In the dark and sickening days of the Gaza-Israel war (Hamas-Israeli conflict), it is good for me to remember being in the Holy Land with pilgrim-teachers, and laughing, eating, drinking, smoking and dancing with our friends.
In Madaba, Jordan, our friends (and their family and their friends) took us out drinking and dancing one Saturday night. They wanted to feed us with an evening feast of salads and meats and vegetables and on and on and on, but we had eaten dinner just an hour before they came to the hotel and dragged us off to the third floor restaurant overlooking the roundabout at the town’s center.
Singing and clapping and dancing, Americans and Jordanians, all believing Christians, under a spinning ball reflecting colored light onto the floor and our clothes and our faces! A local priest and a college professor each took the microphone away from the keyboard player that they had hired for our evening’s entertainment, so that they could sing some of their favorite Arabic dance tunes.
At the tables new wine bottles kept appearing as others kept disappearing. Nuts and humus were abundant, and, of course, there was the required hookah (water pipe) with its gentle, flavored (and legal!) tobacco.
And to Taybeh a few of us went to visit the brewery owned by our Palestinian Christian friends. For the sake of perspective, the village of Taybeh is but a few miles from the Qalandia Israeli military checkpoint where the most extensive and violent clashes between Israeli soldiers and Palestinian youth have taken place in the West Bank. Members of the family that own and operate the brewery welcomed us, spread out appetizers and offered us a taste of as many of their beers as we liked, while walking us on tour and explaining the challenges of running a business in the West Bank that requires a regular supply of water.
I left the brewery with two cases of beer, twelve bottles each of their four most popular beers: dark, amber, golden and their yet-to-go-public “white” beer.
It lightens my heart to remember that our pilgrimage was not all pray, but included some play.