There has been rain and the Galilean countryside is beautiful. Grass is green, cactus trees blooming, and Hibiscus, Roses, Poinsetta trees, Coreopsis, Rosemary bushes, oranges, lemons. We went this morning to Kafer Kana, to visit the women of Sindyanna of Galilee. They are a women-led  cooperative started at first to produce olive oil from a new organic olive oil grove on reclaimed land in northern Israel. They seek to help growers and producers from the Palestinian Occupied Territories. They are still producing olive oil, as well as many other products from local materials. And, they are teaching the women how to make baskets – first out of rattan, and then with reeds from the date palm trees. This gives the women jobs and friendships with their neighbors – neighbors they wouldn’t have known otherwise. This cooperative is a cooperative in another way: the women are both Jew and Arab.

We were fortunate to meet these women, learn about their work and get to know them a little. They fixed us a fabulous lunch of the foods they share with their families – humous, a couscous and lentil dish, eggplant and tomatoe, pita bread, the best tabouli any of us had ever  eaten, followed by coffeee with cardamom. We shared with them some Oklahoma recipes and photos of our wildflowers.

In the afternoon, we traveled further north, within a few miles of Lebanon, to visit the ruins of Bir’am. We had all read the book Blood Brothers, by Rev. Elia Chacour, who lived with his family in Bir’am and was 7 years old when the residents were told to leave their town temporarily but were never allowed to return. Our guide at Bir’am was Tommy, also a resident. He was 21 years old in 1948 when the families were ordered to leave the town. He is now 85 years old and as he stood in the ruins of the school he attended, he told us he still sees his teacher’s face when he stands there.

It is a quiet place, a beautiful place, at a high point on a hill. There is an ancient synagogue, in ruins long before 1948. Piles of rumbled rocks lay around arched doorways and old trees. Tommy unlocked one intact building – an Eastern Orthodox Church. We were shocked when we stepped inside. It is still being used as a church. Once a week, the former residents of Bir’am return to worship.

We returned to Nazareth for the night. (We were here last night, to see fireworks and candlelit lanterns floating in the sky.) We arrived as Earth rolled up and the sun was a distinct orange and red ball. We’ve been enjoying the full moon – the same one (silly to say, but somehow profound) that rises above Turtle Rock Farm.

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(Pat is blogging from Palestine/Israel, where she is on a pilgrimage with other Oklahoma United Methodist Volunteers in Mission, guided by Rev. Kristen Brown, of Tahlequah, Oklahoma, who serves as a United Methodist Missionairy, a Methodist Liaison to Palestine and Israel, in Beit Sahor, West Bank.)