Augusta Victoria Hospital

Tuesday, August 12, 2008


A typical scene with the Old City of Jerusalem in the background

At one of frequent house demolitions

Leaving families like this one in June without a home.

I received the following email from Pastor Mark Brown, the Regional Representative of the Lutheran World Federation in Jerusalem. It contains his reply to the letter he received from the head of the YWCA in East Jerusalem.

The incident described here has nothing to do with the house demolitions threatened by Olmert as a result of the bulldozer events. It is a depiction of what has been going on in the West Bank for a long time and continues as Israel takes over more and more Palestinian land in its efforts to ethnically cleanse and “redeem their land”.

“Dear Mira:
Thank you and may God bless and keep you. Your account of yesterday's events is heart-wrenching. Thank you for sharing so powerfully the anguish of the Abu Eisheh family and in fact the grief and ongoing trauma of the whole Palestinian people. Please know that your words are an encouragement to me and others not to give up, but in fact to redouble our efforts to struggle against the occupation and all its inherent injustices and for a lasting peace. Please know that you and your family and neighbors are in our thoughts and prayers. I will share your words with various colleagues and friends.
In God’s grace

-----Original Message-----From: Mira Rizeq [] Sent: Tuesday, July 29, 2008 1:50 PM

Dear All

Please read this and share with your colleagues and friends. This morning, our family woke up to screaming voices at 4:00 a.m., and we started looking around and wondering what was happening, but we could not see anything.

So we went up to the roof of the house (our house is 3 stories), and we saw tens of Israeli soldiers, special troops, border police, ambulances, fire department cars, police cars, surrounding Abu Eisheh's house, who is our neighbor, ordering the family to leave the house because they wanted to demolish it.

For almost two hours, the families who live there refused to leave, and soon they were pulled out by force, and some were beaten and had to be taken to the hospital.

For the last few months, this case of Abu Eisheh has been in courts, and the family have taken the case to supreme court few weeks ago, but of course as expected lost the case. The Israeli government decided to demolish the house because it is "illegally" built. This is not the first Palestinian house to be demolished in East Jerusalem , and for sure it won’t be the last. Hundreds of houses have been demolished, claiming that they are built "illegally" when Israel continues to deny issuance of building permits to East Jerusalem Palestinian residents. Most houses where settlements have been built, have been the target for demolishing.
As you all know, the YWCA is also neighboring the Shim'on Essidiq tomb, claimed to be a very important Israeli site. The Israeli Government is now planning to build a settlement near the tomb, which will be 201 units, to house around 1,000 Israeli settlers, evacuating 20 East Jerusalem Palestinian families that presently live in and around that area. The YWCA building is facing this area, and could be eventually at risk, or could end up facing the Israeli settlement if kept "alive", and probably we will have to go through a thorough security system to be able to enter our premise.

Where on earth can this kind of thing happen? For those of us who forgot that East Jerusalem is occupied, I have tidings for you...we will continue to suffer all this until the Occupation is over. But I also hope that there still will be Palestinians in East Jerusalem to celebrate the day when the Occupation is over. Until then we will continue watching the expropriation of houses, land, resources and rights and just document and report on these stories, because we as Palestinians and the rest of the World have proven that we can do nothing about this?? Sadly, we don't even have a shepherd to guard East Jerusalem.

Until when will it continue to be the case that no one can stop Israel from violating International Law on a daily basis? The International Court in the Hague confirmed that the building of what is called the "Separation Wall" is illegal, yet Israel is continuing with this Wall, and instituting a whole system of entrance permits. We even stopped talking about it, and pass though it every day. This is our new reality.

Abu Eisheh's apartment building is 4 floors, and there are 8 families living there (4 of the apartments are rented/sold to other families). All of them were evacuated by force this morning, and stood out in the street watching their own house being demolished before their own eyes. One of the residents in one of the apartments is even traveling abroad, so when they return, they will figure out the new living mode on the street. All the furniture, personal belongings, memories and valuables of all the residents are in there, and soon will be buried under the rabble of stones.

