A day later on Friday another group
arrived, a worship group from the far north of Galilee who were here
for a religious retreat. This group is from the same movement as
the group that appeared unexpectedly two weeks ago. (They are
part of the Neo-Catechumenal Way, or NCW. In Galilee the center
of activity is at the Domum at the top of the Mount of the Beatitudes
on Lake Tiberias). This group is a small, closely knit and
mutually supportive community, from Fasuta, near Lebanon. One of
members explained that they felt that there was no real substance to
the services in their Melkite Church - just a priest going through
motions with the congregation responding. This movement seems to
involve a return to the scriptures, careful studies of the Bible, and
an effort to dedicate one's life to Jesus and live accordingly. I
am not sure exactly what that last statement means, since the gospels
are pretty radical when read closely, and "living accordingly"
could be dangerous here in Israel.
It might be interesting to insert Abuna Chacour's interpretation of the
Beatitudes here. His interpretation of the Aramaic writing is
that "Blessed" should really be interpreted prescriptively, rather
descriptively. He is sure that the Aramaic should be interpreted
as "get out and do something about .." That way "Blessed are the
Peacemakers ..." would become Beatitudes should really read something
"If you want to be in God's family, go out and do some peacemaking".
Father Chacour has done a lot of that in his life, as have Christian Peacemaking Teams and others like them.
Once again, Badiya, Elias and group members seemed to take on most of
the tasks. Our only contribution seemed to be cleaning the tables
and "volunteering" to help with the children - see picture above.
When they left, however, the real work began that involved
stripping the beds, washing the sheets, and preparing the rooms for the
Since everything seemed mostly out of our hands with this group, we
spent some extra time with students. On Friday, that strange
no-school day when about half the students are here, we commisioned
ourselves to teach a few sixth-grade girls some folk dances. They
were in some kind of gifted program, but had free time before and after
their classes. Music is a problem. I somehow wiped out the
copy I had of a flash drive containing 4 GB of dance music.
Luckily I still have a few on the hard drive, and there are
internet sources for many more. That's only half of it.
Some kind of PA system is really necessary, since there are
always other sources of sound surrounding exhuberant dancers.
Our first group of dancers were pretty capable sixth graders - one of
whom we had met at the music school. Ruth taught them Salty Dog
Rag right away, but it took most of the day to get the Red Foley
version on the computer and amplified at least a little bit.
Later in the day we had them, along with some younger boys and girls
for about an hour and a half, which was way too long. We went
through the usual start-off group of dances, including Seven Jumps,
Ersko Kolo, the non-couple, non-Polka form of Doubleska Polka, and
finished with Gustav's Skoal. We had speakers on my little lap
top, and that was ok but not really enough. We also threw in some
demonstrations to fill the time. There were some hitches - the
boys tried to kick the opposite girls when the circle went in and out
(Ersko), and there were some fake punches thrown to the sound of Skoal
- but we were pretty successful. If I can find some kind of PA
during this week things will be better. One of the boys had the
class vote on which dance they liked best, and Gustav won, with Seven
Jumps a distant second.
||Just stay on the topic of
dancing - yesterday we dropped by the famous gym (the one that involved
James Baker) and encountered a woman gym teacher with a class of high
school girls. We told her we danced, and we did a little Hambo.
She seemed to think that we were a good example of elderly people
who have stayed active, and she asked us to come to her class and teach
some dancing next week. We are looking forward to it, but we may
be facing the same problem of finding some kind of PA system. It
is interesting that with some prodding the smaller boys will dance, but
we will only have girls in the high school class.
Every week has to have at least one surprise. This one occurred
as we were leaving the gymnasium. Bishara, one of the maitenence
- security workers spproached us with an intercom. On the other
end was Elias O, asking us for the key to the church. That's the
large Church of the Beatitudes. It seemed odd to us that we had
the only key and that the security men would need us to open the door.
Ruth ran off to get the key, and I decided just to go home and
get some desk work done.
Ruth got to the church to find a large group of Jewish visitors waiting
to be shown the church. Now that is unusual. I have
wondered how many Israeli Jews I would meet in Ibillin, and so far it
is one. Ruth at this instance moved her total up to about thirty.
This group was on a tour of the Arab part of Galilee, and had already
spent time on the streets of Shefar'am and Ibillin. The visitors
did not seem to know much about the schools or about Elias Chacour, but
the guide was very knowledgeable. Ruth did her best as a hostess,
finding bathrooms and turning on the lights. She also exchanged
phone numbers and emails with a couple who may show us something of
Southern Israel in the future.
My surprise and consternation regarding this event comes from the low
priority it seems to have been given. In working with Pilgrims of
Ibillin, and conversing with Harvey Price and Peter Abrams, we have
become aware that there are many people and organizations searching for
projects that will bring people together in Israel. Abuna Chacour
always finishes his talks on this note. Here was an unsolicited
opportunity, but somehow it was lost. It was organized by Micha
Chacour, who now works in the Archbishopric in Haifa. He has been
intimately involved in the development of the schools, and still has an
office here. Unfortunately Micha has not been well, and could not
be on campus to meet this group. The information was sent on to
Elias O who just took care of the mechanics, we were not notified, and
as a result the visitors saw the church but saw nothing of the school,
and had no opportunity to learn its history or purchase Abuna's books.
They came and went between class breaks, so they did not even see
any students. It seems like a wasted opportunity to me.