Yesterday I wrote about the Pope’s visit to Palestine and the strange moments Mahmoud Abbas shared with the Pontiff. Monday evening, it was Benjamin Netanyahu’s turn in trying to show some love towards the Christians of Israel. Maybe his mistake of claiming that Jesus spoke Hebrew is a bit less scary than Abass’ antics, but it is exemplary for the tough relationship between Israel and the Church, and between Jews and Christians. The Pope corrected Netanyahu and said that Jesus spoke Aramaic, which Netanyahu quickly confirmed and added “but he did know Hebrew”. As a native Aramaic speaker (more specifically Syriac, the Western Aramaic dialect of Edessa) I was thrilled to see Netanyahu getting his facts served right, but at the same time I realized that we as Christians have a very long way to go in safeguarding our culture and heritage when even the PM of Israel struggles with our history, although Arameans have always lived in Israel.

The struggle is deep, just moments after the Pope’s visit to the Church of the Dormition a fire was discovered in one of the rooms. A couple of wooden crosses and a book in which pilgrims inscribe prayers was lost. No persons were arrested but suspicions point to radical Jews who want to see Mount Zion ‘cleaned’ of non Hebrew influences. Another act radical Jews and Palestinians alike take part in is throwing rocks at people who ‘don’t belong’ in Jerusalem. I had to run for my life after an encounter with Palestinian kids on the Mountain of the Olives last year. These conservative orthodox Jews pose a big challenge for the Israeli government. Some of them don’t recognize the government and refuse to serve in the Israeli Defence Forces, although a lot of military personnel protect the settlements they live in. Read some of stories of ex-IDF soldiers on

Recent changes in applying for military service made it possible for ‘Christian Arabs’ to join the ranks voluntarily. Some christian groups, mainly based in the West Bank, see this as a deliberate attempt by the government to split Christians. Others, like some Aramaic Christians I know personally, welcome this step and even petitioned the governemt a year ago to allow them to enlist. ‘It’s our country too and we need to make clear to everyone that we are not Arabs. This will help us’. It’s a small step in the emancipation of this small group but it’s an important one. Abraham said; ‘my father was a wandering Aramean’ and in the years after, the Syrian Orthodox especially, have always wandered and lived under various rulers. After the fall of city states such as Damascus the people learned how to survive and pass on their culture and identity to this very day. When I introduced myself as ‘Aramit’ to IDF staff at the airports and various checkpoints, their eyes widened and I was treated with admiration even.

The Pope maybe has opened the eyes of Israelis a little bit, but there are still a lot of fires raging threatening the presence of Christians and their culture and traditions. Much more work is needed, but with this Pope, I think we have an excellent advocate.




Pope Francis’ visit to Israel, Jordan and Palestine held a message of peace to the Middle East and the world, but the message PM Abbas of Palestine was awkward at its best. Last December he claimed that Jesus was a Palestinian “who brought the gospel and became a guide for millions worldwide, just as we, the Palestinians, are fighting for our freedom, 2,000 years later. We try to walk in his footsteps to the extent possible.” In his latest attempts to depict Jesus as the Che Guevera of the Palestinian cause, Abbas presented doctored images of famous paintings that try to depict the current suffering of the Palestinian people. An extensive article was written by Paul Alster for

How inappropriate these pictures may be, Abbas feels he’s free to use them and express his opinions to the world. I would not deny him this right, but only if he also would consider the same freedom and rights for his Christian countrymen. Two weeks ago I wrote about islamist groups profiling themselves in Bethlehem and Nazareth. By distorting the narrative of the Bible and the image of Christ, Abbas is aiding those who do not allow a Christian presence in the streets, towns and villages where not only Christianity began, but where millions of people travel to experience what it is like to truly walk in His footsteps.

Pope Francis has invited Abbas to visit the Vatican, I would also recommend to give him a crash course on Christianity.

