Stories from the Holy Land: West Bank Sunset

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I’m on a farm a few kilometers outside of Bethlehem, sitting at a picnic table, sipping on a cup of fresh sage tea and enjoying the warm, dry air after a few days of heavy rain which seemed to have followed me from Galicia. As I savor the earthy, aromatic flavor of the tea, I gaze at the rolling hills around me, speckled with olive groves and vineyards. There are small Palestinian villages and larger Israeli settlements dotting the landscape as far as the eye can see.

On the horizon, I can just barely make out the Mediterranean Sea, a twinkling blue oasis under the sun’s rays. The scattering of buildings almost straight ahead, I’m told, is Tel Aviv. And to the south, we can see Gaza. A place that seems almost another world away.

As I take in my surroundings, the blue sky begins to turn blood orange, causing the white buildings in the nearby settlements and villages to sparkle. The sky darkens, changing from blood orange to an almost cherry red color and a chorus of music begins to fill the air: the call to prayer coming from the minarets of the nearby mosques in the Palestinian villages.

The muezzins, or the servants of the mosques, from several mosques in the surrounding area are summoning Muslims from the villages for mandatory prayer. One of the muezzins starts melodically reciting “Allah…,” and a few seconds later, another one starts his call to prayer, making for an interwoven fabric of music echoing off the hills and valleys.

As I finish my cup of tea, goosebumps start to cover my bare arms. Everything is calm and tranquil and, for this brief moment, I feel at peace.

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