by Becky Entenmann and Jeff Klieve
Tuesday, February 18, 2014

We woke up to a beautiful, sunny, dry day… the best weather we have had thus far in Jerusalem. We celebrated Morning Prayer on the bus on the way to the Church of the Visitation in Ein Karem, a suburb of Jerusalem. It is here where Mary visited with Elizabeth, mother of John the Baptist, and revealed to Elizabeth that she was pregnant. At the entrance to the church there are 50 tiles of the Magnificat in different languages… we stood in front of the English version and chanted it as a group. On the way to the Church of the Visitation we walked by Mary’s Spring, which is still flowing with water.

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The English version of the Magnificat at Church of the Visitation.

We walked up a very steep hill to reach the Church of the Visitation, and the view of the surrounding areas was magnificent. We then walked back down the hill and through the town of Ein Karem, and stopped by the St. John ba Harim Church which is built on top of the cave where John the Baptist was born. There are tiles of the Benedictus in multiple languages displayed in the courtyard in front of the church and we recited the English version as a group before going onto the church.

We then embarked on a two-hour bus ride to Nablus, which is north of Jerusalem in Samaria, about halfway back to the Sea of Galilee. We passed back into the West Bank and the terrain on the way to Nablus was very rocky and hilly, almost mountainous. In Nablus we visited the Church of Jacob’s Well, a Greek Orthodox church, and met the priest who designed the church and did all the artwork. Jacob’s Well is where Jesus encountered the Samaritan woman. Fr. Todd lowered a bucket a long distance into the well and pulled up water which some in the group drank.

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Jacob’s Well. When Fr. Todd tipped some of the water he drew up back into the well, it took measurable seconds before we heard the splash.

St. Phillip’s Arab Episcopal Church was our next stop in Nablus. St. Phillip’s is a mission church, founded in 1846, with a congregation of 150, in the Diocese of Jerusalem. Their priest, Fr. Ibraham, welcomed us enthusiastically and noted that with the political turmoil, the area had been isolated up until about two years ago, and visitors to the area had been few. The women of the church provided a delicious lunch of homemade Arab food.

Fr. Ibraham detailed the challenges to the Christian church in Nablus and the surrounding area noting that Christians comprised 20% of the population 20 years ago whereas they comprise less than 1% now. Christians have moved out of the area due to the political unrest.

On our way out of Nablus, we rode past a community of Samaritans, and then continued on to Jerusalem where we visited the Church of St. Peter in Gallicantu. It is the site where Jesus was brought before Caiaphas after his arrest, and then imprisoned in the pit/dungeon under the present day church in total darkness before he was sent to Pontius Pilate. We saw a two-story access hole to the pit where Jesus was lowered with a rope. This location is also the site of the courtyard where Peter denied Jesus three times before the cock crowed twice.

We celebrated Eucharist in the chapel at the Church of St. Peter in Gallicantu and recalled all the events of Maundy Thursday.

Quotes for the day:

Betty Bowersox: The priest at St Phillip’s said something that really resonated with me… that reading the Bible is two dimensional, but visiting the Holy Land makes our Christian life three dimensional.

Ruth Moore: Roman soldiers did not like to come to this area which maybe helps explain why they were so brutal.

Sheila Stanton: I discovered Holy Mary for the first time since it was not part of my upbringing. Powerful women of the Bible were held up at the Church of the Visitation.

Becky Entenmann:  I wonder what total darkness in the pit would have been like? Our guide, Gus, reminded us that in total darkness Christ was not alone but surrounded by the Holy Spirit.

Jim Moore: Our visit to St. Phillip’s in highlighted the very serious challenges for the Christian church in the Nablus area.

Christie Boyle: The priest at St. Phillip’s had a very positive attitude and told us he tells his parishioners how lucky they are to be Christians in that place.

Fr. Todd McDowell:  Jacob’s Well was an amazing place. There is little doubt that the well is the actual well where the story of the Samaritan women took place.

Jim More: Jacob’s Well was very deep, how did they dig it?

Sheila Stanton:  Jacob’s Well actually dates back to the Book of Genesis.

Christie Boyle:  The artwork we are seeing everywhere is amazing.

Marty O’Leary:  I’m amazed by the work of the priest at the Church of Jacob’s Well. He was the architect of the church and did all the artwork.

Christie Boyle:  Each day of the pilgrimage has been richer and more meaningful than the previous day.

Fr. Todd McDowell:  Being here in the Holy Land is the “5th gospel” … it ties it all together.

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Just some of the many steps on our journey.

Click here to see all the pictures from our Grace in the Holy Land photo gallery.


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