Church of the NativityA strange thing occurred in Bethlehem last Saturday: at the entrance to the Nativity Church a group calling itself ‘Dar assalam for introducing Islam’ was handing out free copies of the Quran and other books on Islam. There are two things that are unnerving: first, there is a mosque on the other side of Manger Square, and second, why does Islam need introduction in this particular part of the world? Tensions almost never cease to be high in Israel or the Palestinian Territories, however the remaining Christians could live in relative peace the past years. To the law, they are as mobile and free as their Palestinian countrymen. However, I cannot see this handing out of books in front of one of the most important and oldest churches in the world as nothing short of a provocation. I received comments from Bethlehem that ‘no Christian dares to hand out the Bible in front of a mosque’, and no official institution has commented on the matter since. It is not clear what the true purpose of this organization is, nor what it’s affiliations are. The pictures and texts on their FaceBook page (see link below) don’t seem provocative on first sight, but bear in mind the fragile position of Christians in the Middle East. Some fundamentalist are more subtle than others, but not less dangerous.

Of the 26.000 inhabitants of Bethlehem, some 4.000 are Christian. They are not only the caretakers of various important religious sites, but also the indigenous inhabitants of these lands. Christianity was born here, well before the Arabian conquest of the area. Ever since the first ‘introductions’ of Islam the Christians learned to cope with the constant fear for their safety and freedoms. Whether good or bad will come out of this book sharing organization remains to be seen. However, the West should always consider the religious freedoms of Christians when dealing with Israel and the Palestinian Authority, especially when the local authorities turn a blind eye.

Main source (in Arabic and with pictures):

Update: signs have been posted by this and other organizations in places like Nazareth. The texts are not pro-Islam in nature, but more anti-Christian. See or

From my home in Enschede I can read, see and hear what goes around in this world. Although modern media are within a hand’s reach I also like to travel and learn more about this world we live in. I also like to share my views and thoughts on the matters which captivate me the most: Politics (I have served one term on the city council in Enschede), church (I am a member of the Syrian Orthodox Church of Antioch) and society (because everything is tied together). Some older posts are only available in Dutch, I preserved them from my previous blog because I think they still hold relevance to these subjects. The views expressed here are my own and you are welcome to comment on them as long as you keep to the subject, not the person who wrote them.

Expectations. I never travel with high ones but I thought I would leave the way of the Tourist to become a Pilgrim in Jerusalem. Almost nothing less is true. I tried to find spirituality in the Via Dolorosa (contains 9 of the 14 stations of the Cross), the tomb of the Virgin Mary, the Church of the Holy Sepulchre (last 5 stations) and various other places, but it was hard. Only in the last two days I felt the meaning of this place. One moment was in the church of he Holy Sepulchre where we celebrated holy mass with the bishop and a small part of Jerusalem’s Syrian Orthodox congregation in the tiny church of St Nicodemus. It truly is special singing from the fankitho about the crucifixition and resurrection while you are standing at the very place it took place (also the grave of Joseph of Arimathea is only two meters away from the altar). Hearing and singing the Lord’s prayer in Aramaic together with forty voices in the small cave that is our church warmed the heart, spirit and soul.
This morning it was only me with the two monks at St Mark’s church. Their solemn prayers made me finally feel at rest. The weariness of walking, talking and haggling washed away and only the good memories remained.

Bethlehem was something else. The surreal experience of passing through the wall on foot (first words that came to mind: scary, desolate, prison) made a big impression, the hustle downtown a couple of minutes later makes you forget such a thing exists. But it does has a profound influence on the lives of people in the West Bank, something the majority does not deserve I believe. With a dear friend I visited the church of the Nativity, the church of the milk grotto, had falafel at Dawood and later passed by shepherd’s field (which could have been any field in the vicinity, but still three different denominations claim a part of a tree-lined area). Here I also felt a sense of belonging, not in the least part due to a belly full of maqloobe, labaneh, figs and knafeh. The warmth of a Syriac home or church can never be cooled off by a wall, government or war.

Where Turkey felt like a home without a ‘welcome’ doormat, I think that I have fallen in love with this country. It has its downsides too, I saw two beat up women in the streets of the Old City, I saw a wall that should not exist and I saw the greed in the people’s eyes and their actions. The peace in Jerusalem floats on a cork made of money and a strong military presence. There is more respect for a full wallet than the religion of the other. I do not think a pilgrimage by air, airconditioned and WiFi fitted buses and greedy taxi drivers is the way to find Christ nor your inner self. The nature of cities is that they grow with the needs of their people and visitors. As a city councillor, I know these needs and expectations can interfere with each other. Where I took the cable car to Qarantul on the Mountain of Temptation in Jericho, which has charms of its own but still, I would have rather walked up there. Where I entered the Church of the Holy Sepulchre with a photo camera, and I did take some nice pictures, I should have done so with a bible in hand. And where I spend most of my time in and around the Old City visiting various biblical sites, I wish that I had spent more time with my new friends who took me in their home and showed me around.

