I woke up early today… to the sound of singing birds. By 7 AM I was reading the Psalms while overlooking hazy Judean hills. At 7:30, the bells from the golden Greek Orthodox church began ringing, echoing through the valley. Another one those surreal moments.
After breakfast, Brother J went through a list of daily cleaning tasks. He’s actually not in charge of volunteers, but is temporarily filling in for Sister C, who is vacationing in Ireland. Brother J is kind and jokes around, and uses an iphone. No, this isn’t an isolated and cloistered House. Aside from the contemplative sisters, the rest wear normal clothing and do normal things. Brother R wears his Brazil jersey, listens to music while pruning the flowers, and takes smoke breaks with gardeners.
There’s a hint of not-rightness here though. A couple of the staff live in Bethlehem, and have to go through check-points every day to come here. It takes one staff about 2-3 hrs, one way. Palestinians rely on work in Israel; yet it’s very difficult for them to find work, get to work, and get paid enough.”This is life,” she says, “what can you do?”
At 1PM there was a operatic concert held in the chapel, which has fantastic acoustics. Not sure how many people came for it, but a few were wandering in areas where they shouldn’t be. This prompted some funny stories about arrogant guests that completely ignore signs, call after hours, and refusing to pay pittance for the use of a garden that’s pricey to keep (water levels are very low this year).
All this to say, that even though I’m staying in a “foreign” place, people are people. I’m thankful that I get to have a more personal connection with locals here, and to hear things from different perspectives.
On Sunday, one of the Sisters will take me to Old Jerusalem and show me how to get around. Without knowing the bus system here, I’m basically house-bound. What used to be a 20 min bus ride has become a confusing trek. The city has been promising to start a tram service between Ein Kerem and Jerusalem, and since then the bus service has been sporadic and unreliable. Or I can walk the 9KM in +30C heat. Hmmm.
Tomorrow I get to clean up after Israeli guests, who are notorious for being dirty and messy. This should be interesting…