Last Thursday, most Palestinian schools and businesses closed in solidarity with the Palestinian prisoners’ strike. On Friday, the day of prayer for Muslims, more businesses than usual stayed shut. Violence did erupt in some areas, sadly. There were a lot of soldiers at the end of our street as that area, where the roads for the Damascus Gate and Lion’s Gate meet, can be a flashpoint. Mercifully, all was calm there.

Beginning Sunday night, Israel observed Memorial Day; May 1st was Labor Day for the Palestinians. Many Israelis observed a minute of silence when the air raid siren went off at 11 AM Monday morning. Beginning Monday night, through sundown Tuesday, it is Independence Day, the 69th anniversary of Israeli statehood. Most Jewish businesses are closed today and parks are full of grilling meat kebabs and playing children. The Israeli Air Force did two fly-overs midday and Israeli  flags are everywhere.

The Tomb of Herod’s family in the park.













Yesterday, we took the light rail along with a lot of Israeli citizens and soldiers on their way to Memorial Day ceremonies at Mount Hertzl. We went the other direction from that point and bussed over to the synagogue at Hadassah hospital. While waiting for the ceremony in there to end so we could see the Chagall windows, we explored the shopping center, complete with grocery store, inside the hospital! That was a first, for sure.

The Chagall windows are stunning. There are twelve of them, each one representing one of the Tribes of ancient Israel.

Hadassah hospital synagogue: Chagall windows

What a treat it was to see them in context and we had the place to ourselves after a group from Argentina left.
















Hadassah hospital in the background

We then hiked from the hospital on the top of the ridge down the valley into Ein Kerem, the traditional home of John the Baptist. Ein Kerem is a cross between Davenport, CA and Eldorado Springs, CO minus the water. Lots of flowers and some lovely ceramicists live in houses along narrow streets and alleys. 













































We also visited the Church of St. John the Baptist that includes the grotto marking his traditional birthplace.

X marks the spot of John’s birth!


All blue-and-white tiles.












Tiles in many language of the Benedicamus.











Riding home in another full train along Jaffa Street, we saw lots of flags and banners, and throngs of people preparing to party. We heard music and fireworks later in the evening from the guest house courtyard.  Around midnight, Israeli youth under armed guard, came marching down the Via Dolorosa and through the Muslim quarter chanting loudly. These are provocative marches that imply ownership and dominance. As I mentioned above, today things are more “family cook-out” focused and the streets have a Shabbat emptiness to them.

An Orthodox Jewish man and Jaffa Street decorations

All the Palestinians are having a normal work day. It is interesting to be in a “two state” holiday situation, one group celebrating and the other mourning while working a regular shift. We have learned a lot in our time here, to say the least.

Two Men Arguing by Jakob Pins













Shalom and good night!