Tuesday, January 3, 2023

Jerusalem to the West Bank to Palestine to Bethlehem to Israel, January 3, 2023

What a day!  I saw so much but came home so confused!  I’ll try to sort things out.

According to Wikipedia, The West Bank is a landlocked territory that forms the main bulk of the Palestinian territories. It is bordered by Jordan and the Dead Sea to the east and by Israel to the south, west, and north.  Under an Israeli military occupation since 1967, its area is split into 165 Palestinian "islands" that are under total or partial civil administration by the Palestinian National Authority (PNA), and 230 Israeli settlements into which Israeli law is "pipelined". The West Bank includes East Jerusalem.

What is Palestine?  According to Wikipedia, Palestine is officially governed by the Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO).  It claims the West Bank, including East Jerusalem, and the Gaza Strip as its territory, though the entirety of that territory has been occupied by Israel since the 1967 Six-Day War.  As a result of the Oslo Accords of 1993–1995, the West Bank is currently divided into 165 Palestinian enclaves that are under partial Palestinian National Authority (PNA) rule; the remainder, including 200 Israeli settlements, is under full Israeli control. The Gaza Strip has been ruled by the militant Islamic group Hamas and has been subject to a long-term blockade by Egypt and Israel since 2007.

Watch “The Israeli Palestinian Conflict Explained” here-   https://youtu.be/cphJJZQtx-U

So, I was up bright and early for my 7:30 tour.  I headed out to get on the bus and as I was reaching the door to climb up the stairs into the coach I asked the people ahead of me why they had backpacks.  Well, they were on an overnight trip to Petra!  Thank goodness I asked, I’m sure I’d have figured it out before we left but…

Once on the right coach, we drove north without a guide through a check point into Palestine.  The cars coming out were lined up for miles and as Don our guide explained, Palestinians need a permit to get into Israel to visit or work.  His cousin leaves home at 3 am to get to work on time.  We got through without even stopping: Israel doesn’t care if you’re going into Palestine, and we picked up our guide along the side of the road.  Then, our bus driver decided to go around a big truck that was going the wrong way, coming towards us in our lane and he jumped the curb and hung up the back wheels on the bus.  He spun his tires for 45 minutes.  He put rocks under the wheels to no avail and finally got a truck to pull us off-

The traffic was nuts and they’re constantly blowing their horns-

We carried on to Ramallah.  The water feed pipe is very small so people have storage tanks on their roofs. Sometimes they go without water for days while people living in Israel always have enough-

We stopped at the market.  The fruits and vegetables were so colourful, huge and plentiful-

I’ve never seen such huge cauliflower-

What a pile of cilantro-

Ka’ak is bread in the shape of a purse.  It’s actually Lebanese-

There’s a flag pole in Ramallah’s “Times Square” which is officially Yasser Arafat Square.  There’s a man near the top of the pole who was attempting to put up a Palestinian flag when he was shot and killed -

Speaking of Arafat, we visited his tomb.  He was a Palestinian political leader but remains controversial.  Palestinians see him as a martyr who symbolized the national inspirations of his people while Israelis see him as a terrorist.  He died in 2004 after being confined in his Ramallah compound for over 2 years by the Israeli army.  Our guide said he was poisoned.  Behind his tomb is a pool of water, allowing his soul to be carried away to Jerusalem where he wanted to live-

We stopped for knafeh which is soooo good.  It’s made with spun pastry called kataifi, then soaked in a sugar syrup and layered with goat’s cheese and/or clotted cream, pistachios or nuts-

We carried on:  sheep crossing a busy city street-

Garbage everywhere-

Crazy traffic-

Our next stop was the Mountain of Temptation which is at Jericho.  Along the way-

It’s a stony, rocky area.  At least I’m out of sand!

