Women in Bastan Village, Kurdistan

Saturday, October 23, 2010

Hope, Creativity, Freedom......10-08-10--Bethlehem, Palestine

Many contrasting feelings: happiness to see my girls, but anger to see the environment they are living in. Anger because I cannot promise them that it will be better soon. They are beautiful girls and they will soon grow to be strong, but who has the luxury to be weak living under occupation, it hardens your heart. It hurts me to see this covered systematic violence,many times physical, but here expressed in lack of opportunities, while our kids in America and even here in Israel have sports, music, art and have to be involved in all sorts of after school activities. Here, there is little of that, whatever the UN and other NGO's provide, but it is not their responsibility to raise kids and they can do all but give them the freedom that they need.

It breaks my heart and I feel like crying in front of them and telling them that it is my fault, because my government is supporting the occupation. My government is supplying weapons and billions of dollars to sustain the occupation. I wish I could tell them that this is why I am here, to show that there is people who care!!!I wish I could tell them that me and many others in America do not support our government but are not enough to break the corrupted system that just wants to occupy land (in Israel) and minds there (in the US). That our government claims to be fighting the "war on terror" on our name and with our money. That along with Israel they claim that the West Bank and Gaza are one more school for terrorists and that ending the occupation, will mean another Al- Qaeda haven to breed terrorists.


On the other hand, I am so happy and humbled to be here and to share the simple, but sometimes crazy daily life in Palestine. The refugee camp I stayed is a labyrinth, many ways to get in and out. It can intimidate you with its graffiti and paintings of people whom you might not know, but every Palestinian knows well. Its narrow allies, where not more than one can pass at the same time or even cannot open your arms wide can scare you. When you walk, you can see your neighbor's living room and smell their food, there's no such thing as privacy.

I feel lucky and ashamed at the same time, that I can be in Bethlehem and next I can show my blue passport and next thing be in the Old City of Jerusalem, something not every Palestinian can do. I didn't ask for that, I didn't even chose that, I was born with it, as the Palestinians are born under occupation.

I wish I could take my girls in a car and go to the sea, they have asked me..... They have never been to the sea, even though it is a 45 minute drive. I know that it is not going to change anything, but at least I know that I will see the most beautiful smiles in the world. That is something, and they will see beyond the Wall, they will know there is something else....


Now I am in the bus on the way to Ramallah. I can see rain falling on the windshield, it's smell is unique. It has been a long time since I saw rain falling, last time, I was home so it reminds me of Puerto Rico. We drive by Maale Adumim,is an Israeli settlement. With a population of about 34,000 it's a city on its own. Ma'ale Adumim was established in 1976 on territory occupied since the 1967 Six-Day War. It was built as a planned community and suburban commuter town to nearby Jerusalem, to which many residents commute daily. They have big recreational spaces, an irony that is built on occupied land and that Palestinians cannot enter.

Everytime I am in a bus in Palestine and I see an Israeli settlement, I look to the side at the Palestinian sitting next to me and wonder what are they exactly thinking, living in this land, that they love so much and watching powerlessly how everyday they are stripped of more, and more land while Americans and Internationals come and go, curiously taking pictures, listening to stories, while the occupation is still here taking more land, more young people into jails and robbing children of their childhood. But then I go somewhere and I listen to someone's story and reflect on the 62 years that they have endured in jails and refugee camps with resilience. Or simple see the kids on the street playing and when I pass they start saying: What's your name? That gives me hope that one day my girls will be going to the Mediterranean and watch the most amazing sunset.....One day.....we'll all be free.

Sunset in the Mediterranean Sea

My sweet girls....how can you not love them and want to end the occupation so they have something to live and hope for...

Thursday, October 7, 2010

Three cups of tea in the camp....

