He explained that this region has three areas: A, B and C. Areas marked "A" are Arab communities and Jews are not safe to go there. Christians would be safe unless, just like anywhere else, a radical Muslim decided to do something violent. "C" areas are Jewish settlements, and it’s unlikely that Muslims would want to go there. Areas designated as "B" are primarily highways that are maintained by the Arabs and policed by the Israeli Army. We had to travel right through Arab/Muslim cities to get to where we were going.
Thank God for Canada!
After stopping at Har Bracha Winery on Mount Gerizim, to pick up chairs for our first official destination, we travelled around an Arab city situated in the valley– clearly marked "A" (an Israeli sign greeted visitors to that city, stating that no Israelis were permitted entry there, or they may be killed) – and the bus climbed the mountain on the other side to Elon Moreh to a lookout that is believed to be the nearest we are permitted to where Abram heard from God, “'To your offspring I will give this land.' So he [Abram] built there an altar to the Lord, who appeared to him.” (Genesis 12:7) So we sat on our plastic chairs, in complete silence, looking at the valley below and the mountains beyond. Ruth played her violin there, and we prayed in silence.
Next we traveled to a rural Jewish village called Itamar. We were greeting by Rabbi David Yitzik and his vivaciously smiling wife, Leah. Although they have been in Itamar for 30 years, Leah especially still has her Brooklyn accent! Ian noticed immediately that Rabbi David was carrying a pistol around his waist. There is a new synagogue in this beautiful place, built by personal donations in honour of an entire family who, four years ago, were gunned down in their home. Just six weeks ago a very young man was shot and killed on the edge of the village. Rabbi David and Leah were the eighth couple to try to settle this area. They were both 22 at the time. They’ve done a great job.
Next stop was back to the winery for an incredible lunch at one very long table that sat 36 of us. Like all the meals we have had here, everything was Kosher and delicious! The grapes here are grown at over 900 metres above sea level, and it seems they produce exceptional wine. I had my tiny, tiny sip and, of course, got instantly tipsy! We bought some of this Israeli wine to take home!
Our last stop was to Shiloh, and to what is believed to be the archaeological remains of the first Jewish Temple. It stood there for 359 years. The sun sets here at around 5 p.m., so we set back out for our bus which took us back to our hotel.
There was a possibility that we could have been stopped when re-entering Jerusalem, but we weren’t. On our trip back, Gil informed us that his oldest son, Tzur (age 9), was waiting for emergency surgery for an appendicitis attack and that Gil would be going to the hospital to be with his son. He apologized. We prayed for the family.
In honour of the Shabbat, which we will be celebrating at the hotel today and tomorrow, I will not be writing until Sunday.
Sending love from this remarkable land,