Wednesday, 13 January 2010

Christmas Part Two!

Christmas seems never to end here! Last week, on 7th January, the Orthodox Christmas was celebrated, and I attended the service at Sakhnin. It was held in a new church they are building (memories of Zambia!), and they needed it, as I would estimate 350 people attended of all ages. Quite something, as technically it was a working day. It was a lesson in fashion, as everybody seemed to be in sharp suits and figure-hugging dresses. I felt distinctly informal in my sports jacket. Black was the predominant colour for both sexes. The service lasted for hours, but, as in Zambia, people were arriving at any time. After communion, everyone rushed to the back for the most wonderful cakes, leaving the poor priest finishing the service alone.

I was touched over Christmas and New Year by all the greetings of ‘Hag sameach’ or ‘Kol aam oul ento bkheer’ (happy holiday) by Jews and Moslems, and one of my high points was to receive a Christmas gift from Moshe and Tareq, two of the members of the hotel staff – one Jew and one Moslem (a plate with a picture of Santa and Rudolf in the snow. It is still up, while the other decorations have been taken down).

Another high point was being invited to the Baptist Church Christmas party in Haifa. Along with the bible quizzes (fortunately I was not part of a team, as I would have done very badly), there was the most wonderful Arab music and then a glorious spread of Arab food. Santa also appeared – and it seems that he plays a big role in the celebration of Christmas in the Arab communities.

At some point over Christmas, Galilee turned green – something to remember in the hot, arid months of summer. Amazingly while Europe freezes, Galilee glows with sunshine. Good for my guests at the weekend – Victor and Blessing from South Africa and Carol from the States, who have just finished the EAPPI programme, accompanying Palestinians on the west bank, as they sought to get through the checkpoints. A very different experience from mine, and I admire them tremendously. They have finished their three month stint, and a new team has just arrived. I feel I can offer hospitality away from their daily tensions.

Wishing everyone a good new year!

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