As expected, my month flew by. The last couple of days were a whirlwind of trying to fit everything in. I had made arrangements to meet with Mitri Raheb’s wife, Najwa at Dar al Kalima Univeristy where she works. Alas, our wires crossed and she was just leaving for a dentist appointment as I was arriving. So she was able to give me a lift back into town, but I never did get to see the university. Dar al Kalima is just one of the many things that Mitri has spear-headed for the benefit of the people of Bethlehem, both Christian and Muslim. The Diyar Consortium is another. http://www.diyar.ps/ It is located right next to Christmas Lutheran Church. The center itself is beautiful and includes a guest house and coffee shop. I failed to get pictures. Among the its many functions is a children’s summer program, an elderly care program and a really wonderful craft center where beautiful crafts made by community members are sold. I bought this lovely little figurine.
She’s a handmade clay figurine with a the traditional dress worn by older Palestinian women adorned with the classic cross-stitched embroidery. I had actually had my eye on it last year, but didn’t think I’d have the space to bring her back safely. Fortunately, she waited for me and I was able to bring her home this time.
In addition to a meeting I had with Mitri a week or so into the trip, he had invited me to dinner along with his wife and two delightful ladies from Finland. This was from a couple of weeks ago, but fits with the the topic here.
Here we are after having enjoyed dinner at Nativity Square.
If you want to read about the Palestinian plight from a Christian perspective, Mitri’s book, Faith in the Face of Empire is a must read. It’s very accessible and succinctly lays the background of the struggle and what Palestinians continue to endure under occupation. http://www.amazon.com/Faith-Face-Empire-through-Palestinian/dp/1626980659/ref=sr_1_1/190-3651443-6976260?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1430316286&sr=1-1&keywords=faith+in+the+face+of+empire
But the main reason I mentioned the failed meeting with Najwa is because I had planned to spend my last full day (Sunday) in Hebron and was not planning to go to church. She mentioned, however, that I had told Mitri I would be there. Not that I would have been particularly missed had I not gone, but I just felt it wasn’t right to miss my last Sunday there. So, I went and had a brief goodbye with Mitri prior to the service as I didn’t have time to dawdle afterwards. The service was wonderful. Some parts were in English. His sermon was not, but he gave a brief synopsis in English afterwards. I had picked up bits enough to know that he was talking about the Armenian genocide which was being commemorated that weekend and he had tied in other genocides as well, including Hiroshima and Nagasaki and of course the Holocaust – heavy stuff and a reminder of how brutal mankind can be.
I’ve posted pictures of Christmas Church in an earlier blog entry so won’t repeat them here, but this is a shot that I took that morning. The writing on the windows is in German since the church was originally built by Germans. I love all of them, but this one in particular: Bread of Life.
I then rushed off to Hebron to say goodbye which deserves its own post.
Before I go there, however, I want to mention how comforting and welcoming I find both Christmas Lutheran Church and Lutheran Church of the Redeemer in Jerusalem . Both cities, Bethlehem and Jerusalem are lovely and old, but bustling and chaotic. Both churches provide a beautiful respite from the noise and the chaos. When I was in Jerusalem the day before, I wandered into the church. I snuck into the chapel which is a smaller worship area. The caretaker saw me and welcomed me.
And the church also has this inner wonderful cloister-like area. I found a deep and great appreciation for the word sanctuary from this trip.
This little detail was in a cubby. I was struck by the unintentional face in the stone.
And some views from the church from outside. My only regret was that I didn’t get to try out the organ. As wonderful as the caretaker was, he wouldn’t give me leave to that – this was the providence of the organist!