Tuesday, 27 October 2009


The Shabbat (Sabbath) is the Jewish holy day, and starts from dusk on the Friday till dusk on the Saturday. Shops shut, and traffic grinds to a halt. Often it is the day that families join together for a special meal, so I felt really privileged to be invited to join in a Shabbat meal last Friday. I was invited by Joanna, who is originally from Bristol and my sole full member (!) at St. Andrew’s Galilee. She is married to Lenny, who is originally from Newton Mearns in Scotland, and they live on a kibbutz on the Golan, some 40 minutes away from Tiberias, up a road full of hair-pin bends. They had also invited Mary and Paul, an American couple from the Mid-West living in Tiberias and active in the small Catholic Church.

The meal was like any other meal, I suppose, except at the beginning Lenny put on his kippah (skull-cap) and said a prayer over the bread and then another over wine, which we then ate and drank. Only then, did the meal begin with some liver pate, then chicken soup, etc. I found it deeply moving to be part of such a tradition and, of course, reflected on communion.

Last week, I caught the bus to Jerusalem, where I joined my colleague, George Shand (Minister at St Andrew’s Jerusalem), to attend a meeting of the Lutheran clergy, one of our strong partners, for a Bible Study. Towards the end, the Lutheran Bishop in his pastoral role advised us all to be conscious of how we moved and what we said in Jerusalem. I had been aware that Jerusalem was far more tense than Galilee. The Goldstone report had been published on War crimes in the recent Gaza conflict, and there had considerable disappointment among Palestinians over what they saw as the seemingly soft approach of Mahmoud Abbas (Palestinian President) concerning it. As many Palestinians gathered for Friday prayers at the mosque, there seemed some likelihood of the tensions spilling over into violence, but fortunately the imam had cooled the temperature.

We travelled an hour west of Jerusalem to Lod, once the predominately Arab city of Lydda. Now it is a mixed city, with Israeli Jews in the majority. Many Arabs had to flee their homes in the 1948 Nakba (catastrophe). Here we visited an Anglican school called St George’s (St George was supposed to have come from Lydda or was martyred in Lydda.). The headteacher is Christian, but 99% of the pupils are Moslem, but that doesn’t seem to bother anyone. The human side of people of different faiths living together! I was impressed by their obvious desire to learn, as well as the warmth of their welcome.

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