Hannah and Je together

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.

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.

Monday, 4 August 2014

Second Holy Land Trip – Thirtieth Day – Second Day in Cairo

I began today by visiting the Old Cairo, especially Christian area.

Brand New Roman Tower

Brand New Roman Tower

This is Roman Tower which is about 1500 years old, if my memory serves me right.  After seeing all the greatness and glories of three or four thousand years old Egypt, anything less than 2,000 years is brand new to me.

Hanging Church in Cairo

Hanging Church in Cairo

This is so-called hanging church which is built upon the two Roman pillars.  There are many relics and painting of St. Mark.  As Catholic regard St. Peter as their founding father, Copts regard St. Mark as their founding father.

Home of the Holy Family

Home of the Holy Family

This is the place where they believe that the Holy Family lived and hid themselves from the threat of Herod the Great.  Egyptians are very proud that they hosted the Holy Family with hospitality.

Salah Al-Din Citadel

Salah Al-Din Citadel

Then I went to Salah Al-Din Citadel.  He is well-known to the Christians too because he defeated the Crusaders.

Mosque in the Citadel

Mosque in the Citadel

This is the mosque inside the citadel.  I was told that (all) mosques have plain bottom and floor with beautiful ceiling so that they can make the people focus on their prayer.

Cairo Overview

Cairo Overview

The citadel gives a good view of Cairo.

Egyptian Cats.

Egyptian Cats.

Then I went to the oldest market in Cairo.  And look what I found!  Eventually I found Egyptian cats!  All the Egyptians told me that they have tons of cats, but I have not seen almost any.  Now in this old market, I saw several cats.

Ceiling of the Oldest Market in Cairo

Ceiling of the Oldest Market in Cairo

This is the remaining column and ceiling of the oldest market.

Revolutionary Plaza

Revolutionary Plaza

Then I went to the famous Egyptian Museum.  And right in front of it, there is a big plaza where the Egyptians began and completed their revolution.

Cairo Security

Cairo Security

McCormick Group always complained the soldiers on the streets with rifles.  How about this?

Cairo Security

Cairo Security

In Egypt, you can see not only rifles and soldiers, but also tanks and armoured military vehicles a lot.  I mean, A LOT.  They are everywhere.

Egyptian Museum

Egyptian Museum

There are so many cool things inside the Egyptian Museum, but photographs are entirely forbidden inside the museum.  I could not take any.

Cairo on Fire

Cairo on Fire

One thing you can see everywhere in Cairo is the mountains of trashes where on the streets, roads, and highways.  And the smoke does not mean Cairo was under attack, but people were burning the trashes.  It is bad for the environment, and for their health too.

I went back to the hotel and rested a bit.  And when I was checking out, I had a trouble with the hotel.  I’ve never used the phone in the room and they charged me for the phone use.  Eventually I did not pay anything, but I had so bad memory about Le Meridien Hotel in Giza Cairo.  I will write another blog about the experiences in this hotel.

Nile Dinner Cruise

Nile Dinner Cruise

Then I went to the Nile Dinner Cruise.  The food was OK.  And they also charged me 15 L.E which is about $2.  Isn’t it supposed to play live music in those Cruise Dinner?  Two singers were singing but with the Karaoke machine.

I found that 80% of the people in the cruise were in a wedding reception.  It was very loud with the dancing new couple.  And actually after cruise, there was another wedding was going on in the harbour.  So I saw one wedding reception, and four weddings in Egypt.  Wow.  Is it wedding season in Egypt now?

Belly Dancer

Belly Dancer

After a while, a fat belly dancer came out and danced.  I’ve never seen such an abundant belly dancer in my entire life.  I thought the Muslim women would hate this kind of things, but actually almost all ladies (covering top to toe) were taking video of the belly dancer dancing.

Spinning Skirt Dancer

Spinning Skirt Dancer

Then a guy wearing double skirts did spin-dancing for more than ten minutes.  He spun without resting for ten minutes and he was not dizzy.  Amazing.

