Hannah and Je together

Sunday, 24 August 2014

Second Holy Land Trip – Fifty Third Day – Baraka Presbyterian Church in Bethlehem

The first day I came here, I found the sign of Presbyterian Church in front of the house where I am staying.  But my hosting family told me that they have not seen them worship on Sundays.

Church Entrance

Church Entrance

My hosting family told me that they heard of bigger Presbyterian church in Bethlehem, not do not know the exact location.  As a favour to me, the father of the family called his neighbour this morning who is in the Beit Sahour Presbyterian Church (the official name is Shepherds’ Field Presbyterian Church), and asked the location.  It was on the Hebron street, and he gave me ride there.

Church Building

Church Building

The church was on the down-side of the road (everywhere here is hill).  So the ground floor from my side (west) is underground level 1 from the other side (east).

Common Room in the church with pingpong table

Common Room in the church with ping-pong table

When you go in, you get to the back of the sanctuary.  And on the right, there is a door to the common room for after service refreshments.  There is a ping-pong table for the youth activities.

Simultaneous Translator Receiver

Simultaneous Translator Receiver

From the common room, you can enter the tech room where they control the overhead projector and computer, sound mixer and everything.  Even they have simultaneous translator equipment.  Today, a guy was translating in the tech room only for me.

Christmas Year Round

Christmas Year Round

In Bethlehem, it is Christmas year round.

Childrens' Story Time

Children’s Story Time

The service was much like ours in Canada or America (I mean PCC or PCUSA).  And there were about or little more than fifty people including children.  There was a Children’s story time, and then they went for Sunday School.  Though the service was much like ours, the demographic was quite different.  They are mostly young parents, probably around 20s and 30s.  I think that is good sign because even here, the church goers are mostly seniors for Greek Orthodox.  And the service was about hour and half (thank God it is not three hours like Greek Orthodox).

Back to School Gift

Back to School Gift

All the children were given a gift package at the Sunday school because the school begins tomorrow.

Playground at Church

Playground at Church

I know the churches in North America usually have yards and some rich Churches (like my church which is Knox Presbyterian Church in Naperville) have even its own playground.  That is not true for churches in Korea.  I also haven’t seen any playground at Greek Orthodox Churches.  But this Presbyterian church has its own small playground.  I love it!

Olive Everywhere

Olive Everywhere

And it is kind of law in Palestine and Israel that where there is yard, there are olive trees.

I found that the Presbyterian church in Beit Sahour comes here to join the Sunday service because they do not have a lot of people, and it is the daughter church of Baraka Bethlehem Presbyterian Church.  They also have a day-care and education centre in Beit Sahour.  So instead of walking back hour and twenty minutes, I got a ride back home.  And thank God that the Beit Sahour Presbyterian church is literally right next door!

In the refreshments, people asked me a few questions such as if I am alone.  I guess they meant if I am single because they also told me that they have good Christian girls.  So I told them “Ana mit-jawiz,” which means I am married.  Another lady asked me how long I’ve been here.  I asked her back, “in Palestine?”  Then she said, “Thank you for saying Palestine.”  To give you an advice who wants to travel West Bank later, it is not safe to call there “Israel,” and they do not really like to be called “West Bank” either.  They are happy when they hear “Palestine.”

Who knows this?

Who remembers this?

They sell some souvenirs in the church along with some Christian music.  Some of them are in cassette tape.  I cannot really remember when was the last time that I listened to the cassette tape.  And I don’t have a cassette tape player, so I could not buy this one even though it was cheaper.  But does not the sales mean people actually listens to it?

Arabic Gospel CD

Arabic Gospel CD

Instead of the cassette tape, I bought a gospel music CD in Arabic.  I can borrow this CD if you are my neighbour and you want it.  The church was selling it for 30 shekels.  And I found later that it is cheaper if you buy it at Amazon.  But that is OK, it is just 5 shekels (which is about $2), and I may think I helped the church.

It is not related to today’s topic, but: the father of this hosting family installed an alarm app from the Israeli government that warns the location and sounds the siren when the missile launch was detected from Gaza so that people can run to the shelter. And it sounds the siren twice every minute, literally.  But the location is mostly southern Israel, so we don’t have to run.  Well, actually we don’t have a shelter to run in Beit Sahour or any Palestinian area in West Bank.

