Day 8 – Worshipping in Bethlehem followed by Jericho and the Dead Sea

Sunday Oct 30th…another sunny day in Palestine!

7 AM Breakfast the menu is getting a little tiring but at least there are several options from the buffet. We have been fed very well through out our trip, no chance to lose a few pounds. The restaurant serves instant coffee and being from the coffee capital of the NW it’s a little hard to get it down. Fortunately the last 2 days a few of us are able to buy freshly brewed Espresso with milk ($3.00) Yummy! Worth every penny.

9AM we are off to the Greek Catholic Melkite church in Beit Sahour for Sunday Service. The church was filled with beautiful icons. There were probably 60 people in the congregation. As we entered the church we were handed a program in English; on the outside of the program it said “The Divine Liturgy of our Father John Chrysostom and inside they listed the 8 Beatitudes, I thought I would list them here since we saw them through out our visit and I find it appropriate when thinking about the Palestinians.

  1. Blessed are the poor in Spirit, for theirs is the Kingdom of Heaven.
  2. Blessed are those who mourn, for they will be comforted.
  3. Blessed are the meek, for they will inherit the earth.
  4. Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they will be filled.
  5. Blessed are the merciful, for they will be shown mercy.
  6. Blessed are the pure in heart , for they will see God.
  7. Blessed are the peacemakers, for they will be called children of God.
  8. Blessed are those who are persecuted because of righteousness, for theirs is the Kingdom of Heaven

The service or Mass was lead by a visiting Priest from Ireland, Fr. Michael, but he has been working in the West Bank for 8 years. The service, of course, was given in Arabic. It was a time for all of us to reflect with the beautiful music (voices only) throughout the service. We took our cues from the people around us to stand or sit. We were also reminded not to cross our legs and show the bottom of our feet; this is very insulting to whom ever sees it. I also could not take my eyes off the robe that the priest was wearing. It was made of gold silk with red geometric crosses throughout the fabric with antique gold trim(probably from Germany). I think we should consider buying one for Pastor Donna? They offered communion for those who were Catholic and being the kind and thoughtful people they are there was a young man standing at the entrance as we were leaving the church and he offered us blessed bread from a basket.

After the service the priest offered us coffee so we went into another little modest building and he told us a little about the church and the challenges of the Palestinian people. Unfortunately we didn’t get our coffee because the person who is the usual coffee maker was ill…alas, we were rushed off to the bus to keep our next appointment. Many of us would have loved hearing more of what the Priest was sharing but you can imagine herding 20 people from one location to the other.

11 AM off to Jericho. Our guide Rami told us a few stories on our way as we passed the locations of the Good Samaritan, the Valley of the Shadow of Death near the Mt of Temptation, in the barren, rugged Judean Hills. We dropped a couple thousand meters in elevation on this trip.

We arrived in Jericho, “the City of Palms, located to the westside of the Jordan River at 825 meters below sea level, known as the oldest city and the lowest city in the world! We visited the Sycamore Tree where the chief tax collector, Zachias, climbed the tree (because he was short) to get a look at Jesus…or was Jesus short…Rami says no one really knows which is true from the writing!

Jericho is the 2nd most excavated sight in Palestine next to Jerusalem being #1.
Then we were off to Qumran National Park where all the excavating took place after the discovery of the Dead Sea Scrolls; this is where the Bedouin shepherd found the Dead Sea Scrolls and that find has changed the study of the Old Testament.
We also saw the first casino that was built in Jericho the only people who were allowed to gamble there were the Israelis; the Palestinians could work there, but not go there as patrons. In 2000 more checkpoints were put in place so the Israelis could not go there anymore, today the casino closed, but has become part of a nice hotel.

4pm. we left for the Dead Sea. A few of our group changed into their swimsuits and submerged themselves in the mud and water of the Dead Sea. They looked and acted like children frolicking in the water…along with hundreds of other playful bathers! Others waded in the water and the rest of us sat on the bank and watched as everyone was enjoying themselves. We have great pictures to prove it!! More photos to come!

In the 5:15pm darkness we started the climb out of the lowest place on earth to our current home in Bethlehem!

Tomorrow we head to our new work projects!

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