Bus to Dahab

Bus to Dahab

Then I went to the East Delta Bus station to go back to Israel overnight.  But I found that there is no direct bus from Cairo to Taba.  In most undeveloped countries, internet information is always out of date.  I was told from the ticketing guy that they used to have direct bus to Taba, but after they got terror on that bus (where Korean tourists were killed), the government shutdown the line.  But the websites still says the bus runs from Cairo to Taba.

They say that the bus would arrive at Dahab at 7.  From Dahab to Taba takes little more than two hours.  So let me say I will be at Taba at 10.  Crossing the border would take 30 minutes.  So I will be in Eilat around 11.  From Eilat to Jerusalem takes five hours.  And I will be in Jerusalem at 4pm.  To Bethlehem less than an hour.  So I may be in the hosting house hopefully 6pm or at least 9 or 10pm tomorrow.

Thursday, 24 July 2014

Second Holy Land Trip – Twenty first day – Sweet Weekend

In the morning we get up as early as 4am.  From that time until the sunrise is the best time of the day.  It has cool breeze and no burning sun.  I think ancient Israelites as well as all the ancient near easterns must have gotten up very early for the same reason.  Because it is too hot during the day.

Before Sunrise

Before Sunrise

I think that is why in Biblical Hebrew they have separate word of “to get up early.”

Today was kind of shitty day because all the members of area T were sent to other areas such as V and W, and consequently we were not able to do our own job.  Even they did not give us break.  We talked each other that we feel like in exile.  But I found a sling stone of my fist size in area W.

For Hebrew University (Tel Lachish), the bus leaves Friday morning and comes back Sunday morning.  For Tel Aviv University (Tel Megiddo), the bus leaves Thursday afternoon and comes back Saturday afternoon.  So officially it is the weekend from today afternoon.

Hand Washing Laundry

Hand Washing Laundry

Not having the afternoon work and lectures, I did my laundry by hand-washing.  Unlike Kedma Youth Village, we were allowed to stay in this kibbutz for the weekend for free, but they do not provide any meal.  So I walked twenty minutes to the nearest grocery store, and spent 120 NIS (which is about $40) for six meals.  I bought a quarter gallon orange juice.  But when I poured it into the cup, it flowed so slow as if it is honey.  And the taste was so strong.  Then I looked at the label which I cannot read because it is all Hebrew.  There were only two English writings.  One is big letter saying, “Orange Juice.”  The other is very small letter under the nutrition information, “Enough for 60 cups.”  Then I realised that I bought the concentrated juice.

Last night, several people sat together and talked.  There were American Jew (man), Israeli Jew (secular, woman), another Israeli Jew (secular, man), and Belgian woman (Catholic).  Of course I was there too.  I asked them many questions and it was really great talk until late night.

One of the interesting things was that the Jews these days do not know what tribe they belong to.  And officially ten tribes are missing.  But they said that some Jews have “Cohen” (meaning Priest) and “Levi” (Name of the tribe which performed many jobs in the temple) as their last name.  And many of them regulate themselves including cannot enter any cemetery, cannot remarry.  And also they must marry Jewish woman, but not converted Jew.  They can marry only the pure or native Jew.  They do this to keep themselves ritually clean all the time, so that they can carry the job of priest and temple worker as soon as the Temple is rebuilt and Messiah comes.

They had many jokes about why Judaism never works.  The secular Jews also said that Orthodox, especially Ultra Orthodox Jews hate them.

For the temple matter, I asked of religious Jews, and they want to build the temple but they are afraid to express it.  And I also asked yesterday of the secular Jews, and they absolutely do NOT want to build it.  Because of all the murders and blood which will be done by the name of that house.  They also said that the rebuilding the temple would cause the third world war.

Monday, 20 January 2014

Israel Trip Tenth Day: Church of Nativity, Refugee Camp

Today was another lecture day.

Stars and Bucks

Stars and Bucks

We walked to the Nativity Church from the bus terminal, and I thought I found on the way ‘Starbucks.’ But it was not.