Jericho is where Jesus was tempted by the devil to rule over all the kingdoms of the world and where He fasted for 40 days.  Today there’s a monastery half way up the mountain and a cable car to take you there-

The Jericho from the New Testament-

and modern Jericho which has excellent year round temperatures, has much cheaper real estate than Jerusalem and is 846 feet below sea level-

A lot of excavations have been done here and from 1952-1958 Katherine Kenyon, a British archaeologist  discovered there is no proof that Joshua ever built walls here.  That sent the Christian world into a tailspin!  Apparently Christian tours no longer go here.  She did discover 23 different civilizations from different times.  This makes Jericho the oldest continuously inhabited town in the world at over 10,000 years.  It was the ancient Canaanite city of Rawha of the 3rd and 2nd millennium BC which was defended by impressive city walls and ramparts.  These settlements started in the Natufian period (around 9000 BC) leading to a Neolithic (8500-5000 BC) community.  

This area dates from 1900-1500 BC-

Here are the remains of a watchtower-

Elisha was also responsible for changing salt water into potable water.  

“Elisha was staying in Jericho. The people of the city said to Elisha, “Look, our lord, this town is well situated, as you can see, but the water is bad and the land is unproductive.” “Bring me a new bowl,” he said, “and put salt in it.”  So they brought it to him. Then he went out to the spring and threw the salt into it, saying, “This is what the Lord says: ‘I have healed this water. Never again will it cause death or make the land unproductive.’” And the water has remained pure to this day, according to the word Elisha had spoken.” (II Kings 2:18-22).

Nearby is the sycamore tree where Zaccheus, who was the chief tax collector at Jericho climbed to see Jesus who was passing through.  Tax collectors were despised as traitors because they worked for the Roman Empire, not for their Jewish community and they were corrupt. He was short in stature and so was unable to see Jesus through the crowd (Luke 19:3) so he ran ahead and climbed this tree which was along Jesus' path. When Jesus reached the spot he looked up at the sycamore tree, called Zacchaeus by name, and told him to come down, for he intended to visit his house. The crowd was shocked that Jesus, a religious teacher/prophet, would lower himself to be a guest of a sinner-

Our next stop was at Qaser Al Yahud which is the place in the Jordan River where many things happened.  Jesus was baptized by John the Baptist, the Israelites crossed the river after 40 years of exile of wandering in the desert, Elijah ascended to heaven in a fiery chariot, and the captain of the Syrian army who was suffering from leprosy dipped himself 7 times and was cured.  It’s a narrow river separating Jordan from Israel-

A guard stands on the Jordan side ready to shoot intruders-

People actually get baptized-

They walked into the river and were baptized-

Nearby there are still buried land mines-

Finally it was lunch.  So typical and delicious-

We carried on to Bethlehem and the Church of the Nativity-

The entrance was changed to be very small to stop people from riding their camels right inside-

There are three churches:  Roman Catholic, Armenian Apostolic and Greek Orthodox.  

The interior of the Basilica of the Greek Orthodox Church-

Its altar-

Mosaics in the Armenian church- 

The Armenian altar- 

and cross-

The new floor which is above the ceiling of the cave where Jesus was born-

In the Catholic Church of Saint Catherine is the nativity scene with Baby Jesus-

We weren’t able to go into the cave where Jesus was born because it was a 2 hour line up.  We did however go into the cave beside it where there are a lot of altars and other symbols.  Jesus was born in a stable and all nativity scenes show a wooden building but of course in the year zero, Jesus would’ve been born in a cave where the animals would’ve lived during that time.  I do not doubt the fact that Jesus lived and I see him as a prophet to teach us how to live a better life.  

Outside is Saint Jerome who was charged with translating the Bible.  The Greek Orthodox Church is on the left and the Catholic Church on the right-

He found a skull near a grave and learned that life is short, we need to live it rather than put off what we want to do.  He apparently kept the skull on his desk as a reminder-

Our last stop was at the Separation Barrier.  Construction began in June 2002 by the Israeli cabinet after many attacks such as suicide bombings by the Palestinians against Israelis.  It was also to prevent Palestinians without permits from entering Israel from the West Bank.  It’s more than 500 km long but the plan was for it to be over 700 km long.  It separated a lot of Palestinians from their farmland-

The part we saw is covered in graffiti which I love-

There are two Banksy’s-

It was a long but very interesting day.  I’m looking forward to tomorrow!

P.S.  How to say “stop” in Israel-

Coffee anyone?

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