‘Why are you leaving so soon?’ Raban Shemun asked me yesterday. ‘I got a taste of this place, and I am no satiated yet.’ Shalom, toda, Shlomo and taudi. It has been a terrific journey.

On a side note:
– Celebrating mass at the tomb of the Virgin Mary is something special. ‘Celebration’ is not the right word though, it is a yelling contest between the Syrian Orthodox and Armenian Orthodox as they pray at their respective altars at the same time. The Copts have their own altar but are with even less people than the Syrian Orthodox.
– Mor Severius, the bishop of Israel and Jordan has a great sense of humor, and loves to share funny youtube videos.
– Raban Shemun is an old, gentle and peaceful man. He knows almost all residing clergymen in the Old City and they all stop to greet him. But when walking to church, it takes a pair of very good legs to keep pace with him. Thankfully he stops for a short prayer at each station of the Cross.
– Lines at check-in counters and security gates tend to be long due to a lot of baby carts, that’s why there are no lines at food courts, bars or fast food restaurants. You just fight your way up front, place your order and wait until someone shouts your name.

Read previous: Intermezzo: Petra & Wadi Rum

I can cross the border between The Netherlands and Germany a hundred times a day without anybody asking me what I am doing, why I want to go to the other side and what the names of my parents are. Even if this may look suspicious, upon identifying myself (and provided I am not carrying illegal goods), I can cross that border a hundred times more. Such is not the case between Israel and Jordan. Getting in to Jordan was not that big of a deal (it did cost $60 though), but getting back to Israel was. But more on that later because spending a day in Petra, a night and a full day in the desert of Wadi Rum, now that’s something special that makes the trouble at the border a minor nuisance. But it does makes you appreciate the EU and Shengen treaty more.

We arrived by mini bus before noon in Petra. I can go to lenghts describing everything, but lucky for you others did this already so you can find the stories and books on the web. Some of the good stuff: Al Khaznah, the Treasury, even more impressing in the dawning sun and the reason why Petra is also called the Red Rose City, Al Deir, the Monastery, as it takes a good 800 steps to get there (some claim a thousand) and the Aramaic inscriptions on some of the tombs. The Nabateans who founded this necropolis employed the Aramaic script, so you can say my ancestors rocked literally. If not famous for its place in history, it sure is because scenes from Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade were shot here. The day which constituted a 7 miles walk and the hike up to the Monastery could have ended two ways: in a nice comfortable three stars hotel with a swimming pool and hamam, or in a bedouin camp in the dessert. I chose the latter of course.

The Ammarin Bedouin camp is almost completely surrounded by rugged rocks and mountains. Imagine a natural amphitheater with black tents surrounding a huge sand square in the middle. I was welcomed by an attendee with some sweet thick Bedouin tea. Not that later I met my fellow campers, an American/ French couple from Paris and a couple from Amman, the capital of Jordan who “got away from the hustle and bustle of the city”. We shared a traditional meal, stories and after dinner some more tea near the campfire while listening to Abu Mohammed, the tribe leader, playing on a Bedouin guitar. As the fire got smaller the tea got thicker to a point that I had to refuse. Immerged in stories on culture and habits we lost track of time until we were informed that the generator would be switched off in 15 minutes, so if we would like to brush our teeth, we had to do it then. We brushed, washed up and returned to the fire. We layed on our backs, conversating until all sounds seized to exists. As the generator was switched off and the lights were killed, thousands of stars lit the sky above the dark silhouettes of the mountains surrounding us. “There’s one” were the only words softly spoken as another star shot through the sky. I wonder if Abraham looked at the same sky as he was told: “Look up into the sky and count the stars if you can. That’s how many descendants I will bless you with”.

I got drowsy while still riled up by the spectacle above so I decided to sleep outside by the fire. I got the matress, blanket and pillow out of the tent, prepared my bed and layed there. I did had one concern though “Aren’t there any scorpions around here?” The Jordanian answered, “well, probably there are some, but you know, the scorpion that decides to find you here, will also find you in the tent” with that reassuring thought I went to sleep. I managed until about two in the morning, the cold desert wind blew in my face and sent chills through my spine. The log in the fire place was consumed completely. I took to the the tent, but woke up early enough to find a place on a rock and feel the sun’s first rays as it climbed over the mountains.