This has been our story since 1948, and it looks like this will continue to be our story until Israel and the rest of the world realizes that there can be no peace with house demolishing, with making people homeless, with land confiscations. As Palestinians living in Jerusalem, we continue to be "residents" and not citizens, and Israel has the right to terminate our residency rights using different mechanisms, which they have been doing since 1967.

Lately, Ms. Mona Nasir, who is the daughter of Abla Nasir the previous General Secretary of the YWCA whom you all know well, has lost her Israeli Identity card coming home to attend her brother's wedding. Her child who was born in the States has been awarded a one month visa only, and Mona had to appeal 4 times to renew his visa so she can stay to attend her brother's wedding. Mona herself was told that after she leaves Jerusalem this time, she will be allowed to return only as a tourist. Imagine, someone who is born in a country has no right to return to it. The justification is that that she now resides in the U.S. (because she married a Palestinian there) and the U.S. is her center of life.

90% of the Israelis who are now living in Israel have emigrated to Israel after 1948 (establishment of the State of Israel) and most come either from Europe or the States or the rest of the world, and now these emigrants have more rights than the Palestinians who have been living in this land for hundreds of years. They can choose where to live, they are offered building permits, they have full citizen rights!!!

The press and UN observers came to the neighboring houses, and the roof tops were filled with people taking pictures, filming and watching. At 9:00 a.m., the army came to all our neighbors, and our street and closed it off, and ordered all people on roof tops (including us) to leave, threatening to shoot. Later, Palestinian politicians and representatives of the PNA and Islamic Awqaf came, and the army came rushing ordering them to leave. They closed off part of the main road (which links Jerusalem to Ramallah), and prohibited the press from covering the story. One of Abu Eisheh's sons was standing on the roof of our neighbor's house, taking pictures of what he knew very well will become the "used-to-be-his-home". I am not sure whether they or the rest of the residents of this house will have any roof to protect them tonight.

Usually, when the Palestinian receive notices for demolition, they are given the option of demolishing their own homes, which apparently the Abu Eisheh family is refusing to do. If the Israelis complete the demolishing today, they will send the bill to the owners, who have to cover the cost of demolishing, patrolling of police and all other related expenses. So on top of becoming homeless, people have to cover the cost of injustice. The other option is that they will crack the foundations, which they have been doing for the last few hours, and give him a few days to complete the demolishing.

It is almost noon, and I just came to work, realizing it will not be a normal day of work for me. Many of our days have not been normal days, yet we have to go on and on and on. Every day we have a new story to share, and every day there is a new family that suffers, new prisoners, new martyrs, and more sufferings. Today we are receiving the group who are visiting YWCA/YMCA on the Journey for Justice, and I have to share with them today our eternal journey of injustice, wondering if there ever will be justice in our land.

At 11:30 a.m., I had to put my mother in my car and risk driving down our street which was blocked with army cars, and where tons of army were standing, and to argue with them that my mother has to go to hospital for her dialysis session. At least 10 army rushed to my car when I got to the middle of the street, asking me to stop immediately. It took lots of arguments to convince the army to let us pass, which finally they did, but most of our neighbors were prisoners in their homes, and probably will not be able to leave until the "operation" is completed. I also wonder at what hour I will be allowed to take my mother back home, and hope that we will return in a decent hour.

My mother was saying that she still remembers when she left her home in Jaffa in 1948, she thought it was for few hours and that they will return home. Well she and the hundreds of thousands of Palestinians were never able to return to this date, and today the Abu Eisheh family have been forced to leave their home, knowing they will have no house to return to. Every day we add more and more to the list of Palestinian refugees and homeless, and I wonder when will the day come when all these people will have the right to return??

Mira Rizek
National General Secretary
YWCA of Palestine


This was the slightly blurry photo of the Caterpillar scene in The Record, Kitchener-Waterloo’s newspaper, on July 3, two days’ after our return. It was the story of “a Palestinian labourer driving a construction vehicle” that “rammed into packed buses, tossed cars into the air and rolled over pedestrians in a deadly rampage yesterday that killed three people and wounded dozens in Jerusalem”.

