I left off with our first night at the Notre Dame center in the Holy City. However, we still had one more day before actually seeing Jerusalem. We got on the bus after a lovely breakfast (lots of food kids love) and headed toward Bethlehem. Approaching the wall was probably the most difficult leg of the trip for all of us. One new friend tried to distract us by telling us about olive oil. Apparently, there is some amazing olive oil made in one part of the country that only locals can consume, as it's too heavy for foreigners. She can hardly cook with it herself. Each region has special olive groves with a unique flavor. It reminded me of listening to wine aficionados and coffee growers discuss their crops. Unfortunately, she couldn't distract us for long, as the conversation lends itself to a discussion of the land. The tragedy of so many losing their precious olive groves leaves me speechless.
Olive trees dating to the time of Christ in the Garden of Gethsemane
Getting into Bethlehem took a while as we waited for a procession from the president of Costa Rica. Then, we got tied up inside the Church of the Nativity as the security for the Costa Rican president came through. The highlight was performing in the Church of St. Catherine next to the Church of the Nativity. We joined in a beautiful mass and enjoyed a local monk playing the organ afterward. We had lunch at a local pizza place and Abu Tulip got to meet up with a friend who lives in the area. His son is a friend of ours from our college days.
The ancient mosaic floor under the current floor of the Church of the Nativity.
Dinner was back at the hotel and we got ready for a lot of walking the next day. Our hosts couldn't have been better tour guides. Not only did they know the history of the land, they could point out to an old home in the old city and mention, "That is my family's home. My brother still lives there." It was intensely personal. A friend shared with us how her family and many Christian families decided to sell their homes to the Latin Patriarch. While they continue to live there, this secures their home as part of the Palestinian Christian area, preventing it from being sold to others who will not preserve their heritage. I recently read how in the 1920s the old city was around 52% Christian homes. Today the percentage is a dismal one quarter of 1%. The city risks become nothing more than a tourist attraction. Again, I'm left without words to describe the anger and pain I feel along with my Arab brothers and sisters.
View of the old city, looking over the Valley of the Kings. I can hear Jesus weeping.
Phenomenal mosaics at the Church of the Ascension. We weren't able to sing inside as another group was already there, singing a mass in German. The acoustics would have been beautiful.
We did get to sing here, the Dormition of Mary Church
There weren't many tourists, so it was quiet and beautiful as we filled the space with song. We stood in a circle, letting our voices play off the walls of the space.
I will never get over the unifying nature of making music together.
May the heavens delight in the sound. ~ Um Tulip
Music expresses that which cannot be said and on which it is impossible to be silent. ~Victor Hugo
He who hears music, feels his solitude peopled at once. ~Robert Browning
Music is the wine which inspires one to new generative processes, and I am Bacchus who presses out this glorious wine for mankind and makes them spiritually drunken. ~Ludwig van Beethoven