This morning I woke up around 9 am and everyone, except Najah was gone. I escaped of having to wake up really early after promising Tamara I will take her to school if she went to sleep. Lara's house seems to be a sweet spot, as neighbors come and go all the time or maybe is just part of the Palestinian culture. While having breakfast Najah was telling me how blessed she was to have a job. She has been a nurse for around 20 years in the children's area of the hospital, here in Bethlehem. She was thanking God for having healthy children because she witnesses every day how children and their families have to struggle when they go to the hospital, and how she feels for them because she is also a mother. She said there are a lot of cases of cystic fibrosis, which affects children gastric system when they are very young and later, it affects their respiratory system. She explained that sometimes the children have to spend up to three weeks in the hospital in order to receive treatment.

She was recalling 15 years ago, when she used to go to Jerusalem with her friend and do shopping and sitting and having lunch and after spending the day, coming back to Bethlehem. That was before she was married and of course before the wall prevented them to go to Jerusalem. I stopped counting how many cups of tea we had......

In one of the camp streets, you can see art everywhere

She told me stories of people that left Palestine and went to the gulf countries to work. Now they have money, but I chose to stay " why should I leave my country". " We don't have too much work, but alhamdulillah (thanks to God), we are happy."She also told me how she would like to go back to study a specialization in neonatal nursing, but: "I would like to study more, but I don't have time because of the children".

About life in the camp she told me that "when someone is sick, even if I don't have time, I make time to go and visit, if my neighbor goes out of the hospital, I go to visit him and take something to him, and if I don't have money, I borrow some to get something to him. This is Palestinian culture. Here in the camp we are really close, joining here hands and fingers as to show me how close.

A look from Lara's bedroom

After the nice conversation and an Arabic lesson, she had to go to work, and I stayed in the house. After half an hour Tamara came.....she is just so sweet, but Oh My God, she can drive you completely crazy in 2 minutes! She was taping her mouth and everywhere else too. Then, Lara came and the rest of the troop. it was like 1pm.

Me and Tamara, guess who is the four year old....
I don't know how I survived the next 3 hours until we left the house. It was almost madness, I don't know how could you possibly survive with 5 kids! The two small boys, fighting to use the computer, Tamara, jumping all over in the kitchen while I was trying to teach Lara how to cook lentils. She was literally walking on the counter...and putting her hand inside when I was preparing the soup....

Then we got to Bethlehem and Lara showed me her little secret spot where they had all sorts of things for only 1 -3 shekels, wow, like a Palestinian version of a $1 store but better. I got a wood spoon for cooking!!! Then we took a service taxi to her grandmother, it was close to Bethlehem but it was in the mountains, a really nice view of Bethlehem. There I met some of Lara's aunts, They asked the same questions that people here always ask: 1.Where are you from? 2. How old are you? 3. Are you married? And then they look at me as wondering what am I doing here! I guess sometimes amazed and sometimes skeptical. They could not believe my age and the fact that I was not married. Then one of the other aunts came from work with grandma and started talking to us, she works in Bethelehem in one of the NGO's. she was the twins Raneen and Haneen's mother. After a while, we left back home to the camp. Everyone including grandma came into the car, Lara's uncle was driving us and the two young aunties were also in the car. The was some music playing and me and one of the aunts were dancing. I don't remember the name of the singer now, but it was so nice.
Grandma and some of the kids...

Now we were back to the reality of the camp again, the same small space, the same small allies. We went to eat something in a small take out place in the camp. Tamara was crying because she wants to get a juice and her sister tells her that she should pick another one, because that one is made by Israel. Tamara keeps crying and after trying to convince her, she gives up and gets her the "Israeli juice". So, here is a 15 year old, with her version of BDS here in Palestine, although there is not much that we boycott without starving. Everything comes from Israel, that is the business of occupation. Then we went to eat knafe and after that we go home. I survived my second day in the camp, laughing, learning and living.....under occupation....