The article went on to say that “Israeli police said the assailant, a 30-year-old Palestinian from Arab East Jerusalem, apparently acted alone. Police spokesperson Micky Rosenfeld said the man was working on a railway project in Jerusalem”.

“The attack was a departure from suicide bombings and shooting sprees. ‘To our regret the attackers do not cease coming up with new ways to strike at the heart of the Jewish people here in Jerusalem’, said Jerusalem Mayor Uri Lupolianski.”

The article continued describing the scene, quoting witnesses and identifying those who were either injured or killed. What a terrible event. How deplorable the injuries and loss of lives!

The following day, this article appeared:

"Israel ponders next move after vicious attack

JERUSALEM: A day after a Palestinian’s deadly rampage, Prime Minister Ehud Olmert yesterday called for reviving the practice of demolishing the homes of attackers’ families and the chief deputy proposed cutting off Jerusalem’s Arab neighbourhoods.”

After recapping the events, the article went on to say “As a resident of East Jerusalem, the attacker, Hussam Dwayat, 30, had freedom of movement around Israel. The attack brought calls to reconsider some of the benefits the 250,000 Palestinians in Jerusalem receive. “I think we have to be tougher in part of the measures that we take against terrorists, especially terrorists who are part of our internal fabric of life,’ Olmert said. ‘If we have to demolish houses, we will demolish houses. If we have to revoke social rights, we will revoke soaicl rights. It’s inconceivable that we are slaughtered and they will have all the privileges that our society grants our citizens.’

This prompted Donna to write the following Letter to the Editor (limit of 200 words) which was published on July 15 in The Record.

“It was with dismay that I read of the Palestinian labourer Hussam Dwayat’s deadly rampage in East Jerusalem.

Living in East Jerusalem for the past nine months, I learned how misinformed I had been about Israeli policies and propaganda. Whenever an incident occurs, the Israeli press release immediately conveys the impression that Israel is again being victimized, without accepting any responsibility for the actual causes.

Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert speaks of demolishing the home of the attacker’s family and revoking social rights and privileges to the Palestinians. What he doesn’t say is that they already demolish people’s homes on a regular basis in order to take over more Palestinian land in the West Bank. Palestinians are already second class citizens and are subject to daily restrictions of movement, inequalities before the law, and lack of privileges granted to Israeli citizens but denied to them. It is the daily stress from living under these conditions and lack of hope for improvements in the future that drive unstable and desperate people to commit such unspeakable acts.

If Israel truly wants its citizens to live in peace, it needs to cease its aggression and take the necessary steps to allow both nations to live in peace.”
O that it could be so!


It’s hard to believe that we’ve been home for over a month already. We arrived at Pearson International Airport in Toronto on July 1 at 5:45 a.m. after a very pleasant direct 12-hour flight via Air Canada from Tel Aviv to Toronto. Fortunately we ran into no major problems leaving Tel Aviv and arrival in Canada also went smoothly. We forced ourselves to stay up all day enjoying a reunion with our daughters and family later in the day.

Since then life has been busy and at times hectic as we were thrown immediately into the issues and responsibilities that we’d left behind nine months ago. Our first task was to prepare a power point presentation on our experiences in Palestine to be given the following week at our Synod Assembly in London, Ontario. We’ve also been booked for several other presentations during the coming fall and we look forward to sharing our experiences with as many people as possible.

Our first intentions were to finally, after such a long hiatus, write a concluding entry to our blog. However, we’ve decided to continue, for a time at least, with reflections from this side of the world. We’ve decided that it might be worthwhile to try to present our perspective on news as we receive it here in Canada as well as any direct news from friends in Jerusalem. Hope you’ll continue to follow the occasional articles.