Saturday, 23 August 2014

Second Holy Land Trip – Fifty Second Day – Two Shepherds’ Fields and Virgin Mary’s Well

I’ve been to Catholic (Franciscan) Shepherds’ Field twice, once with McCormick group last January, and the other by myself last month.  But there are three Shepherds’ fields in Beit Sahour – Franciscan, Greek Orthodox, and I think Baptists.  But everybody told me the third is not worth visiting, so I just gave up.

Before I left home this morning, I asked my hosting lady the way to Orthodox Shepherds’ field.  She explained me but I was not 100% sure, so I asked her to pick the point at the google maps.  And below is what happened:

Map is alien language to women

Map is alien language to women

Her verbal explanation was correct, but not her map picking.  I am wonder how she cannot read the map of her own town where she was born and lived for about fifty years.  She is now living in this house for eleven years and the Orthodox Shepherds’ field is about half mile.  And I remember that 80 per cent of the arguments with my wife are about the map reading.  Are women not supposed to read maps?  But women’s brains are better at linguistic abilities.  That makes even.

Greek Orthodox Shepherds' Field Gate

Greek Orthodox Shepherds’ Field Gate

When I was approaching the Orthodox Shepherds’ field, the gate was closed, but before I got there, a group of tourists went there and I was able to sneak in there with them.

Greek Orthodox Church Building

Greek Orthodox Church Building

This is the church building.

Ceiling of the Greek Orthodox Church

Ceiling of the Greek Orthodox Church

I am not 100% sure but all the Greek Orthodox church building I visited has a few things in common.  Among them, one thing interests me is that in the dome part of the sanctuary has the picture of Jesus looking down.

To the cave of Greek Orthodox Shepherds' Field

To the cave of Greek Orthodox Shepherds’ Field

Outside of the church building, there is a way to the cave.

Sanctuary in the cave

Sanctuary in the cave

When I went down the stairs, it was another sanctuary.

Shepherds' skulls

Shepherds’ skulls

And there were skulls displayed.  There is a sign saying that this is the tomb of the shepherds.  The cave and the floor mosaics are from 5th century.

Barbarian Destruction

Barbarian Destruction

Above and around the cave, you can see the ruins of the three ancient church buildings.

To the Virgin Mary's Well

To the Virgin Mary’s Well

Then I tried to go to the Franciscan Shepherds’ field.  I followed the street sign, but I’ve got lost and I went to around the downtown Beit Sahour.  I am wonder if I can call it downtown.  It is kind of city centre, and old city.  But it is higher on the hill.  Anyway, I realised that I am quite close to the Virgin Mary’s Well, so I decided to visit there first.  I asked a few people mixed with Arabic and English.  “Bti’araf wen Virgin Mary’s Well?”  People did not understand my English part – Virgin Mary’s Well.  So I used google translator.  Still people did not understand.  Finally I showed the picture of the street sign of Virgin Mary’s well.  “Bti’araf wen hada?” (Do you know where is this?)  Then people showed me with finger and it was just right there.  I checked the google translator, and noticed that it shows quite different Arabic from the street sign.  Google may translated literally and Arabic name may not be exact translation.  Jerusalem in Arabic is il-Quds which means “The Holy.”  And Damascus gate is Bab il-‘amud which means “Gate of the pillar.”

Virgin Mary's Well

Virgin Mary’s Well

There were several ladies (probably volunteers from a church) and one of them told me that Virgin Mary drank from this water.  The water is not from the rain, but from the spring underground.  They used to have full of water, but now they drained it for maintenance.

Entrance to the Franciscan Shepherds' Field

Entrance to the Franciscan Shepherds’ Field

Then I walked back and went to Franciscan Shepherds’ field.  I actually asked several people on the way there.  I’ve already been there twice, so I was not interested actually in seeing it again.  But the reason I went there is to know where exactly it is.  When you go there by taxi or bus, you may not really know where it is, but I walked there, and I know the location on the map in my brain.

