We began our day by checking out of Nazareth, and going to the port city of Haifa. What a beautiful place. It’s a natural bay, with Haifa on the south side and Acco in the distance to the North. We visited the Baha’i terrace gardens, and went into the Stella Maris Church on Mt. Carmel, built over the cave Elijah found refuge in from the priests of Baal. The altar is built out over the cave itself, while the nave below has access to the cave.
After a beautiful drive along the beach south of Haifa, we went to Ayn Hawd, a Palestinian village that was emptied of Palestinians in 1948 and was renamed Ein Hud in Hebrew and opened to Jewish settlers. The Palestinians lived in tents up in the hills overlooking the sea without water, electricity, and sewage. As we were told by Mohamad Abu El-Hejah, like other internal refugees in 1948, they were living on their own land of 1500 dunams, caring for their crops and animals, but weren’t allowed to return to their homes. In the 1970’s they began to organize, and found that there was no recognition of their new village, and no master plan for Arab settlements like there was for Jewish settlements. While trying to take their case through the courts, they got help from a professor who aided them to make plans for infrastructure. It took until 1994 for them to get water piped in, but they had to pay for it. Only in 2008 did they get electricity. Today there is some construction going on, but they are limited to 40 dunams, room for about 50 homes, but they had to pay for their own roads and wiring. Israel is telling them they need to rent the land or repurchase the land from the state for close to $250,000 each family, even though they have the papers that show the whole region, including their old homes and the new religious kibbutz on the next hill over belongs to them. This isn’t enough room in the allotted space for their kids to get a permit to build next to them on their own land. This is a lucky village, as most of the other 1000 villages were permanently closed, or put under military control despite judgments given by the Israeli Supreme Court.
Another beautiful drive around the bay brought us to the ancient city of Acco, where we enjoyed a seaside lunch watching the local swimmers and kayakers enjoy the water. We took our time walking through the bazaar, finding a pitcher for our communion set, and Allan picked up an Egyptian drum. After gathering some sweets, we made our way to the El-Jazzar Mosque, the oldest mosque in Acco dating to the 8th century. Another short drive brought us around to the west side of the ancient armaments for a wonderful sunset amidst the music and laughter of the locals.
Tonight, we will find rest in the town of Jenin on our way to the tiny village of Zebabdeh, where one in our number had volunteered in the Latin School years ago. We hope to meet with the Anglican Priest there as well.
Plans changed as we approached the barbed wired checkpoint gate – which was closed. We looked at the gate which had a taped on sign saying “8:00 – 15:50” above another one that read “8:30 – 13:50 Shabbat.”
We called our travel agent, and our past guide. All we talked with said the checkpoint is normally open, and were surprised to hear we couldn’t get through. The pastor walked up to a side gate to talk to the lone guard there, and he said the gate wouldn’t open until 10:00 am. The pastor asked him about the changed time on the sign, but he repeated 10:00 am. When told we were a church group with an appointment in Zebabdeh at the Latin School, there was nothing that could be done.
The guard went back to ask a supervisor again, and returned saying that we could go to the only other closest gate, which he said was 40 minutes away. When we asked the former guide, he said it was four hours away in a big circle around Nablus!
Calls flew back and forth between the driver, travel agent, and our former guide – who graciously made arrangements for us at another hotel. We just hope we will be able to get in to meet with the two priests of Zebabdeh tomorrow morning without incident.
Once we got checked into our seemingly quiet hotel, the Palestinian dancers came out! What a party’s going on right now, with the whole dance floor filled with locals.