To those of you in Jerusalem and the West Bank, we want to express our gratitude for sharing your lives with us during our stay. To those of you at home, we appreciated your support while we were away. We look forward to maintaining both friendships throughout the years ahead.

Sunday, June 15, 2008


Pastor Julie Rowe has been working here in Jerusalem for almost 5 years; she started out as an Ecumenical Accompanier and has been working for the last 4 years as Assistant to Bishop Dr. Munib Younan of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in Jordan and the Holy Land. She will be returning to the U.S. at the end of June. Thanks to Julie we have been included in a wide range of opportunities that have opened our eyes to the situation here in the West Bank. She has given us permission to share the excellent sermon that she preached at the Church of the Redeemer on the 4th Sunday after Pentecost.

Go… and Follow Me

Rev. Julie Rowe, Evangelical Lutheran Church in Jordan and the Holy Land
June, 2008, Jerusalem Genesis 12:1-9 and Matthew 9:9-13, 18-26

The hymn we will sing in a few minutes, Here I Am, Lord, is one of my favorites. I used it at my ordination. So I was surprised one day when I was standing next to one of my favorite bishops in a service in Texas when he said, "I hate this song!"

I said, "Why?" It's a great song about God asking who will answer the call to serve the needs of God's people. But the chorus says, "I will go, Lord, if you lead me."

He said, there's no IF about it! God is always leading you!

So I said, "Well, we could just change the word from IF to WHERE… I will go, Lord, WHERE you lead me."

Well, that pleased him.

But about a year later, I found myself here in Jerusalem wondering what on earth I had gotten myself into….

As they say, be careful what you pray… or what you sing …

I think we have all been there … hearing a call, a voice, that tells you you need to leave the familiar place you are in and go to something or someplace new and different and scary. I've been here off and on for 5 years now, first with the Ecumenical Accompaniment Programme in Palestine and Israel on a peace team, then for the last 4 years as assistant to Bishop Younan here of the Palestinian Lutheran church.

I'm here because I heard that call in the night, and I know that many of you have, too. For those of you who are visiting, this congregation is made up of people who have left the places they called home to come here, mostly to work with Palestinian Christians and Muslims and Israelis from the peace camp. It has been fascinating to meet these and others here who have left comfortable homes, jobs and retirement to come and work here in amazingly difficult situations, like people from CPT, who last night slept in an orphanage that has been threatened with closure because they are an Islamic charity accused of supporting Hamas.

Those of us who live here know that it is not an easy journey. Most of us are immediately overwhelmed by everyday realities that fly in the face of what we have always believed. Over these years I have been shocked and saddened by what I have seen done in the name of God, in the name of my own religion and in the name of my country. I have had to question some fundamentals of life and faith I had taken for granted.

Take, for example, today's Old Testament reading about Abraham and Sarah. One of the most familiar of all texts, where God calls Abraham and Sarah to a new land and promises to make of them a great and chosen nation.

For the last 4 years, I have worked every day with people, Palestinian Christians and Muslims, for whom that has meant they have lost – or worse, yet, are still threatened every day with losing - their homes, their land, their identities.

What does it mean for Christians – especially for Palestinian Christians – that God called the Jewish people as a "chosen people?"

To answer this, you have to read the whole chapter, the rest of the story. The key to me is the purpose: Abraham and Sarah were blessed "so that" Israel would become a blessing to all families on the earth. In the covenant with Abraham and the selection of Israel as the "chosen people," God was doing a new thing: creating a new vision of what it means to live as God's people in the world God "chose" the people of Israel to show the world how to live by faith with justice, equality, righteousness and love for God and one another.

In the Exodus story, for example, God is saying no to the wealth, monopoly, and oppression of Egypt's monarchy. God heard the cries of the landless, enslaved Hebrew people, and said, "Set my people free." God led them out of the bondage of Egypt to be a new community, founded not on the world's values of wealth, power and kings but on God's values of justice, love and righteousness. God called the people to redistribute the land every 50 years (the year of Jubilee in Leviticus 25) to counteract the inevitable inequities and injustice that the world's system generated. God asked the people to let the land lie fallow every 7 years so that those who had nothing could eat from the land themselves.

