May 2, 2017
My fellow pilgrims met outside in the courtyard this morning. (Pic 1). We met our guide, Iyad, who is a local Christian Palestinian. Our morning and evening lectures and our day’s excursions were all in and about Palestine. I am only beginning to understand the political environment here between Israel and Palestine. Situated at a strategic location between Egypt, Syria and Arabia, from their perspective, Jerusalem is the center of the world with Europe and Asia surrounding it on either side to the north and Africa to the south. While the West Bank is a kidney-shaped section carved out as Palestine and the East Bank is Jordan, Israel is the territory in-between. All of this comprises only about 8000 square-feet of land – a very small territory over which to be fighting. Hearing the presentations today from the Palestinian point-of-view was an eye-opener for me. Israelis, with such strong U.S. support and financing, have all the power and Palestinians are forced to live by Israeli rule. As a result of the Israeli-Palestinian long-time feud, Christians are being squeezed out of the Holy Land and have been reduced to a mere 2% of the population. All the rest is either Jewish or Muslim.
We visited Herod’s tomb and palace. Herod, as you may remember, reigned from 37 BC to the time Christ was born (although it is noted as 4 BC). The tomb is currently under archeological exploration. (Pic 2). This is a model of the palace as it was originally built. (Pic 3). Herod truly had a great self-image as is evident from what he built as a tribute to himself.
As we left there and drove to the home of a Palestinian family who were serving us lunch, we passed this sign. (Pic 4) If you can’t read the small print, it says: “This road leads to Area “A” under the Palestinian Authority. The entrance for Israeli citizens is forbidden. Dangerous to your lives and is against the Israeli law.” The powerful control of the Israelis became more evident to me as we headed up the highway. Our driver, Omar, is a Muslim Palestinian bus driver who has to go into Israel for work on a regular basis. He cannot go to work without his passport and getting approval from Israeli guards.
Our lunch of chicken and potatoes was cooked over an outdoor charcoal oven and the appetizers were humus of various types. The family – mother, father, and children – waited on us hand and foot. They have chosen to leave the area and seek refuge in Houston, Texas.
In the evening, our speaker was Dr. Bernard Sabella, also an Arab Christian Palestinian. He shared with us his personal experience of being a Christian. He said most people can’t conceive of someone from an Arab country being a lifelong Christian. He described a time when an evangelical called on him and asked if he believed in Jesus. Of course, he said yes. “When did you convert?” the man probed. Bernard explained that he had always been a Christian and that his heritage of Christianity goes back 2000 years.. This boggled the man’s mind. So he continued to press him. Finally, to get the man off his back, Bernard said: “Look! Jesus and I are really tight. We grew up in the same neighborhood!”