Israel Day 3

Today was the first full day of touring the Israeli countryside with Dr. Pagan. We started early, 8am and left Jerusalem to head toward Samaria. While driving, trying to get inside Jacob’s Well church, we came across two different checkpoints, neither of which let us through. It is still the Jewish Independence Holiday and some routes are closed off.
Luckily, Dr. Pagan is not affected, he just finds a different route each time. Driving to our destination, we came through several Islamic communities; Mosques and Arabic could be seen everywhere. It was slightly nerve racking at times, but we were never threatened and we ended up safe and sound.
Upon arriving at Jacob’s Well, we entered the church. It was a beautiful, Greek Orthodox building. Snapped some photos and then headed downstairs to the actual well. It is believed that the well, which is not seen by many, was the spot where Jesus spoke to the Samaritan woman. The well is 40 meters deep and surrounded by painting and decorations with the Samaritan woman theme. It was a great experience.
We left Jacob’s Well Church and headed up Mt. Gerizim. On top of this mountain is a Samaritan community, one of two left in the world. Being the larger one, it still has only 450 people. The population is slowly growing, and the men have just been allowed to marry outside the Samaritan community, but only to Russian women. While there, our guide took us to the Samaritan synagogue, where about 170 men worship during the week. I was probably one of the few Christians, if not the first, to step foot inside the synagogue. Removing our shoes was required because it was Holy Ground.
Inside the synagogue, the Samaritans are in possession of three of the oldest, hand-written copies of the Torah, about 150-200 years old. Our guide then took us to an outside location where live animal sacrifices still take place. Several times a year, I believe, about 10,000 people gather in this small, outside area to watch the event.
After, our guide took us to the top of Mount Gerizim. At the top are many large stones, among these are the 12 that the Lord told Joshua to gather. At the peak, you can see all of Samaria and the northern part of Nablus (Sechem). It was a sight to behold and worth the trek.
We left Samaria and entered Bethlehem. Large walls guard the entrance with a checkpoint inspecting the vehicles’s passengers. Bethlehem has a Muslim population as well. We headed to the Nissan Bros. Restaurant, Gift Shop and Factory for lunch. Lunch was a five-course meal with a pita appetizer and about 5 or 6 different “salads” to fill it. These included hummus, tomatoes, artichoke dip, and my favorite, a killer yogurt dip.
After lunch we visited the factory where they make some of the hand-carved figurines and crosses. They do some great work, including a huge, $24,000 wooden carving of a Nativity scene. The shop is filled with wooden sculptures and models, too many to count. Next on the list was the Shepherd’s field. Here, you can go inside several caves where early Christians lived and worshipped. The church there is a small but beautiful building with crazy acoustics. More reverb than you would ever need.
The last stop for the day was the City of David. While this site is still under construction, it’s being built to become a theme-park like place where visitors will ride Segway’s around have lots of activities to do.
At night we came back to the hotel and took some video of EO travelers and their experience in the Holy Land. Everyone was positive about their journey, of course. Quite a lot to cover in one day, and it’s only the first full day or touring…about 15 days to go. Let’s do this.