What you cannot see from outside the wall--October 7th, Bethelehem, West Bank

I have been two months in Haifa and I wanted to go back to the West Bank. So I decided to go to Bethlehem to visit the kids from the Tent of Nations summer camp. The problem always is the timing and restrictions in transportation, plus Friday and Saturday there are no buses because of shabat. To go from Haifa to Jerusalem, there is no problem; the problem is how to get into the WB if you go later than 7:00 pm. I finished working at about 4:30 pm on a Wednesday and the next bus is at 6:00 pm, which means it gets to Jerusalem at 8:00 pm. Conclusion: NO way to get to Bethlehem, unless you have money to pay an expensive taxi, which at this point is not an option for me.

So, I went to the source to get the exact information: Edward, a Palestinian friend from Jerusalem who now lives in Haifa. He arranged for me a friend of him to pick me up from the station in Jerusalem and take me through the checkpoint into Dheisheh Refugee Camp in Bethlehem. Edward also took me to the bus station in Haifa. He also gave me his mobile phone so his friend Munir could call me when he came to pick me up. I am so blessed to find such friends here. Palestinians are the kind of people who give everything for their friends. Nayef, another Palestinian told me how he is so thankful that people leave their own country and come from abroad to advocate for their cause that he feels he needs to do anything for them.

Me and Rachel, an Australian volunteer painting a segment of the separation wall inside Bethlehem back in July. In the back Andrea, a German volunteer artist that came to the camp to teach art to the children

So, I met Munir at the Jerusalem Central Bus station and we managed to pass the checkpoint and get to Lara's home. Lara lives in the Dheisheh Refugee Camp in Bethlehem. Dheisheh is a Palestinian refugee camp located just south of Bethlehem in the West Bank. Dheisheh was established in 1949 on 0.31 square kilometers of land leased from the Jordanian government. The camp was established as a temporary refuge for 3,400 Palestinians from 45 villages west of Jerusalem and Hebron who fled during the 1948 Arab-Israeli War. According to UNRWA the camps population is of around 13,000 people.

Me and Lara at the Tent of Nations summer camp on her birthday, she brought a cake and share with the whole group

Lara took me to her home, through a small street. I was greeted by her mother, Najah, and two of her neighbors that were there visiting. Immediately I was served Arabic coffee. The women were talking about the tawjid, the national exam that young Palestinians have to pass when they finish high school. It is quite an event here and when kids pass the exam, parents make a big celebration, which includes fireworks, but also is a big pressure for the students to do well in the exam. They said, is celebrated more than weddings.

Lara doing some homework, which is hard having three younger siblings running and screaming all over the house

After they left we ate and then were chatting and watching TV. Tamara, Lara's 4 year-old sister was watching the children's channel and also playing on the computer, while her older brothers Ahmed and Mohamed, had to come to the computer when she came crying, to fix whatever was wrong with it, and she didn't give up either. She kissed them in order to convince them to help her. When her dad came and was trying to get her to give him the remote to watch the soccer match, she was checking herself if there was a match, she kept the remote and said that there was no match and put the childrens channel again. Her dad just smiled! Tamara is the queen of the house and she could make you angry and desperate and could make you smile all at the same time.

This was just the face of a real family and the real Palestinian life that is not often portrayed in TV or newspapers, but that I was invited to witness. It is incredible how little they have and how, even despite the daily struggle they welcomed me as another member of the family. We got some ice cream for desert and me and Tamara got our faces full of chocolate. I was trying to dance to the rhythm of a song playing in the kids channel and Tamara was making fun of me. After that, Tamara prepared the bed for me and was crying because she wanted to sleep in the room with me and Lara. Lara convinced her that if she went to her mother’s room, I will walk her to school next morning. She went to her mom’s, but I couldn’t wake up in the morning at 6 am to take her to school…Shame on me!

Me and Tamara enjoying some ice cream

Tamara insisted on doing my bed....she is so sweet!