The adventure continued immediately after breakfast. With Mohammed, the driver, guide and cook for the day we picked up three fellow travellers at the hotel (sucks to be them) in Wadi Musa. We only stopped for more Bedouin tea or Turkish kardamom coffee on the two hours drive to Wadi Rum, the valley of sands. We hiked up sand dunes and rocks to capture the breathtaking views of this famous desert. At the start the Seven Pillars of Wisdom can be seen and later on some more places mentioned in T.E. Lawrence’s book, on which the motion picture ‘Lawrence of Arabia’ is based. Depending on the time of year, the desert can be a combination of red, hot, yellow, white with flowers, brown, cold, green or wet (just a couple of days). Me, Mohammed and the Aussies had great fun, did some Bedouin disco (watch for it on my Youtube channel ) and enjoyed an excellent barbeque prepared by Muhammed in his special restaurant “the other drivers don’t have the cars or camels to get here”. He grilled the chicken he slaughtered earlier the day, and together with salads, hummus and bread prepared by his mother we had more than our share. There was just enough room to finish the desert picknick off with a dessert of goat cheese with honey baked in thin layers of pastry (local version of knafeh. Of course we ended in another Bedouin tent where we were joined by the American/ French couple and as custom dictates, tea was served.


Tired, with a head full of memories and shoes filled with sand we were dropped off at the border crossing. I still do not know what makes me so interesting, but what clearly does not help when going into Israel is having a Turkish last name and a Turkish visum in your passport. Not only was I put through the list of questions, I had to wait half an hour for ‘some extra security checks’. I really hope that they have all my answers and details in a digital file now, as I plan to travel into the West Bank this week. Also, I got a sense of what the bedouin tribes had and still go through, they feel like the desert is their home and the desert knows no national boundaries. Tomorow starts the first visit of this pilgrim to the Holy City. Mode of travel will be an airconditioned bus through the Negev.

On a side note:
– there is a star rating system for bedouin camps too, they range from one star (only tents, not even made from goat hair) to five (bathrooms, sat TV, wifi and a restaurant).
– aside from being sweet, bedouin also put herbs like sage and thyme in their tea, which makes it absolutely super refreshing
– I was mistaken for an arab so many times I decided to get a head scarf, now I am on the market for camels and wives.
– a camel can cost as much as a new Volkswagen Up! A camel can park by itself though.
– Jordanians can talk about food the entire day, Jordanians make me hungry, but also rise to the occasion.

Read next: A week in the Holy City
Read previous: First week in the Promised Land: Diving in the Red Sea

This evening I sit at the beach with the tide of the Red Sea almost caressing my feet. I am overlooking the gulf of Aqaba and enjoy a nice cold beer, falafel and tahine. The past week of my stay in Eilat, Israel, was dedicated to something that has become more than just a hobby: SCUBA diving.

The week started with my suitcase still in Tel Aviv (thank you for the mixed info at Schiphol, ElAl). Fortunately enough I did not plan any diving the first day and the people of Israir were kind enough to deliver the suitcase on their first flight to Eilat. I could finally get out of my jeans and into the waters (28C at the surface!). After a refresher and two easy guided dives, it was time to start the PADI open water advanced course with one Yaniv Mizrahi.

With Michiel van Staaveren, a good friend of mine, I have found myself in a couple of discussions on artisanship and the value of professionals who not only understand their work, but are passionate about it (Michiel even argues that these people should never be promoted!). Here in Eilat I found a true artisan. Diving with Yaniv (who runs Dive Israel), is something special. Here’s a guy with a simple web page and who is so passionate about diving and the aquamarine life that he started a diving school next to his job as a teacher in Economics at the University. He even helps small start ups with their online strategies. When I inquired for the course over the phone some two weeks ago, this passion of his was transferred to me. And instead of me asking for possibilities and options, he was the one inviting me to come diving with him.

Each and every dive was fun (some more due to higher levels of nitrogen in the brain) and eventhough the course set clear goals and skills to obtain, he added something special to each of the five dives. One experience I want to share with you is the “blue dive”. We ascended from the sea bed to level at 7 meters below the surface. So there I was, perfectly neutrally buoyant (not sinking nor rising), with the sea floor 17 meters below, the sky starting at 7 meters above and all around me the perfect blue sea. Even still in tourist mode, this was a spiritual and mind blowing experience that I can recommend to everyone. With my new found skills, the next two dives were excellent.