Christmas Tree

Christmas Tree

In front of, or between the Bethlehem Peace Centre and the Nativity Church, there was a huge Christmas tree. I wonder if it lights up at night. I saw so many tourists here from all over the world; I could recognise some of their languages such as Chinese, Korean, English, French, Spanish. And there were more languages that I could not recognise. I just thought how much Jesus has been contributing to local economy just by being born here.

Church of Nativity

Church of Nativity

This is the Church of Nativity, basically built by Helena, the mother of Constantine the Great (Personally, I don’t like ‘the Great’ part). Helena built this Church, and later Persians came and destroyed all the Churches over 95% of them. When they came to this Church, they saw a paining – three magi offering to Baby Jesus. And the magi were dressed as typical Persians. And the army thought, ‘Wait a minute… this building must have something to do with our ancestors.’ And they left it. This story reminds me how cultural diversity is important.

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If you see the three pictures, you can see the original huge gate at first picture. And then little bit smaller but still cargos can go in and out. Last one is current door and is low so that everyone bows down whenever they go in and to be humble.

Church of Nativity Catholic Sanctuary

Church of Nativity Catholic Sanctuary

The original place built by Helena and repaired by Crusaders is owned by Greek Orthodox. And next to it, Catholic Church is attached.

Jerome translated here the Bible into Latin Vulgate with the help of Paula and her daughter

Jerome translated here the Bible into Latin Vulgate with the help of Paula and her daughter

Catholic Church is of course commemorate the birth place of Jesus. But they also has another purpose – Jerome. If you go down to the basement, you can see the rooms where Jerome stayed and worked. In the picture, Left two persons are Paula and her daughter, the helper of Jerome. Jerome is the only Church Father who studied Hebrew in order to translate the Bible into Latin. And to help him, Paula and her daughter also learned Hebrew and Greek, and eventually they became or fluent in both language than Jerome.

Key to Home

Key to Home

This is one of the refugee camp. The key on top of it means the key to going back home.

Graffiti on Separation Wall

Graffiti on Separation Wall

On the wall, there are lots of graffiti. And the streets are so dirty with overflowing garbage.

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On the wall, along with other graffiti, I found John 3:16 in Korean. It struck my head. Yes, God loves them so much. God loves these persecuted people so much so that He sent his only Son so that they can live.

Lajee Centre

Lajee Centre

There is Lajee Centre. I don’t know what exactly is this, but they have a library for children (where we were sitting), and computer lab, and a few more.

American History

American History

Surprisingly, they have whole volume of American history.

Blocking Entanglement

Blocking Entanglement

They are surrounded by separation wall. Out of the wall used to be their farming field, and work place. But they most of them lost their job. To Jerusalem it used to take 10-15 minutes and now it takes more than 2 hours thanks to the Israeli checkpoint.

Bethlehem University

Bethlehem University

We went to Bethlehem university. It has beautiful buildings.

Dr. Mazin Qumsiyeh

Dr. Mazin Qumsiyeh

Dr. Mazin Qumsiyeh spoke about his perspective of Palestine’s future and history. Interestingly, he is biologist and biology professor. He said if American government moves in the right way, the illegal occupation of Israel would end within two weeks. Well, that might be true since US government give about 2 million dollars to Israel every single day. But the thing is American politicians cannot live without the money from the Jewish lobbyists. And if Obama calls Israel to stop it, he may not be a president the next day.

Lawyer Raffoul Rofa

Lawyer Raffoul Rofa

After lunch where we had before on the day of Shepherds’ field, we came back to school for another session. Mr. Raffoul Rofa is a lawyer, working at St. Yves, a Catholic centre for human rights where 20 staffs working including 8 lawyers. They’ve been working for people with family reunion issues and house demolitions, and the likes. For house demolitions, they’ve got only one permit so far for fifteen years with thousands cases. And even the one was a school building built by US Aid. US Aid pressured the US federal government, and US government told Israel government. This is why they’ve got permit not because they fought in the court.

Rimon Kando Shop

Rimon Kando Shop

And then we had some time in the souvenir shop. I also bought something.

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