Hannah and Je together

Monday, 20 January 2014

Israel Trip Eleventh Day: Ramallah, Shechem, and Samaria

Today we moved from Bethlehem to Nazareth.

Israel Checkpoint

Israel Checkpoint

We had to go through the checkpoint because we were going out into Palestinian area. These checkpoints are horrible. But the worst is yet to come. We went to Ramallah to meet Mrs. Jean Zaru. Ramallah is founded by Christians, and still Christians are dominant. And it is rule that the mayor must be Christians from the old days. Ramallah also has many industrial and commercial businesses. Ramallah also works as the de facto capital of Palestine. It is not one of the tourist attraction, so people there gave us very curious eyes. Ram means high place and Allah is God. So Ramallah is Divine Heights.

Jean Zaru

Jean Zaru

Mrs. Jean Zaru is a Quaker. She is very active for the human rights of Palestinians, and also for the Palestinian women. In that way, she is kind of unique. People we met so far work for the general Palestinian, none for the specifically women. But as we all know, women tend to be weaker in many ways including physically and sexually. Consequently if women are exposed to same level of violence as men, they are way more vulnerable. And that is way we need to protect and help them more. Some people believe providing numerically same thing is fair, but I do not. Providing different things so that everybody can live equally is fair and that is my social justice. I would like to write about it later.

Land of Gibeon

Land of Gibeon

When we passed by on the bus, our local guide George identified us many different places. This one is land of Gibeon. It comes in Joshua 9. The people here deceived Joshua as if they were from the land of far far away.

Bethel

Bethel

This is Bethel. Bethel means house of God, and the story comes in Genesis when Jacob fled from his brother, he slept here and saw a ladder or stairway reaching to the heaven and the angels up and down.

Shiloh

Shiloh

This is Shiloh where Samuel stayed and ordained two first kings; Saul and David. And most importantly this is where the ark of covenant stayed. Shiloh means ‘his’ in Hebrew, and was dedicated place to God.

Mount Blessing and Cursing

Mount Blessing and Cursing

This is two mountains of Blessing (on the left) and Cursing (on the right) which Joshua summoned and arrayed people there and asked them to choose which God they would serve. This is in the land of Shechem. Ancient or Biblical Shechem is now called Nablus. Romans built this city at A.D. 70 after they conquered Jerusalem and named it Neopolice, new city. And the name became Nablus.

Jacobs Well Church

Jacobs Well Church

In the place where the Jacob’s well is, there is a Greek Orthodox Church and is so beautiful.

Jacob's Well

Jacob’s Well

Under the Church, we found the Jacob’s well. And just in case you may not know, the photo-shooting is forbidden. And again, our McCormick group got special permit again. I think God is really with us. I drew some water myself and tasted. It was good and I was amazed the well is functioning well even after 4,000 years of time. As you may know this is the well that Jesus met a Samaritan woman and talked.

Joseph's Tomb

Joseph’s Tomb

Then we went to Joseph’s tomb. There is no archaeological evidence on this as usual for holy places. But it is said by tradition. And the tomb itself is covered with nice stone, and nobody knows what is in there. The stone is supposedly built by Muslims because its direction is toward Mecca.

Town Kids

Town Kids in Samaria

Then we drove to Samaria, the capital city of Northern Kingdom of Israel. The original capital was another place, but the famous evil king Omri moved the capital to Samaria, and Ahab also reigned here. Our group had lunch there but I skipped the lunch and walked around the village. And I sat there and thought watching the mountains around: Some place are identified and marked as holy, and some not. Why and what makes the difference? The holy rock does not made up of some holy molecule. I think that is holy because someone did some holy action. We people makes some place holy or evil. Our action and our deed is most important thing.

Roman Basilica

Roman Basilica

Herod the great built a roman city in Samaria and named it sebaste – August in Greek. This is roman style Basilica where people gathers and do some business.

Theatre built by Herod

Theatre built by Herod

This is theatre. And there is ancient horse racing track built again by Herod (not in this photo). The track is now just a flat field.

John the Baptist Church

John the Baptist Church

By tradition, it is believed that John the Baptist’s head is buried here, and crusaders built a Church for him.

Palace of Omri and Ahab

Palace of Omri and Ahab

This is part of the Palace where the evil kings of Omri and Ahab lived.

View from the Samaria Top

View from the Samaria Top

We went to the top of Samaria so that we can have some nice view. According to a boy from the village, we can even see the Mediterranean sea on clear days. In biblical times, all and every important place is always the highest point in the whole area.

August Temple

August Temple

This is the August temple which Herod built to flatter August, the roman emperor. August is a god, and a son of god (which is Caesar).

Where Jesus met ten lepers

Where Jesus met ten lepers

After the Samaria, we moved to Nazareth. And at some point, our local guide said that we are running on the same road where Jesus met ten lepers.

