After a wonderful early morning service at St. George’s Episcopal Cathedral in Jerusalem, we headed up to Shiloh, the ancient capital of Israel, until it was destroyed by the Philistines in about 1050 BCE. It was then that Jerusalem became the capital. It is also thought that Shiloh is the site of where the tabernacle was kept and recently they have discovered a rectangular site which matches the dimensions of the walls around the tabernacle as describe in the Bible and they plan an excavation this coming August. If you would like to join in, there is an American group, ABR, from Texas that is going.
To give some perspective on, Shiloh (see 1 Samuel 1:9 but read chapters 1 and 2 to get the whole of the story) is where Hannah prayed for a son and promised him to the Lord. The priest Eli thought she was drunk, but once she explained, he told her that God would grant her petition. To stand on the land where the ancient tribes of Israel lived and worshipped was one of those amazing astounding moments. The landscape has a rocky stony terraced look and I pictured the people we read about in the Bible gathering at the tabernacle for worship and celebrations. I also realized that the site of the tabernacle was not a big stone building as portrayed in many books for the call of Samuel, but rather much simpler arrangement with perhaps some stone walls and living areas surrounding the Tabernacle.
At lunch at Shiloh, we heard from Yisrael Medad, a long time resident of Shiloh, but also from Brooklyn, who talked about why it is important for Jews to continue living in the Biblical heartland of Israel. The situation is quite complicated and I am too tired to say too much about it. Israel is divided into zones. Zone A is under the Palestinian Authority and Israelis are forbidden to enter. Zone B is under Palestinian Authority, but Israeli soldiers police this area which is a buffer between zone A and C. Zone C is Israeli and Palestinians are allowed in with certain permits or if they are Israeli citizens. The Palestinians feel that the Israelis have moved onto the land and taken it over. The Israeli’s feel that this is their ancient land and they have a right to be there and settle, live and care for the land.
After lunch, we headed for Rawabi, a new Palestinian City created by Bashar el Madrid. The city is surreal. It is a planned city and meant to be the anchor of the further Palestinian state. When we met with the developer, he said Palestinians have nowhere to go - no where to take their families for fun, not many places to live and work. This project has provided 10,000 jobs for Palestinians so far so they do not have to travel to different zones for work. The unemployment rate in Palestine is very high. Bashar’s vision is to change the culture of war to one of peace, to one where they can build something for their children. They want to be a place of pluralism and welcoming and are building both a mosque and a church. They want to welcome all, but yet we saw this challenged when the Jews in our group were asked to remove their kepote (the caps Jewish men wear on their head) so they could not be identified as Jews. Also since we would be in zone A , the Israeli citizens with us had to have special paperwork. As I said it is complicated and I am not coming close to describing the situation. That said, the city is surreal. It is a planned city and it was almost like the science-fiction movie. The beauty is amazing - tall buildings rise up from the top of the hill all covered in the white Jerusalem stone. There is a modern shopping center and a huge outdoor amphitheater. Like any new city, it faces struggles. It is hard to persuade people to live far away from amenities before they come, and the Israeli government is making it difficult to widen the road that leads to the city and also has made it difficult for them to get services such as water. I do hope this city succeeds, because I do think it will be a place where Palestinians can see that there is a possible wonderful future for them. Check out www.rawabi.ps
We left Rawabi late and were not able to get to Nazareth. We will get up early tomorrow in order to fit it into our agenda. Tonight we are in Tiberius on the shores of the Sea of Galillee. We got in close to 8 pm and Rabbi Metz and I were able to take a quick walk along the board walk. I can’t wait to see it in the morning when it is light.
Much peace, Rev. Anne-Marie