|We're off.....Iain, Lars, Nidal S and Johannes|
Past the villages of Jalbun and Al Mughayyir, 13 miles up and down and along the dry river valley of Wadi Far'a to the town of Zababdeh (1082'), on the ancient Roman trade route, our next overnight stop.
With the sun rising over Jordan and Mount Tabor visible in the haze behind us we set off out of the village down a path between orchards, almond trees and olive groves, the aroma of fenugreek, thyme and sage in the air; this is Marj Ibn Amir the most fertile land in Palestine. The olive harvest was starting and fields were being prepared for planting winter crops - tobacco and onions - that can survive without irrigation, which is strictly prohibited by the occupying Israeli authorities.
|Marj Ibn Amir|
|The first of many family groups we would see harvesting their olives|
The dry fertile limestone landscape was dotted with serene villages of poor streets, narrow alleyways and beautiful old houses.
It was in one of these villages, Burq'in, that Jesus healed the ten lepers.
On the way to Jerusalem he was passing along between Samaria and Galilee.
And as he entered a village, he was met by ten lepers, who stood at a distance
and lifted up their voices, saying, “Jesus, Master, have mercy on us.”
When he saw them he said to them, “Go and show yourselves to the priests.” And as they went they were cleansed.
Then one of them, when he saw that he was healed, turned back, praising God with a loud voice;
and he fell on his face at Jesus' feet, giving him thanks. Now he was a Samaritan.
Then Jesus answered, “Were not ten cleansed? Where are the nine?
Was no one found to return and give praise to God except this foreigner?”
And he said to him, “Rise and go your way; your faith has made you well
|St George's Orthodox Church in Burq'in|
built over a cave where lepers were quarantined
The church at Burq'in, in regular use by the small orthodox community of some 60 Living Stones, is the fifth oldest sacred Christian place and the third oldest church in the world. This story describes the place and atmosphere far better than I ever could.
|Hard trekking through Wadi Fara'a|
We ate our first picnic lunch in the shade of a carob tree and sampled its delicious ripe fruit.
Exhausted after seven hours walking Zababdeh came into sight.
Zababdeh has a Mediterranean climate with intermittent rainfall. Since the establishment of neighbouring Israeli settlements and military outposts only 20% of the former water supply is available to the town and despite being in Zone B* residents are not permitted to dig more wells. Our guide told us that the population (3,700) was "a mixture of Christian (64%) - Roman Catholic, Greek Orthodox, Greek Catholic and Anglican (each with their own churches) and Islamic (32%) living a harmonious village life and sharing religious festivals", yet again dispelling the popular media pretext for the declining Christian population in the Holy Land, where there remain only two other towns with a Christian majority.
We stayed and enjoyed an evening with a Catholic family, but I was asleep in bed long before the end of Arabs' Got Talent.
* subject to Israeli military control and Palestinian civil control