Places like Eilat lost their appeal to me some years ago, I find them too crowded, too noisy and detached from meaningful human and cultural interaction. But the air, water and food are amazing. As for the food, The Last Refuge was the best, as for the atmosphere, Yan’s bar at Veranda Beach. The latter being the place where I wrote this blog and took this picture.


It is spectacular to see the night fall on noisy Eilat in the distance, the Red Mountains of Jordan above Aqaba, the thin shore line of Saudi- Arabia and the stretches of the Sinaï down the Red Sea.

The winds blowing from the red mountains of Aqaba and the Negev are calling me for the next two legs of this trip. In Petra I hope to intersect and continue on the path of the Pilgrim and leave the one of the Tourist for a while (it’s hard and expensive, two facts that are for sure). I like to maintain an open mind and reservations on expectations, but walking in the paths of the ancestors and T. E. Lawrence in the valley of Wadi Rum is more than inviting. After that, a full week in Jerusalem awaits me for yet another chapter in the life of this Pilgrim/Tourist.

On a side note:
– I had to recall my parents’ names a dozen times as I progressed through various security checks. I think that they most probably have sneezed their asses off.

– luckily I have stocks in beer, not in foam. I get confuzed looks when holding two fingers to the glass.


– there is a famous song to one of the best desserts ever created, it goes something like this I believe: qadayif, qadayif, qadayif…… Qadayif, qadayif, qadayiiii-if


– a friend of mine recommended birckenstocks (no slipper deserves its name in capitals), I found my bristol panthers better value for money.


– Israelis love chips (french fries), the portions are huge and consumed throughout the day. I expect to only find acres of potato fields during the bus trip to Jerusalem next week.

Read next: Intermezzo: Petra & Wadi Rum

Over de transitie in de jeugdzorg wordt veel gesproken en nu zo langzaam aan gelukkig ook besloten. Iedereen is het er wel over eens dat er veel op gemeentes af komt en dat de financiering eerder aan de krappe dan ruime kant zit. Echter door maar te blijven roepen dat er niet genoeg tijd en geld is en dat de kwaliteit achteruit zal hollen schiet niemand iets op, gemeentes niet, zorgaanbieders niet en clienten zeker niet. We moeten juist bezig gaan met de zaken waarvan we al weten dat we ze op moeten pakken en binnen de kaders en beperkingen die er zijn de transitie zo goed mogelijk inrichten. Ik steun iedere oproep richting Den Haag om de gemeentes meer tijd te gunnen, maar we weten dat we niet aan de transitie ontkomen en kunnen het ons niet veroorloven om op de uitkomst van deze discussie te blijven wachten.

Zowel in de stedelijke commissie als in de Raadsvergadering van 24 juni jl heb ik de bezuiniging, want daar gaat het vanuit rijkswege wel in de eerste plaats om, zeker niet als zoete koek verkocht. De mening dat de transitie voor sommige partijen automatisch in kwaliteitsverbetering uit zal pakken deel ik niet, wel zie ik kansen en mogelijkheden om daadwerkelijk veranderingen in het systeem aan te brengen die zowel de clienten als de financiers (voor een groot deel de belastingbetaler) voordelen op leveren. Hiertoe moeten wel bestaande structuren en culturen doorbroken worden, en mijn angst is dat de bereidheid om structuren anders in te richten niet groot genoeg is en dat de noodzakelijke cultuurverandering veel meer tijd nodig heeft. Het lastigste bij een cultuurverandering is dat het schier onmogelijk is om die op een vastgestelde deadline te bereiken, het gaat immers om ongrijpbare zaken die ingebakken zijn in de bedrijfscultuur en opvattingen van mensen.

