We had a wonderful walking tour of the old city this morning. Our guide is an Armenian who lives in the Armenian quarter of the Old City. He gave us a brief intro, then we walked through all four quarters of the Old City – Armenian, Jewish, Christian and Muslim. What amazed me was how as we wandered through the back streets, it would be so quiet, then come out to the streets leading to one of the gates, and there were vendors and people everywhere. We spent a short time at the Western wall (wailing wall). It was crowded, with several bar mitzvahs occuring on the men’s side, with the women watching over a fence. We visited the Garden of Gethsemane, the Church of the Holy Seplechure – but mostly walked around and took in the widely varying atmosphere of the different quarters. For instance, in the Muslim quarter, music is played in the streets all the time, so that the settlers won’t be tempted to try to move in. Gave that area a very different atmosphere.

We also spent time in the afternoon at a home that had been demolished four times and rebuilt after each demolition. The family owns the land, but since the Israeli government does not permit Palestinians to build without a permit (and permits are never granted), the government issues a demolition order for each structure built without permits. This man and his family tried three times (taking close to five years and $15,000) to get a permit. They finally went ahead and built. The government has used his house as an example, by demolishing it each time they finish building and move in. The house is now used as a peace center, a place for people to come, learn and discuss. The thing that struck me was the family. No feelings of revenge, just an overwhelming desire to be able to build on their own land, live in their own house and have their rights respected. Just amazing…..

Tomorrow we will be in Ramallah.

News Muse note: Beth Sullivan is the bookkeeper for DisciplesWorld and has served as board member of the United Christian Missionary Society and the Disciples Divinity House at the University of Chicago. Sullivan is visiting Middle Eastern holy sites on a trip with her alma mater, Earlham College, located in Richmond, Ind.