abraham and Sarah, Issac and Rebecca, Jacob and Leah. It is also a synagogue and considered the second most holy site among Jews, second only to the Temple Mount.
After the visit to the Mosque we traveled into the Souk, the market, in old Hebron. It too is a heavily guarded place, and very tense. Here, Jewish settlers live just above the souk, often throwing trash and even excrement out the windows onto the shoppers and vendors below. You can make note of this in one of the pictures above. This video highlights are day and you will note the young boys in Hebron making us pomegranate. Juice!”
From there we traveled back to Bethlehem for lunch and then on to the Israeli Museum to see the amazing model of Jerusalem they have there and also the Dead Sea Scrolls, always a highlight. Then on to Jerusalem, and to the the Mt. Olives to begin our hike down the Mt. visiting various churches along the way and then eventually to the Garden of Gethsemane, This is always amoving stop and was no different on this trip. We had the luxury of spending about 20 minutes in silence in the olive grove across the street. Then back to our hotel where I made a quick walk to our wonderful tattoo artist Wassim Razzouk just around the corner from our hotel where I took about 14 of our pilgrims, and I got my year added onto mine, 2019.
After a good nights rest we departed early for a visit to Princess Basma Center, another much needed ministry of the Diocese of Jerusalem and a ministry supported by the American Friends of the Diocese of Jerusalem on whose board I sit, and which Bishop Barry Beisner, also leading this trip Chairs.
From there we went to Mt. Zion, and the Dormition Abbey, and then walked down to St. Peter in Gallicantu, the site of Jesus arrest and imprisonment and of Peter’s betrayal of him. Our very own Mary Bol read a reading for our Eucharist there.
After a good lunch we headed to the Tekoa Settlement outside Jerusalem and in the West Bank to hear from a settler there on his perspective on living, on what are called by much of the international community, illegal settlements. Tekoa is the biblical hometown of Amos. It is a beautiful place geographically but a much troubled one in its existence but certainly an icon of the continued separation, discrimination, and tension here.
After a long discussion with our host there, a rabbi from New Jersey, we headed back to Jerusalem for some much needed rest and processing. After dinner the Very Rev. Dominic Barrington, Dean of St. James’ Cathedral Chicago, Director of Lightline USA and the real leader of this church took us on his famous night walk around the old city. It is always a highlight and it was also a beautiful night (our weather has been amazing!) and a good night to make the walk.
It was one of the most surreal nights I have ever been to the wall as we arrived to find hundreds if not thousands of Israeli Soldiers praying this night just before their oath taking the next morning. All of them carry an automatic weapon.
After a brief prayer on the roof tops overlooking the Temple Mount we retired to our hotel. Just two days left.