To the Excavation site

To the Excavation site

I went inside and right before I left there, the sign above drew my eyes – the archaeological excavation site!

Ruin of the Ancient Church

Ruin of the Ancient Church

There are some ruins and remains of ancient church.

Deep Caves in excavation site

Deep Caves in excavation site

And there are more caves down there.

Ruth Restaurant

Ruth Restaurant

This is the restaurant near the Franciscan Shepherds’ field.  McCormick group may recognise it because we ate lunch there when we visited the shepherds’ field.  The land around the Franciscan Shepherds’ field is believed to be the Boaz’s field, the grandfather of King David.  And consequently the restaurant’s name is Ruth.

To my impression after seeing both Shepherds’ Field,  I think the Franciscan knows what the tourists expect to see.

Monday, 18 August 2014

Second Holy Land Trip – Forty Seventh Day – Soccer Final

It was actually yesterday.  Late last night.  Because it is very hot here during the day, people try to enjoy and get most out of the cool night.  Many evenings, the neighbours gather at my host family’s house and they drink the Turkish or Arabic coffee at 7pm.  How can they get asleep?  Don’t worry, they don’t sleep until really late at night.

Family Soccer Game in Beit Sahour

Family Soccer Game in Beit Sahour

My host family told me that there is soccer final in YMCA Beit Sahour.  So I joined them and went to the YMCA.  There were so many people, I’d say about quarter of the whole town gathered.

Family Soccer Game in Beit Sahour

Family Soccer Game in Beit Sahour

There was even professional recording and broadcasting.  I asked them what kind of soccer game it is.  It was the family soccer game in Beit Sahour.  The family here means different than in usual English.  I would say more like clan.  Because of long history here and lack of movement of the people neither in nor out, any people having same last name are relatives each other.  It is maybe hard to imagine in Canada or America where there are high chance of not related between random two bakers in one city.

Family Soccer Game in Beit Sahour

Family Soccer Game in Beit Sahour

There were so many people, and people were watching even outside of the fence and on the root of the building.  And in the halftime, there were door prizes.  A lady got the grand prize of Flat TV.

The final was between the family of Bannoura, and another family which I forgot the name.  Bannoura is the biggest family in Beit Sahour, and the other family is the second biggest.  There are sixteen families having their own soccer team, and this is annual thing.  There are more families than sixteen, but the rest are just very small families without soccer team.

It was like a whole town festival even though just two clans gathered.  The family tie is far much stronger than that I expected here.  And I thought that the Israeli’s random killing of Palestinian will never work.  If you kill any one of them in the whole clan, then almost everybody in the soccer field will turn into enemy and possible terrorist unless you kill every sigle one of them.

One more thing, the reason that this kind of big event is possible is that they are Christians.  Muslim families cannot join the game where the whole family members gather together in the public place and enjoy together because Muslim women are not to be in the public place with men like this.  And many Christian Palestinian women (at least every one I talked) are thankful that they were born in Christian family.

I read the sad news that several hundred people were killed by ISIS in Syria.  But several hundred people had good time in Beit Sahour last night.  I hope the people in Syria and Iraq also can enjoy their lives soon.

Sunday, 17 August 2014

Second Holy Land Trip – Forty Sixth Day – Sunday Service at Palestinian Greek Orthodox Church

Today I went to Greek Orthodox Church in Beit Sahour with my hostess lady.  The service was from 7am, but we left home at 7:05.  And we went there less than 10 minutes, mostly because Beit Sahour is very small town.

Paintings in Narthex

Paintings in Narthex

In the narthex, there were four pictures.  I recognised the two which are Jesus Christ and St. Mary.  And almost everybody stopped at those pictures and bowed and kissed them.

Candle Light

Candle Light

And at the corner of Narthex, there is a place where you can light the candle.  I also did one.

Blessing, blessing

Blessing, blessing

Throughout the service, people went to the front of the right corner by family.  And they bend their back and bowed before the priest.  And women must cover their heads with scarves.  Then the priest cover everybody with a clothe like towel.  And he crossed over their heads, and blessed them.  Then he finished with another making cross over their heads.  He uncovered the towel, and fed them with wine and bread.  It looks like a small communion but it is not a communion.  And not everybody goes there.