Once in the land, however, the Israelites began to turn back to the world's values of wealth and power. Against the Prophet Samuel's warnings, they chose to have a king, and invested him with great powers. Then unrighteousness, idolatry and injustice ruled the land. The prophets warned that shunning the covenant responsibilities would bring about their destruction, but the people did not listen. So now, God took them out of the land, into exile. But in exile, when the people were landless and homeless once again, the prophets' message changed again to offer forgiveness and hope through the promise of returning to the land.

This time, instead of coming in to conquer those in the land, they came back to the land seeking to live together with those from other nations already living there.

This evolution shows that God values justice, love and righteousness above any one people. The Biblical message is different for different people at different times. For those who are landless and have no hope or home, God promises homeland and blessing. But those who have land, exploit it and covet more land, will lose it.

The history of salvation shows the clear movement from belief in a tribal, closed-in God to a more universal, inclusive God. The Bible is not a one-act play; it is a complex narrative with a storyline and a movement over time. So from the exile, you have the prophet Ezekiel, for example, giving a different vision of the Israelis living in the land after exile along with those who were already there:

"So you shall divide this land among you according to the tribes of Israel. You shall allot it as an inheritance for yourselves and for the aliens who reside among you and have begotten children among you. They shall be to you as citizens of Israel…" (Ez 47:21-22).

The prophet Isaiah clearly prophesies that they are to stretch their minds and hearts to all peoples. "It is too light a thing that you should be my servant to raise up the tribes of Jacob and to restore the survivors of Israel; I will give you as a light to the nations, that my salvation may reach to the end of the earth." (Is, 49:6; Is 42:6-9; Is 56:6-8)

He foretells a day when "on this mountain the Lord of hosts will make for all peoples a feast of rich food (Is 25:6) and calls on Israel to be "a house of prayer for all nations" (Is 56:3-8).

Jesus takes this concept even further. Today, we hear him inviting the outcast tax collector to follow him and even eat with him. Jesus embodied a God who welcomes all to the table, in fact, says he came for the sinners, so that he could transform them with the power of love and grace. Both of these calls in the texts today…to Abraham to "go from your country to a land I will show you" and to Matthew to "follow me" still echo for us today.

Yet people interpret them in so many different ways, it is sometimes hard to discern where we are to go, what we are to do and which leaders we are to follow. More and more, religious leaders use these stories and words to justify injustice, theft of land, violence and hatred of the other. How are we to know which voices are right?

Look at what happens to Matthew when he follows. It shows us exactly what Jesus is about, and what we should be about.

First, Jesus chooses all, invites all to the table. In a world where we can't talk to terrorists, we shun nations and whole peoples as evil, where it is mostly only the wealthy and powerful that have places at the table, Jesus welcomes all, and then uses the power of God to transform and teach people a better way to live.

Second, Jesus heals all, even when it breaks the laws of society. The woman with the flow of blood for 12 years would have been an untouchable, an outcast of society because of ritual purity laws. Yet when she touched him, he didn't rebuke her, but encouraged her and healed her. Even called her "daughter," showing people that God's love and healing know no bounds.

Third, Jesus is in the resurrection business. He is about moving people from death to life, bringing health out of brokenness, community out of isolation, light out of darkness. Jesus is about transforming people into a new community of abundant life, justice and wholeness.

Jesus still calls all of us on our journeys of faith to follow into new and unexpected places, to go beyond our comfort zones and into the grittiness of daily life where real people live and laugh and cry and dream. But there's no guarantee it will be an easy ride. That's the hard thing about a life of faith … it's just that, a life of faith. Not a life of certainty, not a life of easy answers. A life of faith is a series of many leaps of faith.

What I Don't Like About Jesus … Gerhardt Frost

Let me tell you
What I don't like about Jesus.

He calls me to follow; I like to run around.
He lets me see a single step,
And sometimes even less than that;
I like to know the end.