Traffic Jam caused by Israeli checkpoint

Traffic Jam caused by Israeli checkpoint

Until now we were in the West Bank, and Nazareth is in Israeli land. And there is a checkpoint (we may say it border). And it was horrible experience waiting and stuck in the traffic. And when we got there finally, three soldiers with machine guns came up on the bus. They asked our local guide and Ted many questions in separate place. And they also checked everybody’s passport with actual face. They were not that kind, but I believe it was their maximum kindness. They would act way more horribly to Palestinians. I am glad that I experienced this at least once and I cannot imagine the lives of Palestinians who go through this everyday and even twice a day.

Monday, 13 January 2014

Israel Trip Fifth Day: Haram, Church, Al Quds University

We went to Haram or Temple Mount where the famous golden dome is. We went through the security at Al Asbat Gate as we did for the Western Wall. The haram is the third holiest place for the Muslims, and for that all the females well prepared by covering everything except hand and face. Of course head, neck and shoulder were covered. But still some of the females were given skirts to wear.

Al Asbat Gate Security

Al Asbat Gate Security

After the security, we saw the golden dome from afar.

Golden Dome from Afar

Golden Dome from Afar

But our first destination was not the golden dome but the Al Aqsa Mosque.

Al Aqsa Mosque Outside

Al Aqsa Mosque Outside

Inside the Mosque, it was very beautiful. The carpet, the ceiling, the columns, and the stained windows … everything is so beautiful.

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As you may know, all the muslims must pray towards Mecca everyday five times. And consequently every mosque tells you which direction is to Mecca.

Praying towards Mecca

Praying towards Mecca

This guy is praying facing the direction to Mecca with his son.

Column Inside Column

Column Inside Column

Just like any other things in Jerusalem, Al Aqsa mosque also has long and complex history. Round marble columns are (relatively) recently donated by the Italian government. But the square column on the other side is very old, and there was a window on the column which shows the older (Umayan Dynasty) round column inside.

Sabeel

Sabeel

After the mosque, we walked to the golden dome or Dome of the Rock. It was very short distance, and I found a something like fountain with tabs and stone chairs around. This kind of water spring or fountain is called Sabeel in Arabic. Sabeel also means way.

Golden Dome

Golden Dome

This was taken in very close distance. As some of my friends know, my camera is very old and it does not really zoom.

Golden Dome and Je

Golden Dome and Je

Until now, it was just normal tour course which anyone does. But with God’s help, McCormick group got special permit. After 2000, non-muslims were not allowed inside the Dome of the Rock. And we were the exception. With the special permit from the Muslim Authority, we went into the dome. I’ve never seen our local guide George taking any picture, but today inside of the Dome of the Rock, he was so busy taking pictures and even video. That just shows me how special the special permit is.

Inside the Dome

Inside the Dome

It was beautiful but I think Al Aqsa mosque was more beautiful for the interior. One thing which makes the dome of the Rock so special is not the golden dome outside. The rock inside is special. It is believed that Abraham was offering his son on this rock. And Solomon’s temple was also built upon this rock. For Muslims, they believe this rock followed Mohamed on his ascension to heaven. And he sent this rock back on earth.

To THE ROCK

To THE ROCK

The picture above shows the entrance to the rock below.

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And as I wrote above, in the mosque, you can easily tell which direction is to Mecca.

Praying towards Mecca

Praying towards Mecca

When I was stepping out of the Dome, I found a strange clock on the wall.

Prayer Clock

Prayer Clock

First one is current time. Second is the date of today. The others are the prayer time of the day. I think they pray five times a day, and I have no idea why the clock shows six prayer times.

St. George Cathedral

St. George Cathedral

And then we went to St. George’s Cathedral for Sunday service. It was Anglican Church. The service was very interesting.

St. George Cathedral Inside

St. George Cathedral Inside

And then we had lunch at the Notre Dame Hotel which is directly owned and managed by the Vatican. After that we went to Al Quds University which is Palestinian school. And on the way, in the Palestinian town, I saw the tall segregation wall.

Separation Wall

Separation Wall

It looks high but actually it is one of the low walls. I heard that some of the walls are twice higher.

Abu Jihad Museum

Abu Jihad Museum

Before the University, we went to the Abu Jihad Museum next to the University. This museum is for the Palestinian prisoners who were ill-treated in Israeli prison.

Professor Moustafa Abu Sway

Professor Moustafa Abu Sway

Then we listened to Professor Moustafa Abu Sway who was born and raised in Jerusalem, and also studied in Boston, USA. Our guide George was his student too.

Palestinian Village

Palestinian Village

After his lecture and Q&A time, we headed back to the guesthouse in Jerusalem. And on the way back, I took this picture of empty houses and apartments in Palestinian area. There was huge discussion and arguments after dinner meeting. I cannot say anything about this matter now, but I will try to post about it later.

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