Greetings from Mar Elias Educational Institutions (which is a UM Board of Global Ministries Advance Project) in Ibillin in Lower Galilee! We are so grateful for our team of Janet Lahr Lewis and Elias Ghareeb who met us with a bus and great welcome as we wearily emerged from customs at Tel Aviv’s Ben Gurion airport. (Happy to report a totally uneventful customs experience!)
We are writing at 9:15pm after a lovely dinner of homemade food and a rooftop tour of the town of Ibillin. In the darkness we can see the lights of Haifa to the southwest, the string of lights along the shore, Mt. Carmel to the south and then this campus of Mar Elias, perched on this rocky hillside. This is a combination of eight buildings that provide education for almost 4000 students, kindergarten through ‘college’ age Palestinian students, conceived from the vision and unvavering dedication of Elias Chacour, a champion of the Palestinian cause for justice and equality.
We are housed on the top floor of the campus guest house, and are ready for bed! Most have been up over 30 hours at this point…maybe a bit of sleep on the flight from Toronto to Tel Aviv…thank goodness for airplane movies!
We traveled north out of Tel Aviv on route 6 to the Arab-Israeli village of Kfar Manda, to enjoy lunch with the Palestinian women of Sindyanna. Tabbouli salad, hummus with Sindyanna’s organic olive oil, fresh pita bread and bulghar with eggplant, peppers and onions was our first real meal of this VIM journey, beautifully prepared and so satisfying to our palates after the airline food. The meal was followed by a tiny cup of delicious Arabic coffee, flavored with cardamom and a touch of sugar.
After lunch and shopping in the basket and olive oil shop at Sindyanna (which is a UMC Partner Project), we experienced a bus ride through alley-way streets just wide enough for our bus…and almost not wide enough! Exciting! A short bus ride to Ibillin, to unpack and explore before the delicious supper and our orientation. Many of us nodded off as we rode our bus and strained to stay alert for the important info Janet had to offer.
We are missing Dee!! We thank you for your wonderful work in getting this trip organized and are so grateful for all you did to prepare us! We are all wishing you well, and thinking of you with love.
Until tomorrow…your VIM team in Israel/Palestine.