10:06 pm

Steps – 12,968
Miles – 5.52

Well, I am not off to a very good journaling start tonight.  We had an amazing Lebanese meal tonight – and celebrated Debbie Munns birthday.  Then I packed (twice).  Everyone signed a card this morning for our driver (which I hoped to give to him in the morning), but I have lost it.  So I packed.  Unpacked.  Repacked.  Still haven’t found it.  Oh well, he won’t get a card (just the tip, which I have yet to misplace).  Then I forgot about doing a Back Page, so I had to get that done just now.  So I can start the journal and try to stay awake long enough to make some sense out of it.

Today was our last day in Israel, and we spent it in Samaria.  It’s really a great day of touring.  Andre says he only gets to go once or twice a year – so he loves it.  Nice to keep him happy!  But it’s a great day. After the exhaustion of Jerusalem, it was great to be on a bus once again.  The drive north through the land of Benjamin and beyond is just stunning.  The history and geography come together in an amazing tapestry of life.  The Story of God told in the hills and valleys of Samaria is breathtaking.  It was a bit on the cloudy side the farther north we got, but that cooled things off a tad.

Our first stop was Shiloh.  I love to stop at Shiloh and I wasn’t sure we would get to stop, but we did.  Andre guided this time around which was nice.  It could streamline things a bit.  The movie at Shiloh is very, very well done.  You sit looking through 12 panes of glass at the current site of the Tabernacle at Shiloh.  Then as the movie starts it fades back and forth telling the story of Shiloh with acting and with the life view behind.  It is just emotional and well done.  Eli. Hannah.  Samuel.  It gives you chills.

Then on to Samaria – the tel called Sebastia.  This is one of the cities of Herod – as well as the capital of the northern kingdom.  The ruins are not all that well cared for.  We are in the Palestinian Authority.  But it was a nice visit – followed by the best lunch of the trip.  It is a typical Palestinian meal.  Salads and stuff.  And the best large flat bread ever.  Oh yes, it all started with a wheat soup that was the best of the trip (and some thought the best in their lives).  It was a wheat soup that was delicious.   Then chicken served on another large piece of bread with spices.  It was just a huge treat.  Easily the best lunch of the trip.  Of course in a few hours we would have the best meal of the trip.

After lunch we had three quicker stops.  The first at Tel Balata – ancient Shechem.  It is not a large site and is in the middle of an industrial area.  Not at all like anything we have seen on the trip. It is not well maintained, but it does have some interesting biblical ruins.  Abraham came through the Eastern gate on his arrival in The Land (Genesis 12).  In the days of Joshua they made a covenant in Shechem and erected a stone outside a temple, both seem to still be standing.  Interesting stuff.

Then we went to see Jacob’s Well.  It’s the same well as mentioned in John 4, the woman at the well.  This is that well.  The Greek Orthodox church is lovely actually.  And we got to meet the priest who has overseen all the construction and the art in the church.  He’s 77 and facing open heart surgery next week.  But he was around.  He’s done a great job.  I think we all drank some water for that well and then headed out again.

We then drove up Mt. Gerizim.  I’ve driven up before, but it’s always been closed so we couldn’t get out of the bus.  As you arrive at the top of the mountain you drive through a Samaritan village, the only one in the world I think.  It is actually a nice neighborhood and well kept up.  We drove by the place where they do their Passover sacrifices.  Real ones, by the way.  The bus stopped and we got out.  Well, Andre got out and forgot to yell “yalla” at us – so we just sat there for a while wondering what to do.  But as he walked away, we figured it out.

It was a gentle walk around the top of the hill to a viewpoint.  We could see the church and the ruins that we had just visited.  We could see the way Abraham came and the way to the Jordan (same route I think).  It’s a powerful spot and a great way to get one last look at the land of Samaria.

Back to the bus for the 45 minute drive back to our hotel.  There was some Italian bike race today in Jerusalem, so we couldn’t park where we usually do.  There was some chaos in the day as a result.  But it is moving to Haifa tomorrow, so all should be normal for Jerusalem.

We had an hour to clean up and get ready for our night at the Ambassador Hotel, where a lovely Lebanese dinner awaited us.  It was delicious as always.  That’s a highlight meal on every trip to Israel.  A fitting conclusion to a great few weeks in The Land. 

We came back to pack up (I’m done).  Now we just have to sleep (won’t be hard) so we can be up and out of here by 7:30 am.  Off to the border and in to Jordan in the morning.  The adventure continues….

GILA SIGHTINGS:  For those keep track, there were two more GILA SIGHTINGS today.  The first as we were leaving the Old City and walking to the bus, she was bringing her group into the Old City. And then, shockingly, as I was entering the Ambassador Hotel, she was leaving with her group.  I almost said hello, but she was so intent and serious, I just let her walk on by.  I did get a picture this morning.  Not tonight.

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