Well, my friends, it’s my last week in the Holy Land. It doesn’t feel that long ago that I was anxiously waiting to go, with many questions of how my time here would look like. And now I’m looking forward to begin my life in Vancouver once again.
The last few weeks we’ve visited some very interesting places. Along with other volunteers, I went to see the ancient port city of Acre or Akko. Akko Old City is what I had thought the Old City of Jerusalem would be like except with more churches. Perhaps it’s the sea which gives it a more laid-back feel, a bit of calmness and tranquility even though it has seen its share of battles. Napoleon tried to capture it (and failed). Paul of the New Testament visited Akko in his 3rd missionary journey, and so did St Francis of Assisi, and Marco Polo. There were some fairly impressive underground crusader ruins, vestiges of the Hospitallers and Templar Knights.
A few days later, the new volunteer and I went to Qumran, where the Dead Sea Scrolls were found. Having been to Masada, I was slightly underwhelmed, but the ruins of the Essenes community were still intriguing; they tell of how this ascetic religious sect lived (i.e. ritual baths galore). There is speculation that this is where John the Baptist lived before becoming Jesus of Nazareth’s herald.
That left one last site left on my list to see: Caesarea of Maritima. This was Herod’s great port city built in honor of Caesar Augustus. Pontius Pilot resided here, and so did Paul before he was sent to Rome. And thanks to Origen, it was home to a great theological library attracting scholars like Gregory Nazianzus, Basil the Great, and Jerome. Caesarea now is a huge archeological park with undersea ruins, remnants of a hippodrome, and an amphitheatre still in used today.
In fact, while we were there, they were setting up a show – I wondered if was some classical concert or operetta…. turns out it was this.
So disappointed, and a little disgusted.
Traveling aside, I’m sure most of you have heard about the terrorist attack and resulting fighting that’s been going on. Jerusalem is far from the action, and yet not that far. But here in Ein Kerem, it’s life as usual. We still get guests staying over and the work continues. It is strange how people are so used to the conflict – but I don’t think I would ever get used to seeing young people in uniform carrying assault rifles on local buses. Just one of the few reasons why I’m looking forward to coming home….