Tuesday, October 5, 2010

Nobel Women Peace Initiative: Amplifying Womens Voices Around the World

On October 3rd, the Haifa s Women Coalition proudly welcomed Nobel Peace Laureate Jody Williams and eight additional members of the Nobel Women for Peace Initiative to our offices in Haifa. These women had come to bear witness to the struggles, creativity and inspiring activism of women on the ground to promote justice and build sustainable peace. The delegation traveled to Jerusalem, Haifa, Nazareth, Ramallah, Hebron and Bilin, and was focused on learning from and highlighting the work of women peacebuilders.

In 2006, Jody Williams, along with sister Nobel Peace Laureates Rigoberta Menchu Tum, Shirin Ebadi, Wangari Maathai, Betty Williams and Mairead Corrigan Maguire (who was prevented from entering the country with the delegation and deported by Israeli authorities), founded the Nobel Women for Peace Initiative to bring their experiences together in a united effort toward peace with justice and equality. It is the goal of these six women, who represent North and South America, Europe, the Middle East and Africa, to help strengthen work being done in support of women s rights around the world.

Members of the coalition (including Isha l Isha, Kayan Feminist Organization, Aswat and the Rape Crisis Center) introduced their organizations and talked about their efforts to promote equality for women in Israel. Women from Isha LIsha shared their work to open the discussion of security and broaden its definition to include financial, environmental, and civil aspects, in addition to security from sexual offenses. They said that Israel has a single, narrow definition of security that serves state interests and is based on fear. Another representative spoke to the delegation of a group of women who daily monitor ten checkpoints in order to remind soldiers that Palestinians are indeed human beings. A third woman expressed that the conflict is extremely complex and said that we need to be discussing the reality of it. She shared that her own son is in the military and mentioned that young Israelis have been imprisoned for their choice to conscientiously object to military service.

The women opened up to one another, sharing their stories, feelings, passions and frustrations. Shirin of Kayan Feminist Organization highlighted the coalition as an excellent example of listening and coexistence in Israel. A very young age, the women from Haifa said, Israelis are told that they face a threat of extermination, a message which serves to silence all criticism. Israelis, they said, are told: We were weak and we will never allow ourselves to be like that again. The women expressed concern about the international community holding its own solutions; the conflict, they said, is perceived as black and white though in reality it is not. When delegates of the Nobel Women for Peace Initiative asked how they could promote peace in Israel, the women of the coalition requested they work to end U.S. support of Israel. Without U.S. money, they said, Israel could not sustain the occupation. Delegates of the initiative also consulted the Haifa peace activists about defining Israel as an Apartheid State, the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions movement and what they could do to help gain support from the international community.

Also present in the meeting were Cindy and Craig Corrie, parents of Rachel Corrie, an American peace activist killed in Gaza by an Israeli military bulldozer in 2003. The Corries are in Israel to participate in civil court hearings regarding their daughter s case. Cindy shared her journey to seek justice for Rachel and said that since the death of their daughter, she and her husband had been working to "promote peace and raise awareness about the plight of Palestinians," a continuation of what they believe to have been their daughter s work. After the meeting, I reached to Cindy and told her that eventhough she lost Rachel, she had gained many daughters around the world that share the same passion as her daughter and that if she were alive, (she would be around my age) probably we would have met here.

Cindy Corrie shared her experiences with Israeli women

The meeting was quite empowering, with women citizens of Israel communicating their needs. It was a meeting where women reached women, learned from each other experience and most importantly, were present in solidarity with the goal of amplifying women s voices for peace.

Saturday, October 2, 2010

(Un) Holy Water and some facts you should know

On Thursday, I woke up early to head to my next destination: Tiberias. Tiberias is a city on the western shore of the Sea of Galilee, Lower Galilee, Israel. Established in 20 CE, it was named in honor of the emperor Tiberius a town in the Galilee. Much of the ministry of Jesus occurred on the shores of Lake Galilee. The gospels describe how Jesus recruited four of his apostles from the shores of Lake Galilee: the fishermen Simon and his brother Andrew and the brothers John and James. One of Jesus' famous teaching episodes, the Sermon on the Mount, is supposed to have been given on a hill overlooking the lake. Many of his miracles are also said to have occurred here including his walking on water, calming the storm, and his feeding five thousand people (in Tabgha). The first-century historian Flavius Josephus was so impressed by the area that he wrote, "One may call this place the ambition of Nature." Josephus also reported a thriving fishing industry at this time, with 230 boats regularly working in the lake.