I choose to travel by sunlight or headlight;
He gives me only starlight.

I like to set the pace;
He asks me to hurry, or worse – sometimes to wait.

He embarrasses me and gets me into trouble;
He sometimes makes a scene.

And just when I feel strong
He calls me to a cross;
I want a crown.

I don't know that I want a crown. But I sure want to see less of a cross. I want God to do something about all this! To stop the madness, the bombings, the rockets, the home demolitions, the land confiscation.

But luckily, in a life of faith, hope is not in the facts on the ground or the politics. A life of faith is in "hoping against hope" that God can bring new life out of barrenness and can call into existence things that do not exist.

To be hopeful in bad times is not just foolishly romantic. It is based on the fact that human history is a history not only of cruelty but also of compassion, sacrifice, courage, and kindness. What we choose to emphasize in this complex history will determine our lives. If we see only the worst, it destroys our capacity to do something. If we remember those times and places – and there are so many – where people have behaved magnificently, this gives us the energy to act ... To live now as we think human beings should live, in defiance of all that is bad around us, is itself a marvelous victory. Prof. Howard Zinn

So on those days when we see the worst, and we stand on a rock ledge, watching while a young child still in her puppy slippers watches her home being demolished, we can also remember the people who have acted magnificently and rebuilt some of those houses.
We can remember those who have lost loved ones who, instead of using their grief to fuel more bitterness and hate are instead working together to heal the nation from occupation and division.
And these people are able to do this because they feel a power and strength beyond themselves that helps them answer the call they hear.

And when it seems we can't find that hope, or that healing, or the courage to take that next step into the void, it is the hope and the grace and guidance of God that finds us, through others, through prayer, through coming together in worship and around the Bread and the Wine.

Because alone it is impossible. But together it is an incredible journey.

May God grant you grace and guidance for the road ahead, wherever it leads you.


Tuesday, June 10, 2008


We were pleased to be able to participate in the Peace Clock which was held in Manger Square in Bethlehem on June 8. The ceremony was planned by the International Church Action for Peace in Palestine and Israel, a joint advocacy initiative under the auspices of the World Council of Churches.
Those of us who wanted to be involved were given a number from 1 to 60, representing time in years.
The number 60 represented the number of years since the Nakba, the catastrophe, for the Palestinians, and the Anniversary of the formation of the State of Israel in 1948. The number 41 represented the number of years of Occupation since 1967.

A Swede and 2 Canadians positioning ourselves before the event.
The people in the centre of the circle represented the hands on the clock. As the hands moved from 1 to 60, the person on the end lit the torch of the person marking each year.
A drum beat every 15 seconds was the signal for the hands of the clock to move on and light the torch of the next year.
This continued around the face of the clock. The message of the letters on the clock hands was only clear when viewed from the front.
At that time, the theme "It's Time for Palestine" was visible.
When the torches for each year were lit, we all read the following: It's time for Palestine.
It's time for Palestinians and Israelis to share a just peace.
It's time to respect human lives in the land called holy; it's time for healing to begin in wounded souls. It's time to end 60 years of conflict, oppression and fear. It's time for freedom from occupation.
It's time for equal rights; It's time to stop discrimination, segregation and restrictions on movement. It's time for those who put up walls and fences to build them on their own property. It's time to stop bulldozing one community's homes and building homes for the other community on land that is not theirs. It's time to do away with double standards.
It's time for Israeli citizens to have security and secure borders agreed with their neighbours. It's time for the international community to implement 60 years of United Nations resolutions.
It's time for Israel's government to complete the bargain offered in the Arab Peace Initiative. It's time for those who represent the Palestinian people to all be involved in making peace. It's time for people who have been refugees for 60 years to regain their rights and a permanent home. It's time to assist settlers in the Occupied Palestinian Territories to make their home in Israel. It's time for self-determination.

It's time for foreigners to visit Bethlehem and other towns imprisoned by the wall. It's time to see settlements in their comfort and refugee camps in their despair. It's time for people living 41 years under occupation to feel new solidarity from a watching world.