Kissing the Bible

Kissing the Bible

The actual service begins about 8:15.  Then what we were doing until then?  I was told that it was preparing the service by asking God the permission of service, and blessing.

The priest took the golden Bible, and the guys went to the front and kissed the Bible.  Then the priest came to the middle of the hallway.  And the ladies went and kissed.

Light up the Church!

Light up the Church!

Then the all lights were turned on even Christmas decorations (in the back side door).

Choir seat

Choir seat

The choir was upstairs.

First Procession

First Procession

And there was a procession.  The boys carry two candles, and two symbols, and a cross.  Then the priests carry the Bible.  I heard that the two symbols which go before the cross means John the Baptist, preparing the way of the Lord.

Men and Women should not seat together

Men and Women should not seat together

Most Jewish synagogues in Israel have separate rooms for men and women.  The churches do not have such things.  All men and women worship God together.  But if you look at the picture, all men are sitting on the front pews, while all ladies sitting behind them.  Because I went with my hosting lady, I was at the back, and almost everybody looked at me and their eyes were like saying what the hack is wrong with me.

Second Procession

Second Procession

Almost at the end of the service, there was another procession.  And during the procession, people kissed the relics, bible or kissed their finger and stretched their finger towards the relics.

Offering is Universal

Offering is Universal

The offering system is not much different from the Presbyterian or any other Protestant churches in North America.

Sharing the bread, but not communion

Sharing the bread, but not communion

Then a guy was distributing chunk of bread to the people, and also many (aged) ladies brought their own breads and distributed to the nearby people.  I thought this is the communion, but again, it was not.  They said this is the “holiness of bread.”  They said it is for blessing, because not everybody can join the communion.

This is communion

This is communion

Then the real communion was at the very end of the service.  People lined up, and went to the front.  The priests blessed the wine and bread, and distributed one by one.  Just as I was told a minute ago, not everybody went up.  I don’t know what is the rule of the communion, but I did not go up as well because I did not want to break any possible rule there.

The service lasted three hours.  It was very different from typical Presbyterian or any other Protestant worship service.  If I had understood Arabic, it would have been better and exciting.  there was lots of singing by the cantors.  And the cantors were on both sides of the holy place (or stage), because they said someone in the Bible or in their legend saw heaven, and saw the angels singing in the left and right of the throne.

It was very interesting experience.

Thursday, 14 August 2014

Second Holy Land Trip – Forty Third Day – Bethlehem and Beit Sahour

I study in Bethlehem University in Bethlehem, and I stay in a family house in Beit Sahour.  I walk back and forth everyday.  One way takes about 50 minutes.  Both Bethlehem and Beit Sahour are very small town, and it would be more natural if they are one city.  The house where I stay is located in the other edge of Beit Sahour which made my walking longer, but if I walk from downtown Beit Sahour to downtown Bethlehem, it takes around or less than 30 minutes.  You can imagine how tiny those towns are.

Christians are easily found in Bethlehem and Beit Sahour

Christians are easily found in Bethlehem and Beit Sahour

Because of the close vicinity, there are many similarities in both towns, and they make one economic zone with Beit Zala, which is located on the other side of Bethlehem.

But there are quite many differences between the two towns – much more than I expected.

The both towns have huge amount of Christians.  It is mainly because of the special location.  Bethlehem is the birth place of Jesus Christ, the Saviour of Christian religion.  Beit Sahour is where the shepherd’s fields are – the place where the angels appeared to the shepherds and noticed the birth of the Saviour.  But the Catholic is the majority among Christians in Bethlehem while Greek Orthodox is the majority in Beit Sahour.

They both speak Arabic, but they speak in different ways.  Their pronunciations are different, and words and expressions are also different.  People say that they can tell 100% if a person is from Bethlehem or Beit Sahour when they hear his or her speaking.

For example, kalb is dog and qalib is heart in Bethlehem.  But the pronunciations are opposite in Beit Sahour.  So if Sahouri (people of Beit Sahour) says, “take my heart,” it sounds like “take my dog” in Bethlehemite’s ear, and vice versa.  Even the verb conjugation is different.  For 2nd person masculine singular of the verb “baqol,” one says “btoqil” and the other says “btaqol.”  When they say “I don’t know,” Sahouri says “Ma baraf,” while Bethlehemite says “barafish.”

