Kafr Manda is a sizeable Arab village in Western Galilee and is home to a basketry project, in which 9 Arab women, the oldest 53 and the youngest 22, weave baskets. In doing so, they keep alive an ancient craft. The project is run by Sindyanna, a fair trade organisation, which works mostly with the Arab community, but which seeks to promote co-existence between the different groups in Israeli society. In fact, the next basketry course will have 10 participants, 5 Arab and 5 Jewish women, which I find exciting. Even as it is, the workforce is mixed. The project seeks to empower the women, providing them with employment and thereby with money, but also giving them a space away from their home environment where they can chat and share problems. The baskets themselves are works of art, all individual. Needless to say, I bought two for the church in Tiberias! The women also make lunch for groups, so anyone planning a trip to the Holy land should consider stopping off there!
The Monday night of Holy Week – but also this year the beginning of Passover (or Pesach, in Hebrew). I had been invited, along with two friends from Scotland, to the Seder meal at Kinneret kibbutz just south of Tiberias. It was a wonderful experience, with over 300 people of all ages gathered in the kibbutz dining hall. This was the 96th time the Seder had been celebrated at Kinneret, and different families had their own bits of the ‘liturgy’ to read, as the story of the Exodus and the liberation of the Israelites from Egypt was recited. All this was interspersed with singing led by a band of musicians. The walls were also decorated by paintings by one of the artists from the kibbutz, using the ‘Exodus’ theme.
I found it an incredibly moving experience and was struck by a sense of continuity with the past, both immediately (some of the readings were read by children of the first settlers on the kibbutz), but also realising that this meal had been celebrated for all these centuries. I was also struck by the strong sense of community and oneness on the kibbutz. As a Christian, I could identify strongly with the Passover, whose message of liberation from oppression has meant so much to churches throughout the world.
The scouts are an interdenominational group in the Arab town of Reine, and their band beat the drums and led the procession with banners at the Palm Sunday procession, where we moved from the Anglican church (our partners) to the Melkite (Greek Catholic) church to the Latin (Roman Catholic) church, waving our palms and olive branches. A meaningful occasion!
On Thursday, we will hold our feet-washing and communion service, while on Good Friday we will have a series of meditations, as we move around the hotel garden and down to the church, remembering all the events of the day. A dawn service and communion on top of the Migdal in the hotel garden on Easter morning will be the culmination of our activities.
I hope and pray that Easter will be a blessed and meaningful time for all of you, wherever you may be.