Tuesday, 22 December 2009

Christmas in Tiberias

Tiberias is one of the lowest places on earth. Coming from Nazareth, there is a sign proclaiming ‘Sea level’, after which the road rather dramatically plunges down about 650ft to the lakeshore. It means that it is often hot and muggy. Last Wednesday was an incredibly clear day, however, and Mount Hermon appeared so visibly to the North, covered with snow. It was so wonderful to look at – an early Christmas present. Certainly to be savoured, as the next few days were horribly dreich – cold, grey and wet!

Tiberias is, of course, a Jewish town, so you have to look very hard for any sign of Christmas (unlike Nazareth, where there are Christmas parades).The Scots Hotel is, however, rather tastefully decorated for Christmas, as are the church and manse – Joanna my elder came with a bootful of holly, ivy and pine-cones. At the church we began our Christmas services with Lessons and Carols on Sunday evening – interesting, as half the congregation were Jewish! On Christmas Eve, we’ll have a carol service, and it will be interesting to see who turns up to that. After it (or after the mulled wine at the end) we’ll join our friends at St Peter’s Fransciscan Church for a meal. There is a new priest who is very keen on ecumenical links. There will be a communion service on Christmas morning.

Christmas is about God’s commitment to humankind, and I continue to be touched by people’s commitment to justice issues. Yesterday I visited Sindyanna, a fair-trade organisation run from Cana in Galilee by a remarkable Jewish woman, Hadas, which seeks to empower the women from the local Arab villages. They market soap from Nablus, as well as local herbs and olive oil. They are also just about to open a visitors’ centre nearby, where women are involved in the most marvellous basketry, talk about their experiences and offer a ‘Palestinian’ lunch. A good place for tours!

Wishing everyone a peaceful and joyful Christmas and a blessed 2010.

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