Because of this language variation, they say that they have different dialect even in those close towns – just thirty minutes of walking distance.  This means there were very few moving between those two towns in the history.  As you may know, it is Bethlehemites who makes fun of Sahouri, not the other way.  If you think about it, it is crazy – people in Hyde Park and in Woodlawn speaks different English.

And they both have very clear identity of their own as Sahouri and as Bethlehemite.  Not to mention that they both have very strong identity as Palestinian.

Tuesday, 12 August 2014

Second Holy Land Trip – Fortieth Day – Walking in Beit Sahour

The class is supposed to be from Monday to Thursday.  But this week only the class will be from Tuesday to Friday because our teacher has to go to the court for the parking and traffic ticket.  She has to pay several hundred shekels, but she expects to lower it until two or three hundred shekels.

Glass Bead

Glass Bead

I found this glass bead on the street.  The Palestinian kids must play with those.  I also played with those when I was young.  It had so much fun, and I was glad to find the same thing in different country.

Damaged Hosue

Damaged House

Then I went to the house where they got rocket the other day.  The debris were all cleared on the street, and the owner was repairing the house.  I wanted to ask him who pays for the repair, but I could not because he does not speak English, and my Arabic is just beginning – all I can say is greetings and introduction of myself.  After I took this picture and about to leave the site, I heard the children’s laughing from upstairs.  When I looked up again, I saw a young girl, around seven or eight years old, was waving at me with big beautiful smile.  And that smile broke my heart and made me deeply sad.  People tried to kill that beautiful little girl, whichever the rocket is from either Hamas or Israel.  What kind of crazy thing we the people are doing?

PalPay, not PayPal

PalPay, not PayPal

Then I found this.  Many people already know about the “Stars & Bucks,” but maybe not this.  There is Paypal in America, and Palestinians have PalPay.

Beit Sahour Hospital

Beit Sahour Hospital

And it really looks like a Walk-in clinic, but this is Beit Sahour hospital.  And this is even built by Japanese Embassy, not by the Palestinians.  I hope there would be better and bigger general hospital in Bethlehem or in Ramallah, because they need it.

LOL Retaurant

LOL Restaurant

And there is a restaurant named LOL.  I think we read it El-Oh-El in America, but they read it loll here in Beit Sahour.  And later my hosting family told me that this restaurant is owned and run by their relative.  But they said they do not go there because it is too expensive.  It would cost around 40 shekels per person, which is less than $15 which I think not too bad.

Sunday, 10 August 2014

Second Holy Land Trip – Thirty Ninth Day – Back to Beit Sahour

After I had breakfast at the hostel (I saw huge Korean teen group from a church), I asked the reception about the bus schedule to Jerusalem.  The lady told me 7am, 10am, 2pm, and the last one is 5pm.  I decided to go to the central bus station earlier so I got there 8:50am.  I thought I need to wait about an hour.  But when I purchased the ticket, the clerk said “The bus is now leaving.”  The bus to Jerusalem was at 9am.  If I had been ten minutes later, I would have waited a couple of hours.

My seat was 13, but before the bus departed, two soldiers got on, and asked me a favour.  A girl and boy soldiers were a couple, and their seat were 14 and 20.  They wanted to sit together.  So I moved to seat 20.  And I found that soldiers get free ride.  It takes about five hours from Eilat to Jerusalem, and throughout all five hours, the soldier couple were licking each other.

At the beginning, I sat alone having two seats which was very comfortable.  But before I got to the Dead Sea, a girl in early 20s got on the bus and sat next to me.  Then she farted, and the smell was so gross – the worst fart smell I’ve ever experienced.  I looked at her face, but she closed her eyes and pretended sleeping.

Shops close on Sunday in Beit Sahour

Shops close on Sunday in Beit Sahour

Now the travelling is easy because I already know how.  From the Jerusalem central bus station to Damascus gate by light railway.  And then to Bethlehem by Arab bus 21.  And this time, I walked home, about an hour.

