This was an awesome day. No one got hurt or fell down. The forecasted rain didn't happen. The food was awesome. We had several great experiences with an archbishop and several high school students. We know that someone or something much greater than us was in control.
We headed west out of Tiberias ending up in a village called Ibillin. We thanked God and other saints for our wonderful driver who maneuvered his big bus through winding narrow steep streets down and then up to the parking area at the school. We were escorted into a meeting room where Archbishhop Elias Chacour shortly joined us. With his little hat (I'm certain it has a special name), black vest over a long-sleeved shirt, and his "Archbishop" necklace (it too probably has a proper name) were all accented by his long great beard and gentle eyes.
We were forewarned that he'd ask two questions, the first being why did you come to this country. (I'm very reluctant to call it Israel or Palestine because I don't know who should properly be ruling the part of the world.) We answered "enrich my knowledge for the college course I teach", "it's a pilgrimage of faith", "to discover and better understand another culture of the world", "it's a trip of a lifetime", "I'm traveling with family, that's a joy", "to see placenames and feel the connection to the Biblical stories". "to understand the anger of people in the area of the world." And more.
Then he introduced himself for the next two hours, primarily telling the story of his life which is also outlined in his book "Blood Brothers." He spoke of how his family was displaced from their home and father taken away by Israeli soldiers, how they watched as their homes and village were bombed and destroyed, how his father and mother taught love and peace for all, how he went to school to be a minister - his father's dream, how he was appointed to a small village after seminary for 30 days and is still there, how he went to court some 37 times always to get a building permit to build the school where we sat. His storytelling was compelling. In his modesty he never mentioned his nomination for the Noble Peace Prize or his accomplishments to create this school that not teaches over 3000 Christian Arabs, which is one definition for a Palestinian.
Lunch followed a tour of the adjacent church. While it was a special church and there were stories of its unique characteristics, it was basically another special church with unique characteristics. Four high school students joined us for lunch, a typical Arab lunch. They were delightful, talked about their school, their families, their dreams and hopes; we talked our families and work, classes and how Arabic writing works.
Content and happy we boarded the bus with plan B for the afternoon. Instead of stopping by the what seemed to be the nearby site of Zippori we headed to Bet She'an, which we discovered after consulting a map took us in a big circle frm one side of the country to the other and almost back to our hotel. At Bet She'an we walked through the ruins of a Roman community built during their reign after the fall of Jerusalem to the Romans about 70AD. Centuries later when the Byzantine ruled the city, they rebuilt it with their cultural trademarks. Columns which lined the Roman street lie ordered as if destroyed by an earthquake. (The earthquake fault rules along the Jordan River.) Some of the group climbed a hill, called a tel, on which city after city was built upon an older destoyed city, creating a taller hill. The reference to the discovery of these ruins was intriguing until we were told that this city was just found buried under dirt some 40 years ago. It now is a National Park, protected and in some cases, reconstructed by the government.
Exhausted from another day of extensive information and sensations, we rode back to the hotel, indulged in another awesome meal and prepared for a good night's sleep. Zippori and Nazareth are on the schedule for tomorrow so we reading our assignments.