Today we are at the Seminary until lunch time for lectures with Bryson on the subject of ‘Theological Issues in the Holy Land’ and then we have the rest of the day to ourselves for quiet reflection. But first there is breakfast. A party of Germans came in yesterday and we want to make sure that we are in the hotel breakfast room before all the food is gone?! A nice Belgian man (who turns out to be English but married to a Belgian) comes over to talk to us. He is with the Belgian group and is concerned that we appear to be all on our own. It is very nice of him, but we assure him that we are o.k. and explain that we are also part of a group but that we have had to come and stay at Villa Nazareth for a few nights for logistical reasons.
We enjoy the shorter walk up to the Seminary … we must be getting fitter … to find Graham preparing to lead our devotional time before Bryson’s first lecture. We like Graham. He is another of these fine young Scottish Ministers that the evangelical wing of the Church of Scotland keep producing. We feel sure that we will hear more of him in the future. Graham leads our devotions sensitively and helpfully … and then hands over to Bryson. We cover a lot of subjects with Bryson. He has a paper to read, but makes the mistake of inviting us to ask questions … so right from the beginning we ply him with all the questions that have been gradually filling our heads as we have gathered various pieces of the jigsaw puzzle that is a picture of Israel-Palestine today. Manfully Bryson manages to somehow get across the point he is wanting to make – although it needs both his lectures to achieve this – that the heart problem of Israel-Palestine is an inadequate doctrine of God. Both the Jews and the Moslems subscribe to a monarchical understanding of the nature of God. Both systems are hierarchical (as their subjugation of women, for example, reveal), and both systems think they are right and everyone else is wrong. Bryson goes on to suggest that, sadly, despite our belief in the Trinity, the Christian Church is also guilty of the same kind of monarchicalism (as evidenced by our western concept of the Trinity portrayed in much of our art). It is all further food for thought as we continue to ponder the true situation here in Israel-Palestine, how to resolve the situation, and what part we can play in this as Christians.
After a yumacious farewell lunch for Allie Jane, a lovely, bright Australian girl who has been helping out at NETS for a couple of months and whom we have all become friendly with, we disperse for a period of quiet reflection. Julia does her ‘quiet reflection’ in the market, and I tag along to make sure she doesn’t buy up Nazareth market lock, stock and barrel! We visit various bag stalls … but (thankfully) Julia cannot find one to her liking. We go back to the scarf stall by the old synagogue where Julia bought a lovely cashmere scarf for only £4.50 last Sunday. The nice Arab man running the stall recognises us. ‘You said you would come back on Tuesday’ he says, ‘and its Tuesday! Come and have a coffee!’ He and I sit in his shop drinking Arabic coffee and chatting – about why we are here in Nazareth, about our families, about football – while Julia looks at endless scarves. Eventually she buys two more – one for her and one for a friend. We have all got on so well together, and kept our promise to come back to his shop, that he gives us a good discount?!
After our market shopping we go back to Villa Nazareth for a a rest before going across the road from out hotel to the posh restaurant, with the basic menu for plebs like us, for dinner. The Belgian group are already there. The staff at the posh restaurant appear to have made more of an effort tonight … we even have romantic candles on our tables. The waiter shows Julia and myself to an intimate table for two, and lights the candle on our table. He goes across to the tables the Belgians are sitting at. He looks at the candles on their tables. He looks at at the Belgians sitting at the tables. There are lots of nuns. He decides that it is not worth lighting the romantic candles that the staff have artfully arranged on the tables, after all, and walks off. We have the various dishes of various salads to begin, and then our waiter brings us the main dish. Tonight we have something we have not had before? It is chicken … and lots of other things as well … hidden in a bowl of rice!?