Locals and Others enjoying the "Beach"

Lake Kinneret is the largest freshwater lake (yes, LAKE) in Israel, and it is approximately 53 km (33 miles) in circumference, about 21 km (13 miles) long, and 13 km (8 miles) wide. The lake has a total area of 166 km², and a maximum depth of approximately 43 m (141 feet). At 209 meters below sea level, it is the lowest freshwater lake on Earth and the second-lowest lake in the world (after the Dead Sea, a saltwater lake). The lake is fed partly by underground springs although its main source is the Jordan River which flows through it from north to south.

Views from a cemetery, where I stopped to take a break from my biking mission

More views from another beach....

I rented a bike and went to the south, bordering the lake for about 9 km. I visited the site where Jesus was believed to be baptized; it is called the Yardenit, in the Jordan River. It was very quiet in the beginning. Some people were swimming in the river. I sat there for a while, to rest from my unprecedented biking marathon (at least for me it was). I was observing the people and the power of people’s faith. Some come to be baptized for the first time and some to renew their baptism.

A group renewing their baptism in the Jordan River

View from the Jordan River

More views of Lake Kinneret/Sea of Galilee

I want to include a little here on the geopolitics of the Jordan River. The information is taken from a report by Palestine Hydrology Group from 2007/2008: “Water for Life”. The Jordan River is a vital natural resource in the region that extends over 300 km from its headwaters at the Golan Heights all the way down to the Dead Sea. The Jordan River is the embodiment of a large web of tributaries originating in Lebanon and Syria. It descends southwards pouring water into Lake Hula (drained by Israel and used as agricultural land), Lake Tiberias and finally the Dead Sea. Today the recession of the Dead Sea attests to the human caused ecological catastrophe inflicted on the Jordan River due to the over-exploitation of its water. Israel, Jordan, Lebanon, and Syria have contributed to the current water level decrease by the extensive abstraction and/or diversion of flow from Tiberias, Yarmouth River , Hasbani and Banias respectively through the installation of dams and catchment reservoirs. However, Israel’s excessive exploitation of the Jordan Basin is unquestionably the chief cause of its current depletion and pollution. Despite the fact that over 90% of the Jordan Basin fall within the borders of neighboring Arab countries, Israel currently abstracts around 58.33% of its water, while Jordan, Syria, Lebanon and Palestine have the following abstraction rates: 25.76%, 12.12%, 0.38%b and 0% respectively. (NWC, 2005)

Me just soaking my feet in the Jordan River after thoughtful analysis.....

With the occupation of the West bank and the Gaza Strip, Palestinians lost all shares of the Jordan River even though the whole of the east aquifer falls within the borders of the West Bank. It is estimated that only 3% of the Jordan River’s Basin falls within Israel’s pre-1967 borders. Prior to this Israeli seizure of the basin waters, Palestinian farmers relied on it in supplying their agricultural needs. The Applied Research Institute-Jerusalem (ARIJ) estimates that the annual consumption prior to the occupation reached 30Mcm through the pumping of 150 wells, which were immediately destroyed or taken over in the first days of the occupation.

So, knowing this information, and the level of pollution of the river, it lost its magic a little bit for me. I just immersed my feet and that was it. I enjoyed observing the people and the rituals and the faith with which they came. I wish the Israeli government could put some facts like this around the site, so people knew what is really going on in this “Holy Place” where they come with so much illusion. They could also do it in Jerusalem, to put some facts about house demolitions and house evictions, so the pilgrims that come from all over the world also left with some sense of the real situation and the facts on the ground.

