Under an early morning hazy sky, we leave the hills of Nazareth passing through flat, lush farmland on our way to Samaria. On the roadway, we pass through an Israeli checkpoint, a constant reminder of the ongoing tensions between the Israelis and the Palestinians.
Our first stop of the day is the small village of Burqin. It is a bit off the beaten path but well worth the detour. Our objective is to visit St George’s Church, a Byzantine Greek Orthodox Church, the fourth oldest church in the world, and the church home of the 70 remaining Christians living in Burqin.
We meet with the caretaker, Marin, who shares with us the history of this lovely stone church sprinkled with icons around the altar. Marin points to a small alcove, which was a cistern during the Roman times and the location where the ten lepers resided who called to Jesus to be healed.
Our next stop is Nablus, also known as Shecum in Biblical times and referenced frequently in the Bible. This is the location where Abraham first set up his altar in the Promised Land, the place where Jacob settled and built a well and where Jesus met the Samaritan woman at the well, asking for a drink of water. Nablus is the home of St Photina, a Greek Orthodox monastery, which is built over Jacob’s well. We watched as fellow pilgrims from St John’s, Europe and Korea joined one another in drinking from the well.
Our last stop of the day is Taybeh, also known as Ephraim in Biblical times. Jesus and his disciples took refuge here after raising Lazarus from the dead and before Jesus’s march to Jerusalem. Taybeh is the only remaining 100% Christian stronghold in Palestine and home to Greek Orthodox, Roman Catholic, and Greek Catholic Churches. Members of these churches gather on select holy days at the ruins of the Church of St George, built by Constantine and his mother St Helen, to make animal sacrifices giving the sacrificed meat to the poor.
Today has been yet another reminder of how we seek Christ, each in our own way, but always united in love.
1, Entrance into St. George’s Church Burqin, the fourth oldest church in the world
2. Interior of St. George’s Church, Burqin
3. Jesus healing of the 10 lepers
4. Interior of St. Photoni Church in Nablus
5. Jacob’s well at St. Photoni Church in Nablus
6. Ruins of St. George’s Church in Taybeh