We had lunch at a new kibutz after our trip to the wailing wall: the Mamat Rachel Kibutz. Good food, as always. Lots of humus, as always. Having not eaten until like 2:30PM the day before, Jace and I both snarfed a ZonePerfect meal bar at like 11AM, and then we ended up eating at like 12:15. How funny! But we were certainly glad not to have waited until so late in the afternoon to get chow.
After lunch, we visited a nature preserve for the olive tree – clearly one of Israel’s natural staples. I don’t know how many times I heard the “olive oil is great for you” speech from our tour guide.
The preserve had at its center a monument built to the olive tree. As monuments go, it’s definitely one of the coolest I’ve ever seen. The whole preserve was a testament to the number 3, being a very significant number in the Judeo-Christian tradition. Basically, they built three giant concrete pillars, at the center of convergence of three paths radiating outward into the preserve, where three different kinds of olive trees were planted. Then, on top of the three pillars, there were also three large olive trees. It was funky cool, and the picture above is really better than a bunch of words describing it.
After we got a chance to check out the monument, we walked over to the west side of the preserve. We sat down in a little mini theater, and looked out over the hill. Our tour guide pointed out that we were looking at Bethlehem, which is now Palestinian-controlled territory, so we weren’t permitted to go there. Later that night, a small group did take a taxi and go to Bethlehem. But I certainly didn’t; nor would I have recommended that they did.
From our perch up on the hill, you could clearly see a fence being built as the potential boundary line between Israel and a future Palestinian state. Our tour guide fully expects that a State of Palestine will be created soon. He didn’t express much remorse on that topic, only that it was necessary to give the Palestinians their own state, because at the rate their population is growing, they would take over Israel in a matter of 100 years.
We also saw the Mound of the Herodium, a fortress that Herod the Great built into the top of a mountain. We didn’t get to visit it in person, which was okay with me (I was interested in focusing on Biblical sites more than historic ones), but it was interesting to talk about Herod’s propensity to build pretty much everything big. This is also the site of Herod’s mausoleum, where he’s buried.
Lastly, one of the group suggested that we sing “O Little Town of Bethlehem”. It was amazing to actually be where the words of songs like that are describing. It wasn’t a deeply spiritually moving experience to sing the song, though, but I think his suggesting it was strategic in that it continued to expose our secular Jewish tour guide to the things of Jesus.