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The West Bank wall

In order to visit Bethlehem and Nazareth, it is necessary to travel behind the Israeli West Bank Wall. The wall is a separation barrier in the West Bank. Israel considers it a security barrier against terrorism, while Palestinians call it a racial segregation or apartheid wall. It is 440 miles long and 26 feet high, and it is highly controversial. Although Israel maintains it is necessary in order to reduce terrorism, the International Court of Justice found the barrier to be a violation of international law, and the United Nations General Assembly adopted a resolution that condemned the barrier by a vote of 150-6 with 10 abstentions.

This situation was one of the things I think I will not be able to fully understand as a Westerner visiting the Holy Land.

While another guard inspected our bus and questioned our driver and guide, this fellow looked like he was having a bit of a break.

The only time I felt uneasy in Israel was when we were behind the West Bank Wall. If nothing else made me doubt that there could be peace in the Middle East during my lifetime, this did. And although the iron gate below has nothing to do with the barrier enclosing this portion of the West Bank, it expressed the feeling I had until we emerged from the other side of the partition.

Worship in Beit Sahour

I was unaware until my trip to Israel in October 2016 that approximately 25% of Israelis are Arab. Arab Christians number among them, and we were honored to attend Mass at Our Lady of Fatima, a Catholic church in Beit Sahour, a Palestinian town just east of Bethlehem in the West Bank. The service was completely in Arabic, but the enthusiasm of the worshipers there and the warmth of their welcome for us touched my heart.

Hearing the words of the Mass spoken in a different language reminded me of the story of Pentecost found in Acts 2: When the day of Pentecost came, they were all together in one place. Suddenly a sound like the blowing of a violent wind came from heaven and filled the whole house where they were sitting. They saw what seemed to be tongues of fire that separated and came to rest on each of them. All of them were filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak in other tongues as the Spirit enabled them.

The Arab Christian population of Bethlehem and the surrounding area is dwindling because of the poverty and lack of opportunity there. Many are leaving in order to find a better life. It would be tragic to lose a Christian presence in the birthplace of Jesus.

The foods of Israel

A typical buffet featuring lots of fresh fish, vegetables, fruits, and delicious creamy hummus.

Cooking schawarma - a delicious treat I had not tried before. To quote Wikipedia, meat is "placed on a spit, and may be grilled for as long as a day. Shavings are cut off the block of meat for serving, and the remainder of the block of meat is kept heated on the rotating spit". 

Schawarma - I wish we had this here!

Fresh produce stands are a common sight.

This vendor is ready to use a press to squeeze fresh fruit juice - a real treat on a warm day!

Would you care for some fresh pomegranate juice?

The Church of All Nations

The Church of All Nations, also known as the Church or Basilica of the Agony, is a Roman Catholic church located on the Mount of Olives in Jerusalem. It is located next to the Garden of Gethsemane. It is at this location that Jesus prayed before his arrest. (Mark 14:32-42)

The Rock of Agony, where Jesus “threw himself on the ground” (Matthew 26:39) and in his anguish “his sweat became like great drops of blood falling down on the ground” (Luke 22:44).