After five days packed with activity, it is time to leave Bethlehem and to head north. Being internationals, we could go straight through Jerusalem, thus saving hours compared to the Palestinian route which circumnavigates Jerusalem. We drove on the hilltop road along the limestone ridge with stunning scenery on either side. As we drove north, there were hopeful signs of Palestinian development and agriculture. However, every hilltop had an Israeli Settlement or an outpost which is likely to develop into a Settlement. So much of even this area is threatened.
We went to Nablus, the second largest city in the West Bank, to visit Jacob’s well. Jacob settled in this area with his wives Rachel and Leah. Eventually he and his family moved south, when the land could no longer accommodate his flocks and Laban’s. Rachel died in childbirth in Bethlehem having Benjamin and all the rest of the family – Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, Leah, Sarah, and Rebecca moved to the Hebron area. Joseph’s body was brought back from the exile in Egypt and his tomb is close to Jacob’s well. We hear about this place again when Jesus met a Samaritan woman at the well and asked for a drink.
The well has been authenticated as being 4000 years old. Several churches had been built over the well. The latest is a beautiful Russian Orthodox Church. The well is under the Church in a crypt. We all filed down into the tight space and the vicar was selected to bring the water up from the well – about 40 metres down. It was hard work. We were all rewarded with a sip of water from the well.
The connection of this place, which was called Shechem, with the events we read in the Bible both in the Old and New Testaments, helps us to imagine the people involved, the places they lived, the journeys they made.
Our next stop was to the Anglican Church of St Philip. The small Christian community in Nablus gave land to the Muslims to build a mosque and a minaret. Sami (shown in the photo) told us about the Church and the work they do. There is a kindergarten and weekly activities for children and others, most of which are Muslims. They have good relations with the Imam and the muslims. The love in action was evident in this place.
We could not leave Nablus without a visit to the falafel shop again. Sami proposed a place and we had a lovely meal at a very reasonable price.
Then back in the coach for the rest of the drive to Galilee. Just outside Nablus we encountered the Israeli army who had closed the road. No reason was given. Our tour leader got off and explained that we were internationals. They telephoned their commander and we were allowed through after about 30 minutes wait. It was amazing to see that the army could close all roads into and out of Nablus within a few minutes. We watched nervously, but eventually our status was recognised and we were let through. Who knows how long the Palestinians had to wait.
The sight of the Sea of Galilee was quite uplifting and we are full of anticipation for the next two days. We are staying at a modern hotel in the centre of Tiberius. The smart rooms, lashings of hot water, wifi that works and in every room, were welcome, but reminded us of what we had left behind. The meal was sumptuous and enjoyed by all.
Following compline, there was the opportunity to wander down to the sea shore and see the restaurants, bars and shops that abound in this lively tourist city.
The hotel apologised that, as this was the winter, the heating was on, rather than the air conditioning. Thankfully, the very high temperatures that had been forecast did not materialise and it was rather cloudy, so we were not too troubled by this.
Thank you to all those who are following our pilgrimage. It is lovely to know that you are thinking of us.