Day 8, May 8, 2017
Driving through the West Bank, we arrived at St. George’s Church in Burgin, one of the oldest churches in the world (Pic 1). It is where the ten lepers were cured and only one came back to say thank you according to Luke: 17:11- 19. The oldest part of the church dates back to the 4th century and was built to include the cisterns where lepers were housed and later where Christians hid during the time of the persecution (Pic 2).
We arrived in Nablus, the site of Jacob’s well. Our group gathered around the well and read the Gospel reading of the Samaritan woman who met Jesus at the well John: 4:1-26 (pic 3). The building of this Greek Orthodox church was begun in 1980 and overseen by Fr. Justin, a man of very short stature with a long white beard typical of the Greek orthodox priests. (Pic 4) He endured 16 stabbings from a Jewish fanatic (every religion has their own extremists) during the years of building the church. It was finally completed in 1995 (Pic 5).
We stopped for a delicious lunch in Taybeh, a town that Jesus passed through on his way to Jerusalem. We also visited the Taybeh Brewery owned and operated by an American Palestinian family. What they have to go through to survive here! As Palestinians, they are not allowed to leave the country from Tel Aviv. They have to go to Jordan – a huge inconvenience. They get 20% of the water of what Israelis are allowed, which makes it extremely challenging for their brewery business. If their trucks take beer into Israel, as Palestinians, they have to go through multiple check points whereas Israelis coming into Palestine are able to come through freely. In Nazareth, Jews and Palestinians live reasonably well together. But Jerusalem has its own set of problems. Even if the sacred sites in Jerusalem were made an independent district, much like Washington, D.C., with a two-state solution, so many people would be uprooted since many Israelis live in Palestine and many Palestinians live in Israel. And a one-state solution will never work unless every citizen – Palestinians and Israelis – is given equal rights. The Israelis have all the power and I have never seen a group with power willingly give it up. (This is the same problem we’re having with getting the laity to have a voice in the Church. The hierarchical bishops and cardinals don’t want to give up their power.) There will continue to be trouble in this part of the world as long as illegal occupation of the West Bank by the Jewish people continues. After hearing so many stories here, as much of a mediator as I consider myself to be, I see no resolution. Prayers may be the only answer.