Shps close on Sunday in Beit Sahour

Shops close on Sunday in Beit Sahour

The market behind the Nativity Church was open and there were people, but fewer people than usual.  And quite many of the shops were closed also.  But out of that area, almost all shops were closed and nobody on the streets.

Shops close on Sunday in Beit Sahour

Shops close on Sunday in Beit Sahour

Because it is Sunday, and there are huge Christian population in Bethlehem and Beit Sahour.  Jews rest on Saturday, Christians on Sunday.  It is said that Muslims on Friday, but most of them still work.  Unlike other places, there are huge Christian population here and also Ramallah, even though the majority is Muslim now.  Bethlehem and Beit Sahour is neighbour cities and quite small.  I walk between the two cities and it takes not even an hour.  But still the two cities have many differences.

Friday, 8 August 2014

Second Holy Land Trip – Thirty Sixth Day – Car Accident

After school, I was studying at my room when I heard the loud crash sound and people screaming.

Accident Happened!

Accident Happened!

I went out and saw a car upside down and people around the car.  And I also went there.

Upside Down

Upside Down

The car is a KIA.  This photo is after the people were sent to a hospital by an ambulance.

I do not exactly know how the accident happened.  The two girls in middle twenties were in the car.  They are sisters.  The driver looks like broke her two legs, and the passenger was able to walk but hurt her right leg.

Palestinian Ambulance

Palestinian Ambulance

This is Palestinian ambulance, and it came quite late – about 25 minutes after people reported by their cellphones.  If you know how small Bethlehem and Beit Sahour are, it is amazingly late.  The driver also said that he lost.  Aren’t the police and ambulance drivers supposed to know the roads?  Even it is a very small town which you can walk from one end to the other in half hour.

Dangerous Road

Dangerous Road

When I walk by the road, I always wondered if it is safe.  As you see in the picture above, there is no fence or guard rail.  And I was told that the same accidents happens once or twice every month.  Thank God this was not fatal accident.  But I want the roads to be fixed to be safer with guard rails.

People were blaming Israel about this accident and the bad roads.  I do not know if I should agree with them or not.  People were also blaming Israel about the ambulance being late.  They said that Israel do not allow the GPS to be installed in the ambulance so that they can be lost.  Well, that might be true, but I think the ambulance driver must know all the roads in the town, especially this is very small town.

Second Holy Land Trip – Thirty Fifth Day – Walking to School

Since I had bad experience with the Palestinian taxi driver, I avoid taxi ride as much as possible.  And from the hosting house to Bethlehem University, it takes 50 minutes to walk.  And from Beit Sahour to Bethlehem is always uphill, sometimes very steep.  And I am walking twice everyday.

Sheep? Goat? on the street

Sheep on the street

On the way to school, I encounter the herds of sheep and goats a couple of times.

Sidewalk in Beit Sahour

Sidewalk in Beit Sahour

The overall walking experience is not good.  First, the sidewalk is very narrow.  And even many cars blocked the sidewalk by parking on it.  The sidewalk discontinues several times.  Some places, the trees are planted on the sidewalk which take all the room on the sidewalk.  The streets in Palestine is not the cleanest but it is much better than in Cairo, Egypt.

Peaceful Protest

Peaceful Protest

While walking in Beit Sahour, I found my favourite wall painting.  I believe, hope, and pray that peaceful protest would work eventually.

Bethlehem Peace Centre in Manger Square

Bethlehem Peace Centre in Manger Square

This is manger square where the Nativity church is.  Many of the McCormick travel group may remember this building, and there is “Stars & Bucks” nearby.

Star of Bethlehem

Star of Bethlehem

From the manger square, I walk up to the market, and there is small plaza with the star of Bethlehem.

Then I need to make a right turn and then left to go to the Bethlehem University, but I was a bit confused at first day walking.  So I asked a Tourist Police on the street, where the Bethlehem University is.  And he said, “What?  Do we have a university in Bethlehem?  Really?”  Well, I walked straight another minute, and found very small sign of Bethlehem University with arrow mark.

View from classroom

View from classroom

This is the view from my classroom.

