Then a taxi to Jacob’s Well Church, where we hear the story of the Greek Orthodox priest who was killed by settlers whilst he defended his church. Walk up to Tell Balata, prehistoric Nablus, a wonderful ruin, still needs more excavating. Next we visit Ayesha and her family; she shows us various items, including a wonderful calendar that she and her women’s group make from recycled fabrics.
Tuesday October 22nd
Early 0700 breakfast. We start walking, mostly along ‘strada bianca’ and through olive groves, we can see illegal settlements on hill tops around us. We walk to an archaeological site, Jabal Awurma, below it we go down to the remains of a Roman cistern. We have a tea break and Habib makes a small fire and boils a kettle. On the hillside opposite us we see some new terracing and a structure that Nedal tells us is an underground water store, the whole area has been re-terraced and is part of ‘the resistance’ to prove that the land is still farmed. After lunch we continue our walk, we see flights of chukar, a sort of partridge. As we walk along a ridge we can see down into the Jordan valley, a rich and potentially fertile land, but with only limited farming because of the water restrictions imposed by Israel and also less water in the river due to damning further up the river. Beyond an IDF camp we can just see the Jordan River and the hills beyond.
Wednesday October 23rd
It is hotter than the previous day and there is no wind at all. An Israeli jeep pulls up and a very young soldier gets out, Nedal speaks to him in English, the soldier doesn’t seem sure, but thinks we are settlers, so he warns us to be careful and we carry on. On the way to the springs at Ain Samia, we pass a Bedu encampment, lots of small tents and herds of goats and sheep. We see the remains of an old aqueduct. Next to the water treatment plant is a tree nursery; we sit in the shade and have our picnic. One of the men working there gives us an impromptu concert, a very old type of singing which is supposed to have originated in El Andulus. Wonderful. We then go to our homestay in Kufr Malek, it is a palace, the ground floor is two old houses knocked together with an enormous upper floor. We all sit up stairs and chat, the oldest daughter has good English and is very confident. Our host and I talk about hijab. Brigitta has a wonderful time with all the children. Then another woman comes round and we talk about their women’s coop, how they persuaded the town council (which used to be all men, but not anymore!) to support them.
Thursday October 24th
Early start again. A lovely walk along a valley, stop in an olive grove for a break and talk to some students who are busy olive picking. Arrive at Taybeh about 1130. First we have a tour round the brewery; we are taken round by Maria, the very elegant wife of the owner, a Greek-American married to a Palestinian. They have no water five days out of seven, it was even worse in August. Today they are making 0% alcoholic beer. Our next visit is to St. George’s Orthodox Church, where we see old Byzantine mosaics. The church is unusual in that it is decorated in Arabic script. Then lunch with an elderly Greek Catholic family, maklubah and salad, then very sweet cakes. Afterwards we explore the ruined crusader church, built on the ruins of a much earlier church; it is absolutely fascinating and has been in use quite recently, even though it is in ruins. We find a trap door leading to a crypt. The taxi then arrives to take Brigitta to Jerusalem, and us to Beit Sahour.