Chapter 4 / Back to Index / Chapter 6
Sam and Ruth's Blog from Ibillin
Chapter 5
11/04/2013;  9:00 am

Venturing Out (a little more):  With nearly a week before the next group's arrival, we have enlarged our circle of wanderings by a little more.  We have continued to take our regular walks up to the top of the hill where there are two churches (Melkite Catholic and Orthodox) and a mosque.  The mosque is the newcomer, representing Islam which has been a major religion here for only 1400 years.  The Melkite and Orthodox churches share roots that may go back to the first century.  After all, Jesus and most of the disciples were from Galilee.  We learned that in the 17th century there was an argument among the Greek Orthodox in Istanbul.  This resulted in a split in which a large group left the Orthodox and joined with the Catholic Church in Italy.  These are the Melkites, who continue with the Orthodox liturgy but are responsible to the Pope.  They are the largest Christian sect in Israel, with 80,000 members.
Orthodox Church
We have re-read Abuna Elias Chacour's book, Blood Brothers, and are trying to trace out many of the episodes of the book that took place up on the tiop of the hill.

In preparation for three group visits this week, we are trying to familiarize ourselves with the large church, called "the Church of the Beatitudes" which stands at the east end of the campus.  There is a picture of this church in last week's blog.  On steps leading up to the front door are the beatitues, written in at least four languages.  Then inside there are many paintings along the balconies combining each biatitude with a parable or a part of Jesus' ministry as told in the Gospels.  For example, blessed are the comforters, for they shall be comforted" goes with a painting depicting the parable of the Good Samaritan.
Curch Steps   Good samaritan
In addition there is a large Iconostasis separating the Nave (where the pews are) from the Sanctuary (where much of the action of the service takes place.)  There are also very striking stain glass windows.
iconostasis   Window
Under the church is a large auditorium, built with the money that came with the Niwano Peace Prize, which was awarded to Elias Chacour in Japan in 2001.  The auditorium is very large - it could seat an audience of about 1500.  In the rear is a remarkable mural drawn by Diane Roe, a Christian Peace-making Teams worker during the awful times of the second intifada.  The following three pictures show the mural, and to read her moving description of the mural you can follow this link.  
Mural left    mural center  image right
It will be a challenge to take groups on a tour of the church and auditorium, without getting emotionally involved in the content.

We have gone "off campus" this week.  Friday Kate and I were driven across town by Elias O. (husband of the cook) to the bank.  It was comforting to have the ATM machine accept my debit card and pin, and give me 500 shequels.  (That's about $141, but I have not determined how much my bank account was charged.  

On Saturday Ruth and I realized that just down the road is neighboring city called Shefar'am, or Shefa'amr less than two miles away along the road that passes by the Mar Elas campus.  It was an easy walk, into a much more urban city of 35,000.  We strayed a little from the main road, walking through some neighborhoods among the hills.  We are limited in communication.  It seems surprising that English seems less spoken here than in Iran, and signs in Arabic and Hebrew are equally undecipherable.  Although Wikipedia describes Shefar'am as mostly Arab, we felt that we were seeing some Jewish areas Jewish businesses in the city.  In Ibillin we see none.  Here are some scenes from our walk:
Shefera'am 1 Shefera'am 2 Shefera'am 3

Saturday night we were invited by the Henry, the High School Maintanence Man, to dinner at his house.  It was a special evening, with some surprises.  Henry comes from a family of nine brothers and one sister;
his own family is smaller - just two children.  We four volunteers were treated to a sumptious dinner of Arab vegetable dishes, salads and grilled lamb (kebobs) and chicken.  Henry's wife and daughter fixed the vegetable dishes and salads while Henry was in charge of the charcoal grill.  Two of Henry's brothers came in to meet us.  Roni and his girlfriend Mali (or Molly?) spent most of the evening.  They live in Haifa.  Mali if Jewish, making her the first Jewish person I have met in Ibillin.  She was able to tell us a little about the racial situation in Israel, and the family difficulties on both sides when a Palestinian man has a Jewish girl friend.  She also said that when she watches reports on CNN about the Palestinian-Israeli conflict, the reports always seem pro-Palestinian.  Maybe that should not be a surprise.  We all bring our own baggage to hang on what we see and hear.
Dinner  Mali and Roni
Yesterday we ventured further, taking a1 1/4 hour bus ride to Akko - also in the history books as Acre.  Akko may have a history dating to 1500 BC.  It seems to have been under Canaanite, Phoenician, Jewish, Muslim, Crusader, Mamluk, Ottoman, British and then Israeli control since then.  Now it is a 2/3 Jewish city of about 70,000.  We melded into a couple of tour groups to get a guided tour of the old Crusader halls and castle.  As the pictures show, they were make to last!  We spent some time along the waterfront and in the Old City of narrow pathways.  We took the opportunity to try to find an accordion, but even in the Jewish shopping area we could not find a music store.  Here are a few views of Akko:
Crusader Castle Crusader Great HallAkko old city
Akko HarborAkko walls
Today is Monday, and we must say goodby to Kate and Franzyska who have been so helpful in orienting us to this job.  This evening a 23-member group arrives, led by the Pilgrims of Ibillin director, Joan Deming.  It is our first test.
Kate and Franzyska 
Enjoy yourselves, and Thanks!