Korean-Palestinian Friendship Street

Korean-Palestinian Friendship Street

I walked the same road on the way back home.  My hosting family lives on “Korean – Palestinian Friendship Street.”  How nice the street name is.  I heard that this road is sponsored by Korean embassy.

Korean Cultural Centre

Korean Cultural Centre

And down on the street, the Korean Cultural Centre is under construction.  This building is located on the lowest corner of the street.  In Israel/Palestine, good buildings and rich people live on the mountain top and high places.  In Korea, poor people live on the mountain top and high places.

Thursday, 7 August 2014

Second Holy Land Trip – Thirty Fourth Day – Palestinian Christian’s Baptism

After class, my hosting family asked me if I was interested in watching baptism.  Of course I was.  So I went to their church with the hosting family.

Palestinian Christian Church in Beit Sahour

Palestinian Christian Church in Beit Sahour

This is the 300 years old building.  They said that they built this church upon their old church, and still they use the older church now.  There are a couple of doors leading to downstairs or underground.

Baby Baptismal Tub

Baby Baptismal Tub

This is the baptismal tub for babies.  Baptism is processed by at least two priests.  One priest fill the tub with water and bless the water with prayers and continuously cutting the water in cross shape with his hand.  The other priest is next to him with the parents of the baby.  He blesses the baby with prayers and the Bible, and the put the olive oil on the baby in cross shape.  Now the baby is dressed in normal baby suit.

Baby Baptism

Baby Baptism

The other priest pours out the olive oil in the tub.  And the parents prepare the baby naked and also the priest put on a towel around his waist.  Before he puts the baby in the water, he lifts the baby high so that everybody can see it.  Then he puts the baby completely into the water three times.  And everybody in the church shouts for joy and makes loud happy noise.  And the priest put some special mixed oil onto the baby in cross shape.  Now, of course the baby is naked.

Procession of the Baby

Procession of the Baby

Then the priests go up to the pupil, and the baby is dressed in white (wedding) dress no matter the baby is boy or girl.  And the whole family processes to the front.

Merry Go Round?

Merry Go Round?

Then the baby’s family stands one side of the table, and the priests opposite side.  They go around the table and blesses the baby.  One of the priests shakes the incense case continually.  They do it for a while.

Bow to the Bible

Bow to the Bible

Then another priest come with the open Bible, and touches the baby’s head.  At this time, the whole family must bow down their heads.  And through all the ceremony, the people in the pew remain standing if possible.  And the baby gets the very first communion.

Then the family recess to the outside, and they stand in a row.  Then the whole crowd follow them and greet them with happy congratulation.  The baby baptism is not part of the Sunday service, but separate ceremony, and it is much like wedding.

There were about 80 people in the church, so I asked my hosting family if they are the congregation of this church.  And I was told that this is family event, so only the close relatives/kins came.

Christmas Year Round

Christmas Year Round

In Bethlehem and Beit Sahour, we have Christmas year round.

Fresh Figs

Fresh Figs

I had dried figs in Canada couple of times, but I’ve never had fresh figs before.  Fig is kind of unique fruit.  For apple, we do not eat the core part where there are seeds.  For orange, we do not eat the peel.  But for the fig, we eat everything, literally everything.  And it is very sweet.  If you eat two, you may feel happy.  I understand why Jesus was looking for fig tree when He was hungry.  And this is home-grown figs.

Wednesday, 6 August 2014

Second Holy Land Trip – Thirty Third Day – Rocket from Hamas

This is my first morning in the house in Beit Sahour, neighbouring city of Bethlehem.  I was having breakfast with the hosting family when the house shook and heard the huge explosion sound.

Building Attacked by a rocket

Building Attacked by a rocket

Everybody was very surprised and stunned, and we went out of the house.  All the neighbours also came out.  We saw black smoke was rising up from the downtown of Beit Sahour.  Because of the lady in this house went to downtown earlier, the host family and I went to the spot right away.  She was not there.  She was safe in other place.  And thank God that no one was killed.