It's time to name the shame of collective punishment and to end it in all its forms. It's time to be revolted by violence against civilians and for civilians on both sides to be safe. It's time for both sides to release their prisoners and give those unjustly accused a fair trial. It's time to reunite the people of Gaza, the West Bank and East Jerusalem. It's time for all parties to obey international humanitarian and human rights law.

It's time to share Jerusalem as the capital of two nations and a city holy to three religions. It's time for Muslim, Jewish and Christian communities to be free to visit their holy sites. It's time in Palestine as in Israel for olive trees to flourish and grow old.

It's time to honour all who have suffered, Palestinians and Israelis. It's time to learn from past wrongs. It's time to understand pent-up anger and begin to set things right. It's time for those with blood on their hands to acknowledge what they have done. It's time to seek forgiveness between communities and to repair a broken land together. It's time to move forward as human beings who are all made in the image of God.

All who are able to speak truth to those in power must speak it. All who would break the silence surrounding injustice must break it. All who have something to give for peace must give it. For Palestine, for Israel and for a troubled world, it's time for peace.

Thursday, May 29, 2008


Join us on an overview of a delightful trip to Cypus. Such a beautiful island, it's no wonder that over the 10,000 years of its history so many civilizations wished to possess it, leaving behind such a rich heritage.
Arriving in the early morning, we walked along the Foinikoudes promenade in the Laiki Geitonia (the traditional pedestrian quarter).
People were already renting their lounges and umbrellas and settling in for a day in the sun, sand, and waters of the Mediterranean. Tempting as it was to join them, having only five full days to see the island, we decided to devote our day to seeing as much of Larnaka as time and energy allowed.
Armed with our city map, we began our tour with Agios Lazarus Church in St. Lazarus Square. Built in the 9th century and restored in the 17th, it is one of the most remarkble examples of Byzantine architecture in Cyprus.
St. Lazarus is said to have come to Cyprus after being resurrected by Jesus, became a bishop and lived here for 30 years. His tomb can be seen under the sanctuary. We visited many of the main sites over the rest of our time in Larnaka, too many to include here.
The next day we joined a tour which took us to the eastern and northern sections of Cyprus which was invaded by the Turks in 1974 and which occupies 37 per cent of the island. We drove through the part of Famagusta (Ammochostos) called "the Ghost Town" where Greek homes were left empty when they were forced to flee south during the invasion. These homes have remained unoccupied with the Turks using them as a negotiating card. There are 200,000 Greeks living in refugee camps in the Greek section of Cyprus waiting to return to their homes in the north.
We were given free time to explore the Venetian Walls in the old part of town and
wander through the centre of town and explore the ruins of the Venetian Royal Palace. Here, the former St. Nicholos church has been the Lala Mustafa Pasa Mosque since 1298 with both the exterior and interior retaining its Christian achitecture.
We drove through the main potato-producing area on the island known as Kokkinochoria, meaning "Red Soil villages" thanks to the fertile red earth in which they are grown. Felt some nostalgia for P.E.I. back home!
At Bellapais we stopped to explore Bellapais Abbey, built in the 12th century AD by the French King Hugh III, a fine example of gothic architecture.
It also offers breathtaking views of the northern coast of Kerynia.
We stopped in the city of Kerynia with its more than 3000 years of Greek history, had lunch and wandered through town
to the picturesque harbour and the Castle of Kerynia. Time and space do not allow the inclusion of more views of this beautiful city.
The next day we took our second tour which took us first to Nicosia (Lefkosia), the capital of Cyprus since the late Byzantine period (11th century). The history of this city dates back to the Bronze age.
We walked into the old city where we visited the Panagia Phaneromeni Church, wandered through the shopping district which headed for the Turkish occupied section of the city.