Coming back into Tiberias after 18 km....I am proud that I am still alive

Welcome to the Womens Club in Arrabeh Village, 09-30-10--Galilee, Israel

We were welcomed in the village of Arrabeh, by five wonderful women. It is a Palestinian village in the Galilee in Israel, one hour away from Haifa. The majority of its 20,000 inhabitants are Muslim. There, we had a meeting with women of the village that have been organizing and gathering now for 2 years. Their group was born out of an empowerment course that was sponsored by Kayan. We heard how their lives were changed after they participated in this group. The women, mothers, wives and now active part of the community, told us how hard is for women to come out of the house and become active.

Two women from the Arrabeh womens group

One of the women told us how, before Kayan's workshop, she had never been out of the house, always busy with her 7 children. “It was hard to get out of the house. Women are not used to get out and participate and volunteer outside of house. It took a while because of the 7 children. I came to make my friend happy. But after some lectures I was convinced by the topics, they were very interesting. They strengthened my personality, gave me self-confidence, I found something to dress up. The way I talked to people changed, after the empowerment training, I was able to convince my husband. The entire village now knows about the group” says the woman.

Reem one of the community organizers from Kayan, which provides support to the group

The women were clear that keeping the group together was not an easy process, but they were able to gain the respect of people. There were internal problems that almost caused the group to break up, but at the end they overcame them. One of the women, one of the few Christians in the village, got a call from one of the religious leaders of the village to address the women’s group discuss strategies to talk to the authorities. This shows that their work with the community has made them gain the respect of other community leaders, crossing the religious borders.

Another woman said “I knew that the work was serious, and I was going to get something important for myself. I dedicated my life to my children and now I wanted something for myself. I needed the empowerment course”. As the conversation moved on, women started to open up and share more personal things. One of them shared that she wanted to become a nurse, but she saw her dream shattered by the fact that women are not allowed to go out of the house, so she quit school because what was the point of finishing high school if there was no option to go to university. Now, she says, she regrets. Now, she is encouraging her daughters to complete their education, because she now knows the importance of it. She wants to raise her children to have opportunities, like she didn’t have. She now is working on finishing high school and getting her diploma. It is basic to get any job, here in Israel.

The women from Arrabeh were very happy to share their experiences with us, in English and Arabic

As the women started to meet after the empowerment course, they started to assess the needs of the women in the community. They realized that despite the age, the women’s needs were the same; they had the same frustrations, the problem of restriction, and the same concern across all ages.

The women organized an event and went to the neighborhood to invite people personally. It was a very important event for them because every woman had the opportunity to stand on the microphone and speak about what the group did for them. They were not sure if the people on the village will come and they were nervous. They put up 300 chairs for the event and Rafah, Kayan’s community organizer was a little skeptical and told them to remove some of the chairs. After 15 minutes, people started to show up, and all the chairs that they took out, they had to put them back. The event was a complete success. The women are very thankful to Kayan, for giving them the space to think and plan on their own.

Now their challenge is to achieve more at the local level with the authorities, their next project is to find a space to have a women’s center. They want a place for them, to meet, to have programs. Now, they do lectures and programs, but is very challenging to find a place that suits their needs. They want to offer courses like Hebrew, computer skills for the women and even First Aid.

The women’s stories were powerful and spoke to the heart. They also spoke of the realities of other women in this village and many other villages that Kayan is working. It shows that is possible to change the realities on the ground, step by step. It just takes a group of women that believe that change is possible and that are willing to take responsibility. Lastly, there was one question about when will there be elected women involved in politics in Arrabi, and although there was some skepticism, some women ventured to say that maybe 10, 15 years. These women are an inspiration to me and show me the real face of the struggle. They give me some hope when I think that it is impossible to change this very complex situation. I hope to come back to Arrabeh, if they have another meeting while I’m here!!!! There was such a positive energy here today……

These women are an inspiration and show what women are capable of doing when they are empowered and working together

An Unexpected Meeting--Nazareth, Israel

Pilgrims looking at the grotto, where Mary was believed to have received the news from the angel

