This morning, the Sisters of Nazareth made us a great breakfast and we set out early in separate groups (NC / LA). Our Louisiana pilgrims drove through the region of Mt. Gilboa and mountains of Gilboe.
We walked up a very steep hill to the Burqin church (also named St. George's Church.) It is a Greek Orthodox Church and considered to be the 5th oldest Christian holy place. In addition to Jesus' miracle of healing the ten lepers, another miracle is said to have taken place by St. Georagios (George) involving the saint's appearing to a badly-behaved schoolboy awaiting his teacher's forgiveness so he would not longer be mute.
Our next adventure was a drive through beautiful Samaria and to the city of Nablus. Nablus (nea-polis / new city) is also known as Shechem. This is a large Palestinian city (originally founded by Vespasian) and holds one of the largest universities in the Palestine areas.
Here we visited another gorgeous place: St. Photini the Greek Orthodox Monastery.
St. Photini is remembered as the Samaritan woman at the well who drew water for Jesus. She accepted the "living water" from Christ. Photini means "The Enlightened One".
This church is also the home of Jacob's Well underneath the main sanctuary. One can still draw and drink fresh water from it, though it does involved a bit of heavy lifting.Think of the people who go to wells daily and wait in lines to draw water they must walk back to their homes. It is not easy.
Fr. Justinian, the priest, is an elderly man who has been responsible for restoring and maintaining the church. He is an expert iconographer and the church is filled with his beautiful work alongside Byzantine era mosaics and more. He is a very sweet man.
It was time for dessert.....wait BEFORE lunch?!
Of course! We stopped at a kanafeh shop and got to see it being made. Large machines separate shredded wheat into long strings which are then rolled together with a slightly sweet mixture of goat and cow cheeses and then baked, soaked in honey water, and topped with pistachio ganache. One can rarely say no to kanafeh.
Next we continued through the West Bank to Taybeh, the last all-Christian Community in the West Bank and home of the Taybeh Brewing Company.
Everyone enjoyed tasting the beer and learning about the process of making it and the community of Taybeh. Taybeh basically means "delicious".
Speaking of delicious.... now our lunch was served and WOW - today's delicacy was Musakhan.
Our last stop today was the St. George's Orthodox Christian Church at Ephraim. It was in ruins, but is still used by the local Orthodox Christian community. The community is one of two existing Christian churches that still really do make sacrifices as offerings of thanks to God. We saw evidence of this. When they want to give thanks to God, they sacrifice a lamb and take 1/4 for themselves and give 3/4 away to the poor in the local community.
We are now back at St. George's Cathedral in Jerusalem and will meet for dinner at 7:00 PM. After such a busy and physically active few days, it is nice to have a few hours of rest before gathering again!