It was an early morning, and all our seniors met at the Father Anton Buzo Senior Citizen (BSCC) Center full of excitement and enthusiasm. They were happy and appreciative of the opportunity.
It was an early morning, and all our seniors met at the Father Anton Buzo Senior Citizen (BSCC) Center full of excitement and enthusiasm. They were happy and appreciative of the opportunity. “It has been a long time since I left Birzeit,” said one. Many others could have said the same.
Our trip to Jericho, the world’s oldest city, was planned three months ago, but due to closures and checkpoints we couldn’t make it until just this May. Our bus left at 8:30 in the morning with 40 seniors and 13 of our volunteers, who enriched the trip with their practical support and heartfelt care.
The road to Jericho was long and tricky. We couldn’t use the main road into the city because the Israeli soldiers there deny access to all except Jericho’s residents. In spite of this difficulty, the seniors prayed their morning pray, sang old and modern songs for amusement. It was there way of forgetting checkpoints and road closures, the ugly reminders of how much their country has changed since they were children. Precious memories of those happier days in the old city survive, though, and BSCC gave the seniors the opportunity to refresh them.
Lunch was had at the city’s beautiful Spanish Gardens, a large public park full of palm trees and green space. Like Jericho, the park is something of an oasis in the desert. Our team of volunteers prepared a barbecued main course while the seniors started on their salads. They danced and laughed, ignoring the hot weather and the day’s obstacles. What mattered most was spending time together.
In the afternoon, the group visited several archaeologist sites, including Tel al-Sultan, ruins dating back to the first of Jericho’s inhabitants some 10,000 years ago. Visiting this site fit the BSCC’s mission to find new ways to expose its members to Palestine’s cultural history.
Similarly, the group stopped to look at the Mount of Temptations, where tradition holds Jesus retreated after his baptism in the River Jordan. As much as the BSCC programs cultural activities into its mission, our Christian and ecumenical missions are no less important.
On the way out of Jericho, memories of the nearby Dead Sea crossed the seniors’ minds. Unfortunately, Israel controls all access to this famous body of water, even the part of the coastline inside the West Bank. The group did not have the required permits this time, but all on the bus ride home but it talked of hope for a future when they would be able to visit the world’s deepest point.
It was a long day, but all returned back to Birzeit safe, sound, and thanking God for such a lovely day in Jericho.