As you leave the Greek side of the city, there is a section under UN control (indicated by the coloured banners); the cones mark the entrance into the Turkish section. Passage into this part of Nicosia has been allowed only since January of this year. We walked into the Turkish section--no one indicated at that time that we needed passes--only to discover on our way out that we should have obtained them. After looking at our passports, the soldier on duty fortunately allowed us back into the Greek section to continue our tour!
Our next stop was the picturesque village of Kakopetria, a well-preserved village dating back to the 14th century.
We drove through the beautiful Troodos mountains where we stopped for lunch in the Troodos centre and continued on to the village of Omodos, dating back to the 4th century, and built around one of the oldest monasteries in Cyprus, the Holy Cross.
Here we were given an explanation by our guide at the Wine Press in the village as Omodos is known as one of the best wine producing areas of the island. Free wine tasting was available at the Gerolemo, Olympus, and Marion wineries.
The next morning, we rented our little Demio Mazda, our first experience with a right-hand drive car. We were forever turning on our windshield wipers with the lever on the left of the steering wheel when we wanted to change lanes. When we finally mastered using the turn signal lever on the right, the challenge was remembering that it's down for a right turn and up for a left! Undoing years of conditioning wasn't easy!!
The 2-hour drive to Pafos on a beautiful 4-lane highway went smoothly; however, trying to find the entrance to Kato Pafos, the Archaeological Park, proved somewhat challenging. But we made it! Above are the ruins of the House of Theseus, one of the three houses dating from the 2nd to the 5th centuries AD accidentally discovered by a farmer in 1962.
Here in the House of Dionysos is an example of the many mosaic floors for which the three houses (the third being Aion) are famous, and are considered masterpieces of mosaic art. Some of the mosaics in this house depict the god of wine.
St. Paul's Pillar, according to legend, is where the Apostle was flogged before converting the then Roman governor Sergius Paulus to Christianity. It is located in the ruins of the Chrysopolitissa/AG Kyriaki Church which was built in the 13th century over the ruins of the largest Early Byzantine basilica on the island.
The Tombs of the Kings are one of the major archaeological attractions of Pafos. These monumental underground tombs carved out of solid rock date back to the 3rd century BC and some like these are decorated with Doric pillars. As they were used by high-ranking officials, it was the magnificence of the tombs that gave the area its grand name.
On the return to Larnaka, we followed Aphrodite's Cultural Route, stopping at breath-takingly beautiful Petra tou Romiou, Aphrodite's birthplace.
The last stop of the day was at Kourion, an important city-kingdom in antiquity. This magnificent Greco-Roman theatre was built in the 2nd century BC. The House of Eustolios which consists of a complex of baths and rooms with beautiful 5th century AD mosaics, and the ruins of the Roman Agora are nearby.
On our last day, we visited the Hala Sultan Tekkesi Mosque located just outside Larnaka on the Salt Lake. It was built in 648 AD on the spot where Umm Haram, related to Mohammed, fell off her mule and died. The construction of the mosque was immediately ordered on the spot. It is now one of the most important holy places of worship for Muslims, ranked immediately after Mecca and Medina (Saudi Arabia), and Al Aksa (Jerusalem).
The Angeloktisti Church in Kiti Village is an 11th century Byzantine church erected over the ruins of an early Christian basilica. Unfortunately taking photos of the rare 6th century mosaic of Virgin and Child between the 2 archangels Michael and Gabriel--which equals the mosaics of Ravenna, Italy--was not allowed inside the church.
The Choirokoitia Neolithic Settlement is a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Five characteristic cylindrical-shaped dwellings have been reconstructed using the same construction methods and materials used in Neolithic times.
Remains of all phases of the Neolithic age are evident in the settlement, providing insight into living conditions in the region during prehistoric times.
The return to Larnaka was made more interesting by the beautiful oleander and bougainvillea planted along the highway.
After returning the car, we stationed ourselves at one of the many cafes along the promenade and enjoyed a leisurely meal across the road from
the Mediterranean Sea until it was time to take a taxi to the airport for our return flight. If you're interested in seeing any more of the hundreds of photos not included here, please let us know when we return home. :))