It is amazing how small the world is. When I was in one of the workshops, in a village next to Nazareth, I went to meet the family of a friend that I met last year at UConn. Who would have thought that I will be here, in a workshop 5 minutes away from her home. I had contacted my friend, and told her that I would be around and she put me in touch with her sister. I was received as another daughter and invited to sleep there, and next day I had breakfast with her grandmother, and great grandmother. They felt as if they knew me because they saw pictures of me and my friend together. Her grandma told me the story about how they escaped to Jordan after the war and they lived there for some years and they returned back to their original village in Yaffa, near Nazareth (there is another Jaffa near Tel Aviv), got married and stayed there until now. I came back after work and stayed another night and then next day went to visit Nazareth. There I visited the Church of the Annunciation, with its lantern dome. It is believed to be Mary’s home where the archangel Gabriel announced the birth of Jesus. It is a huge Basilica with beautiful mosaics of the Virgin Mary inside and outside the church. Inside the mosaics depict the Annunciation, outside they portray the Madonna and the child. The mosaics come from all over the world, from Latin America to Asia. There was one particularly beautiful, it was the Virgin Mary, portrayed in the Asian style of paintings, it was from Thailand. It just shows that there are no boundaries for faith.

Mosaic of the Maddona and the Child from Thailand

Another mosaic from Dominicam Republic
After that I walked through the suq (local market) into the Greek Orthodox Church of St. Gabriel, which stands over the town’s ancient source of water. The layout is completely different to a catholic church. The original church was built there on the logic that the Annunciation story in the Bible mentions Mary filling a pitcher with water, and this was the only source of water in Nazareth at the time. Hence, the orthodox believe that this was the spot where Gabriel appeared. There were beautiful icons inside the church and at the end is the spring or Mary’s Well.

Greek Orthodox Church of the Annunciation

View from the Well into the Church

Mary's Well, the Orthodox believe this to be the place of the annunciation

I came back to Jaffa and later, I went with Rosaline to Mount Tabor (Jebel Tur in Arabic). This is the Mount of the Transfiguration. We wanted to visit the church but we got there half an hour late. I saw the Franciscan Friars far inside the garden and I called one of them. I told him that I came from Puerto Rico and that if it was possible to get in even though the church was closed. He said that it was close already and that he didn’t have the keys. I started talking to him, and to my surprise, he was from Argentina. He said that they were an international community that served there and that there were brothers from Mexico and other places in Latin America. We talked for more than 15 minutes, I was telling him about my experience here in the Holy Land and my frustration with the conflict here. After a while, he said that he will go and check if he can find the person with the keys. And he came back and opened for me and my and Rosaline. She was also very happy, since she was kind of sad that the church was closed, but it actually wasn’t. The Franciscan father, showed us around and gave us all the details of the construction of the church, which was rebuilt after several destructions by the Persians and the Muslims. He read to me the passage from the transfiguration from the Bible and I was really touched and felt really blessed for that special moment. After some being inside the church, we went out and the beautiful moon was smiling at us from the side of the church. I felt a sense of incredible peace and happiness for that gift. The priests walked us out through the beautiful gardens and we left the sacred mountain.
Basilica of the Transfiguration

Mount Tabor (Mount of the Transfiguration)

This is another mount, the mount of precipice, where Jesuss was believed to have jumped, not sure of the reference....

After, we went to Nazareth Illit, the Jewish Nazareth, we sat and looked over the whole panorama of Jerusalem. You could see all the neighborhoods. At was a nice, open space, just to relax and sit. Nazareth Illit is a new town, on a hill, like all Israeli towns, owning the stunning views and being away from the Palestinian towns and villages….After we went to a café called Greg, is like a franchise serving coffee and amazing deserts, We had a cheesecake and some other chocolate desert with white chocolate….It was a long time that I didn’t have this kind of treat for myself. Thanks Rosaline, we had a great evening!!!

Enjoying a treat with Rozaline