Journey to the Holy Land – Day 24

November 16, 2010

This is the week of celebrations in Palestine as evidenced by my observations in the past two days.  As I wrote in my blog yesterday, November 15 was the holiday celebration of Palestinian Independence Day.  During my walk that day, nothing I saw would have led me to the conclusion that it was a holiday.  Retail businesses were open, and I only noticed that banks and financial entities had their doors closed.  It was not obvious that people who work for organizations like the HCEF had the day off.

My observations today were much different.  I took a walk to the Bethlehem Museum at 2 p.m. to look at an item that I had photographed on my previous visit.  Actually, my intent had not been to take a picture of this particular item when my camera got the shot of the ancient house.  When I posted the picture on Facebook, my sister-in-law inquired about the object, and I had no idea what it was.  It kind of looked like a coat tree but why would it be outside?

My curiosity got the best of me so I sought out Elaine, the museum director, for the answer.  We walked outside and there it was—just as it appeared in my photo.  Elaine explained that it is the mechanism that was used to bring water up from the cistern below it.  Looking at it from a different angle made all the difference (isn’t this true in many of life’s situations?) so I took some additional pictures to post on Facebook and the mystery is solved.

As I walked up one of the Old Bethlehem streets to get to the museum, I noticed something very strange.  All of the businesses and vendors, which are usually bustling with tourist activity, had their shops closed and shuttered and, other than for a few children, there was no one about. (It made me reflect a bit if this is what Mary and Joseph saw as they entered the City on that Holy Night.)  At first I thought that maybe the shops closed for a midday break but I didn’t remember witnessing that on any of my previous lunch time trips to this area.

I asked Elaine why the shops were closed and she said it is in celebration of the Islam feast of Eid al-Adha (Festival of Sacrifice) which begins on November 16 this year and lasts for three days.  It commemorates Abraham’s sacrifice of his son.  Jews, Christians and Muslims accept this happening on faith.  The disagreement surrounding the event concerns which son Abraham was ready to sacrifice.  The Hebrew Scriptures note that it was Isaac.  The general population of Muslims believes it was Ishmael.  Islamic historians disagree on which son was taken to the sacrificial altar.  But all faiths are in agreement that the point of the scriptures—whether Hebrew or Islamic—is the demonstration of Abraham’s love for God in his willingness to follow the command to sacrifice his son.

Coinciding with this holiday is the journey called the Hajj (annual pilgrimage to Mecca).  World news agencies have been covering this event when millions of Muslims of all races and nationalities make the required “once in their lifetime by every able-bodied Muslim who can afford to do so” journey to Mecca, Saudi Arabia. This journey is the Fifth Pillar of Islam.

In this town of Bethlehem, where the Muslim population is dominant, it is not surprising that the local retail businesses would be closed.  I now also understand why this is a school vacation week for the children.  We could compare this holiday to the U.S. celebration of Christmas where our dominant culture is Christian and for most Americans it is a holiday from work and schools are on vacation.

Until tomorrow, enjoy your sleep and rest well.


Published in: on November 17, 2010 at 4:00 am  Leave a Comment  

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