In Enschede is nu een visie nota vastgesteld die uit gaat van eigen kracht en het organiseren van de zorg zo dicht mogelijk bij de mensen. Veel concrete punten staan er nog niet in, maar als het aan mij ligt worden mensen niet eerst twee maanden van het kastje naar de muur gestuurd na een eerste contact, hoeven ze niet meerdere malen hun verhaal te doen en hoeven ze niet met een trits aan zorgverleners afspraken te maken hoe de zorg voor hun kind te organiseren. Dit zijn problemen die vooral ouders nu in het systeem van de jeugdzorg ervaren en waarvoor we nu de kans hebben om deze op te lossen. Om dit om te draaien naar een positieve ervaring moeten gezinscoaches afspraken kunnen maken met aanbieders (daarbij de keuzevrijheid van ouders en jongeren uiteraard wel respecteren) en moet informatie beter gedeeld worden. Met name feedback binnen het systeem is nu gebrekkig waardoor de ene zorgverlener niet weet wat een ander gedaan heeft aan interventies, laat staan weet wat daar de uitkomsten van zijn. Hier zitten ook juridische haken en ogen aan en ik kan vanuit mijn ervaring als IT professional spreken: een dergelijk systeem zet je niet in een of twee jaar op. Bovendien moeten alle betrokken partijen zich committeren aan één systeem met één set aan definities en gegevens. Alleen al het overzetten van bestaande gegevenverzamelingen naar een nieuwe kan partijen er toe doen bewegen hier weinig enthousiasme voor te tonen. Gemeenten moeten dan ook een stok achter de deur hebben om hen hier toch toe aan te zetten. Enschede doet mee aan een pilot om dit op te zetten, ik ben uiterst benieuwd naar de resultaten en wat de verwachtingen zijn als een dergelijk systeem regionaal uitgerold moet worden.

We kunnen alleen andere resultaten (gelijke of betere kwaliteit met minder geld) alleen bereiken als we zaken ook echt anders gaan doen. Een motie van de VVD die op riep om terughoudend te zijn bij het overnemen van preffered supplier schappen of bestaande langlopende contracten en zoveel mogelijk ruimte te bieden aan nieuwe partijen kon op de steun van het CDA en gelukkig die van een meerderheid rekenen. De bezwaren kwamen met name van de kant van de SP, die vreest dat lopende zorgarrangementen weg zullen vallen. Continuiteit moet gewaarbotgd blijven, maar we moeten anders durven kijken naar de organisatie van de zorg en de samenwerking met betrokken partners. En als het nodig is moeten we structuren doorbreken, als de gemeentes alles hetzelfde doen als de provincie of het rijk voorheen, dan zal de bezuiniging niet worden gehaald en zal de kwaliteit zeker niet verbeteren.

Zie ook mijn eerdere bericht over dit onderwerp:

I could have written this post about what we did on the Day of Rest (monday after Easter when the dead are commemorated and their graves are visited), how church was and what we did later that afternoon in Mor Hananyo (also known as Deyrulzafaran, lit. ‘The saffron monastery’) and the church of the Forty Martyrs in Mardin. But I am not going to, I hope that you, as a reader, enjoyed reading the posts and maybe even through imagination participated in our journey, be it as a Pilgrim or a Tourist. But I can understand that it also was a bit tough without much background information or photos. One of the virtues of a pilgrim is patience, so please bear with me for a couple of days and please subscribe to the posts about the journey. You’ll get a notification when the accompanying photos are published, some of them exclusively on this blog.

Now let me share some final thoughts with you from my house in The Netherlands, where it has not stopped raining since we arrived. But somehow the rain does not feel the same as it did on Turo d-Izlo when we visited Mor Augin, it just feels like rain here. But there on the top of the ridge it felt different. I tried to frame that feeling a couple of times in a phrase but I just can’t. So please dear reader, don’t be mad as this is the only thing I can say: you had to be there with us. As endearing and inspiring books and prose may be, only if one experiences something himself, he or she can truly understand the meaning and purpose of such a journey where we truly walked in the footsteps of our ancestors, who for generations walked the same roads, ate the same foods, spoke the same words, prayed the same prayers and sang the same hymns as we did last week.

