Posted by: Chris Hoskins | December 23, 2008

Trip to the Holy Land….Sabbath & The unrecognised village…..

The weekend in Israel is bizarre when you’re used to a western weekend. Fridays are Sabbath for Muslims and Saturdays are Sabbath for Jews. Hence, on Fridays and Saturdays, depending which part of the country you’re in (Muslim dominated or Jew dominated) nothing happens on these two days! Anyway, on the Saturday morning, we had some free time between breakfast and our first scheduled thing for the day. So myself and Jonnie Clipston decided to go for a walk along the shore road. It was a nice road, Lake Galilee on one side and some cave riddled hills on the other side. We walked for about 45 minutes going south, then decided we should turn back. As we turned to come back, there was a massive rain shower. No thunder and lightning, just masses of rain!Of course, we were absolutly soaked. But we didn’t really mind, because it was still so warm! None of the rubbish rain we get in Scotland that makes you cold and wet, we were pleasantly warm and wet! We also weren’t too bothered because we had been told how desperatly Israel needed rain, theres quite a bad drought in Israel. Swimming is banned in Lake Galilee because the water is evaportaing constantly, with nothing replacing it. This means that, as the water evaporates, the minerals become denser in the water that is left, which means it is becoming toxic to ingest. Pretty much the same process that created the saline concentration so high in the dead sea. So, bearing this in mind, we reckoned our getting soaked was a small price for 45 minutes of hope and joy for the locals!
One of the many Cave riddled hills around Tiberias
Once we got back to the hotel and changed, it was on to our first destination. We were planning on joining a group of Messianic Jews in worship. Sadly, the timing of their service had been changed, it was put back by an hour, which meant we were unabled to join them for the service, but we were able to listen to the band practice and appreciate the differences between the religious decor for Messianic Jews and that for the Church of Scotland congregation that worship in the same building.
One of the banners the Messianic Jews had in their worship space
After listening to the band practice for a while (it was quite bizarre listening to a praise band sing half in Russian and half in Hebrew!) we quietly made our way to our coach and headed out to what is known as an “unrecognized village“. For me, this was quite a hard day. I was quite shocked to hear the background of the village(s) and sohcked by the conditions in the village. I was also quite shamed about my attitude to life when compared to the villagers we encountered. Despite the fact that, in our eyes, they had next to nothing, everything they had, they took great delight in sharing with us: their food, drink, home, families….it was so touching to see the incredible hospitality they offered us. When we first arrived at the village it was still kinda drizzling..Arriving at the unrecognized village...
but that wasn’t going to stop us finding out about the place. Perhaps I should pause here and explain what the term “unrecognized village” means. What you’re about to read is my interpretation of what we were told, for a fuller account follow the link earlier in the post(just click on the purple “unrecognized village”). Back in the late forties (48) when the Israel became an independant state again, the Bedouin nomads were forced out of their lands into an area known as ‘siyeg’ or the fence. Basically a small triangle of land where the Bedouin people live, or at least most of them do. In this land, the Bedouin live in, for want of a better description, shanty towns. Although many (most) of the Bedouin work and pay taxes, they recieve few, if any, amenities in return for these taxes. The roads leading to the settlements are awful, they are unlikly to have proper plumbing/electircal access. It is nigh on impossible to get school buses to stop at the right place for them. On top of this, the government likes to keep tabs on the buildings in the villages (there are 40 -50 of these villages in total) and if any building work is carried out without proper permission, it is torn right down. The problem being that, again, it is nigh on impossible to get proper planning for anything to do with these villages because, as the catach all name “unrecognized villages” suggests, the government doesn’t credit them with existence, they are on no maps and the government don’t like people visiting them. So, when we arrived at the village, whose name i have forgotten, we were taken to the home of a family our guide( a Bedouin campaigning for recognition and rights for the villages) is friendly with. As I mentioned earlier, the hospitality was incredible. They invited us in, made sure we all had a seat, made sure we all had a wee snack and either some juice or some gorgeous arabic coffee. We then had an opportunity to ask questions to find out about life in these villages and why they are there. Basically, and this will scarcely do the reasons justice, it is too expensive for the families to move elsewhere, these villages are close to all that remains of their ancestral way of life/land and they don’t like the idea of being forced out of their homes. While we were there, Nicola and Suzi befriended one of the children in the family, quite a witness to how you can bond despite having a huge language barrier! The wee girl took great delight in showing them a workbook from school all about healthy teeth!
The Bedouin lass showing Suzi her book about healthy teeth
After spending some time with the family, the father took us round the village to see it in its entirety. It was quite interesting seeing how the Bedouin have used whatever materials they can find to the best use in making their homes. We were made some bread by some of the locals, a flat bread covered in a mint, olive oil and sesame seed sauce. Gorgeous stuff, and another testament to their hospitality! As we walked round, I was shocked at how dilapidated everything looked. I think most of us were. The kids still have fun though, they use whatever they find to play and have fun with! As we walked round, our feet ot caked in mud, the ground was still wet from the earlier rain, but, to our amazement, our Bedouin guides feet were dry, his excuse: “I am Bedouin, we know where to step”….
…Seeing the village was moving, and I discovered some of my western arrogance when I started thinking to myself ‘How can a country do this to its people? How can it let them live in such poverty?’ Steve must have been reading my mind, because he choose that moment to remind us all that there are people in Scotland that live in worse poverty than we had just witnessed, it’s just easier to open your eyes to it and to judge those who allow it to happen when it doesn’t involve seeing it in your town or judging yourself. I don’t know what my response to seeing the vllage and having these realisations is. All i know is that i’m not happy just writing about it and being shocked by it, I ant my response to make some sort of difference for people in poverty, wherever they are.
One of the village structures.
I’ve just looked at the notes I took at the village, all I wrote was “Ethnic Cleansing” (see above link for move details) and “Ignorance: cultural, faith, reality”. And that 2nd note was written in reference to myself, my ignorance, my perception of reality, my blindness to the needs around me.

After the village, we were taken to visit an Episcopal Church in the outskirts of Nazareth. We didn’t really ask the minister there much, I think we were all still processing our thoughts and feelings from the village. After spending some time ther, we returned to the hotel, where we enjoyed (many of us feeling guilty all the while) quite a lavish dinner of soup, seafood, veal and fresh fish.

It was a hard day, but a good day in that it opened the eyes of many of us to realities we’ve never comprehended, or, in my case certainly, not allowed ourselves to look at; out of fear, selfishness, cowardice, many reasons, none that hold any weight when listening to Jesus words and commands on our lives though……….
The Font in the Episcopal Church

I often sign out of my posts ‘peace out’

just doesn’t seem right…….

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