Broken Building Pieces

Broken Building Pieces

There were lots of people and they were a bit angry, and about to be outrageous.  People were asking each other where the rockets are from – Israel or Hamas.  The Palestinian authority took the remain of the rockets, and later I was told from the Palestinian police officer that the rocket is Arabic, and most probably from Hamas.  Then everybody became calm, and they were not angry any longer.  People kept quiet about it, and no one was talking about it.  I saw a Palestinian guy who writes online about the Palestinian life and Israeli oppression on them.  He took a lot of photos, and after he heard that it is from Hamas, he deleted the photos on the street.

It is cease-fire from today which Israel announced one-way.  And I guess Hamas does not want toe cease-fire even though more than 1,800 people of their own were killed.

Palestinian authority officially said it is Arabic rocket, and all the news say the same thing.  And I found that some people began to say that the rocket is Israeli in the evening.  Personally it does not make sense to me because Israel wants to finish the war with Gaza, and why would they want another brand new war with West Bank?  And there is no terrorist organisation in West Bank such as Hamas, consequently Israel has no excuse making war in West Bank.

Last night, I talked with some Palestinians.  They said many Palestinians were killed by Israeli attack, but only a few were killed in Israel.  And also they said it is OK for Gazans to fire rocket because it is not powerful and home-made.  I think that does not make sense as well.  It is not OK for both sides to attack each other no matter how weak the weapons are.  I do not know the owner of the building where it got rocket, but if possible I want to talk to him to ask if it is really OK to get rocket because the rocket is weak and did not kill any.

Tuesday, 5 August 2014

Second Holy Land Trip – Thirty Second Day – First Day in Class

I left SunCity hotel at 5:10 in the morning for Central Bus Station in Tel Aviv.  There I got on a but to Jerusalem at 5:50.  Then I went to Damascus gate by the light railway in Jerusalem.  And this time also, I got help from a Jewish guy.  He was very caring and concerning about me, and try to give me as much tips as possible such as to buy bus ticket to travel cheaper in Jerusalem.

I got two school for this summer: Hebrew University in Israel and Bethlehem University in Palestine.  They both gave me instructions how to get there.  The Hebrew University emailed me with a map attached with has pin points on the map where I can get a bus and where we would gather and meet.  From Bethlehem University, I also got a text email just saying “Take Arab bus number 21 in Jerusalem to Bethlehem.  And walk to school or taxi if you like.”  But I don’t know where to get on the Arab bus.  I googled many times, and asked many people, but I failed to get an answer.  It took me more than three weeks to figure out what is Arab bus and where is the station.  And even in Bethlehem, quite many people do not know what and where is Bethlehem University, including a police officer.

Anyway, I got on the Arab bus 21 at Damascus gate.  I was the only passenger in the bus.  The bus from Bethlehem to Jerusalem was packed like sardine, but the bus from Jerusalem to Bethlehem was empty.

Bethlehem University

Bethlehem University

I went to the University directly by taxi.  And I learned some Arabic beginning with pronunciation.  McCormick travel group may remember this building.

There is another difference between Hebrew University and Bethlehem University, and it is about money.  Hebrew University has much flexibility.  I can pay in US dollar, Euro, or Israel Shekel.  They told me I can pay anytime or any day I want.  And I also can pay in cash, credit card, or cheque.  But Bethlehem university emphasized many time through several emails that the students MUST pay at the FIRST DAY in US Dollar ONLY and in CASH ONLY.

My room for one month

My room for one month

After the class, I met a gentleman from England who also stay at a family in Beit Sahour, the same town of my hosting family.  We were supposed to go to the Siraj centre.  So we shared a cab.  The teacher and staff at the University told us that it is about 15 shekel and do NOT pay more than 20.  We said that to the taxi driver.  He did not say anything at first, but be suddenly said that we need to pay 50 shekel because we are two people, so it must be double price.  We argued about the price, and he began to yelled at us.  We said that 20 is maximum we can pay.  Then the taxi driver dropped us on a street.  We thought we were at Siraj centre.  After we got off he asked again 5 more shekels from us which we did not give.  And we found out that we were not there.  We walked ten minutes to the centre.  I had another very bad experience with Palestinians.  I don’t really know why I keep having bad experiences with the Palestinians.

The centre called the hosting family, and they came to the centre to pick me up.  The family is Palestinian Christian.  They are very nice.  And the photo above is my room for one month.

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