SuryoyoSat is famous for its ‘final words’, here are mine to my fellow travellers, my new friends. The rain and lack of sleep did not dampen our moods and our trip ended as it started, together. The biggest difference is that we started as fellow Aramean Syriacs, still somehow strangers to eachother, but we ended all as friends. The Tourist may get to know some people at his destination, but because he (or she) is so preoccupied by reaching it and only searches for a physical proofs of his journey, his encounters with others are superficial. Only The Pilgrim can bond and forge friendships with people he meets on his way because the spiritual and transcending meaning of their journey gives them so much more than just a picture or souvenir, it enriches them as a person. He knows that the fact that his fellow travellers live in places such as Australia, Sweden, Switzerland, Palestinian Authority, The Netherlands, Belgium or Germany doesn’t mean a thing. Of course modern technologies changed how we interact with eachother and it was fun to take pictures as our journey progressed, but we know we share so much more than just the fact of being on the same road for a week. Something FaceBook cannot share with us. I pray that all went well with all of you and you reached your other homes safe and sound. Aloho d-sobe, we will meet again, be it on the Mountain of God’s servants or in any other place, may He be with us on every journey we make as He was with us the past week. This pilgrim is ready to crawl into his bed, and dream about one of his biggest experiences in his life. Shlome.

Of course I cannot leave the side note out of this post, so here is the final one:

  • I started the day of rest after only three hours of sleep. As I am writing this, I have only slept for an odd ten hours the past three days
  • After a quick survey the tlauhé of Adiyaman have been declared the best of the week, tlauhé will be again on the menu after six weeks
  • It appeared that our friend from Bethlehem Aleen is a distant relative of Adam and Christina Cello, Aleen’s great grandfather was the uncle of the Cello’s grandmother (if memory serves me right, otherwise please do correct me), another example of the things that can happen on such a journey
  • Who had a hamburger at a famous place starting with the letter M as he or she reached the final airport? I did!

Read previous: Day 5: A Tur Abdin Easter

Sunday we celebrated Easter in the church of Mort Shmuni in Midyat. Service started at six o’clock in the morning. It was almost eight when we entered the church that was too small for all to be in so we stayed just in front of the doors. We just missed the first fifteen minutes of Holy Mass. It was almost as traditional as it is in the Netherlands, and that’s why today’s blog will not be that exciting as the previous days. I hope that this does not set you off. the biggest differences were ofcourse the place and the children from ages five and above who were in front of the procession singing the hymns in their clearest and loudest of voices. I can only hope we will see this energy back home. The people were dressed up nicely and the temperature added to a laid back atmosphere.

After mass I walked in to receive the Body of Christ, but just before reaching the front of the altar I saw my late grandfather’s cousin who with his wife still lives in Midyat. He invited me to have breakfast in his house and thus I broke away from the group. We did not even rested ourselves on the chairs in the frontyard or the first visitors already knocked on the door. The local Kurdish population has made the tradition of visiting each other their own and collect candy and eggs from the Syriac community. Later I heard that some of the houses ordered 500 eggs or more just to give away to their neighbours (my mother only buys 30 to 50, eventhough there are about 1000 syriac families in Enschede).

After church and breakfast one could either visit villages and family or take the bus to the monastery of Mor Melke. Together with about fifty others I decided to go to Mor Melke. It’s first edifices date back to the first half of the fourth century. Compared to Mor Gabriel, Mor Hananyo and a couple of other monasteries Mor Melke is relatively small. Two monks and two nuns take care of the buildings, the grounds and the four students who also help out. I like its history, its modesty and especially the balcony that provides a spectacular view over the surrounding fields, hills and mountains.

We had dinner together with the whole group in the hotel followed by a live broadcast on SuryoyoSat. The governor of the Mardin region joined the show and discussed the situation of our church and people with Johny Messo, head of WCA. He surprised me with his supportive attitude and even made some positive remarks regarding the cases concerning Mor Gabriel. The show was less festive than the previous ones due to a murder in one of the syriac villages and the situation of our people in Syria where two bishops are held captive.

After the television broadcast most of the youth stayed in the hotel restaurant. We spend a very good time with our new friends and forgot about time. There were only 3 hours left for sleep, but in return I gained a memory that will stay with me forever.

On a side note:

  • I called home and talked with my little sister, I asked her to give my greetings to all only to hear my mother rushing to the phone. After saying hello and wishing each other a blessed Easter she asked me if I had bought himsitho, black sesame and some spices for cookies for her
  • Mor Melke cured the king’s daughter and could have asked for anything, even for half the kingdom. Mor Melke asked for two large stones which he brought to the monastery. “If only he would’ve asked for half the kingdom, that would’ve solved a lot of our problems” one of our aussie friends sighed in the back
  • rumour had it in the church square that due to a sudden spike in demand the prices of pistachio nuts have gone up in Tur Abdin

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