Yesterday morning we went to Zababdeh for worship at St. Matthew's Episcopal Church. The mass was both in Arabic and English, and it was great to see a church packed with people. The rector, Father Na'el Abu Rahmoun, gave a wonderful sermon challenging all of us to have a spiritual resolution for 2012. The children of the church, about 40, sang several anthems during the mass. Afterwards we all gathered for lunch at a local restaurant.
This church was incredibly vibrant, and you could tell that the people were really living out their faith. After the mass, the priest gathered with the people in the church's courtyard, and two doves were released for the peace of the New Year. The priest and his family joined us for a delicious lunch of local food at a nearby restaurant after the mass.
After lunch we went to Nablus for a visit to Jacob's Well. The water is so pure, and the Greek Orthodox Church which sits upon the well, is beautiful. This has been one of the great highlights of our trip. The priest of the parish is an icon writer, and the church is adorned with his work. The whole space, representing heaven meeting earth was breath-taking. Even more intriguing is the fact that a former priest's remains are kept in the church as part of a shrine. This priest was martyred for protecting the church from settlers.
Being in the West Bank for the past days has been good not just for spiritual reasons, but also for understanding the politics of this region. Witnessing the situation firsthand has given the pilgrims insights they would not have by simply reading and watching the Western media. The plight of the Palestinians is extremely obvious, and some of our pilgrims are beginning to see the connections concerning land ownership with past experiences in the Hawaiian islands.
Today we gathered at Bethphage after which we walked the route of Palm Sunday, going down the Mount of Olives. We ended up at the Church at Gethsemane; in the garden there are several olive trees which date back to the time of Christ.
The day finished with a visit to St. Peter's Galicantu - the church that commemorates Peter's denial of Christ as well as the imprisonment of our Lord before Good Friday. We travelled down into the cistern where Christ would have been imprisoned and prayed for those in our world today who face injustice.
Tomorrow we leave for a few days in Galilee.