Off the Beaten Path- In the Holy Land!

I recently got back from the Holy Land yet again, and I can’t wait to show you some highlights that you won’t hear about from mainstream media! First stop, a side of Jerusalem I have literally never seen before at St George’s Cathedral Guesthouse.

St. George was built in 1899, and has been open to tourists since 1923.  This guesthouse is right in the heart of Jerusalem, not far from main attractions like the Garden Tomb and Damascus Gate. The old city of Jerusalem can get quite packed with tourists, so it was nice to come back to this peaceful oasis with a tranquil courtyard and blooming gardens. You get a chance to step back in time with the stone wall architecture and simple amenities, but you also get the modern comforts such as free wifi and breakfast, as well as  pampering toiletries from the Dead Sea.

  • For more information on this guesthouse click on this LINK
  • St George Pilgrim Guesthouse Address: 20 Nablus Road, Jerusalem, 19018, Holy Land

Aside from checking out all of the religious sites in Jerusalem, I visited the Edward Said National Conservatory of Music for the first time. This music school for Palestinian students sometimes offers concerts to the public on Fridays.  You can inquire with the school if you are town and want to catch a performance of either classical or Arabic music played on ancient instruments like the Qanun or Oud.  While these children are incredibly talented and play at the professional level once they graduate, they have to deal with the unpredictable realities of military occupation. It is not uncommon for the Israeli military to shut down their schools or concerts without any advanced notice or definable reason.

I put together a video to give you a visual of these highlights below:

 

To learn more about the incredible work of the Palestine youth orchestra, click HERE.

And to support their educational programs click HERE

Next up, I head to Nablus,  an original Canaanite city  from 2000 years ago that was important in ancient Palestine. Nablus offered the most surprises–a combination of a modern lifestyle in the urban center, with acres of picturesque olive tree covered mountains on the outskirts. Nablus  has some of the oldest olive groves in the world, some dating as far back as 1500 to 2000 years. I think that is why Palestinian olive oil is so special, the olives have this fruity complexity you just can’t get from younger trees. 

 

As far as cooking oils go, Palestinian olive oil is the purest, in that it is not combined with other oils and is literally cold pressed from farm to bottle. Palestinians produce 15,000 to 30,000 tons of olive oil a year, providing for 70000 families. They have also been making olive oil soap, which is a 1000 year old tradition. While Palestinians have lost hundreds of millions of dollars in olive product exports because of the Israeli wall, closures, and checkpoints, thankfully they are able to export some oil to the American market with the assistance of western NGOs. 

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The olive harvest experience was one that I will never forget. A group of Palestinian women welcomed my travel group and me as if we were family, cooking up a farm to table breakfast with the freshest ingredients. Honestly it is the simple meals that astound me the most when the ingredients are this organic and seasonal. The main star of breakfast was Mana’eesh with za’atar, or bread baked in a clay oven with copious amounts of olive oil and za’atar.

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Sadly, Israeli authorities and settlers have destroyed over 800,000 Palestinian olive trees Since 1967. However you can help keep this tradition alive by buying Palestinian olive  oils like the CANAAN FAIR TRADE or, ZAYTOUN OLIVE OIL    

One of the biggest surprises was visiting Jacob’s Well, one of the most authentic and ancient Christian holy sites in the world. The well is about 40 meters deep, and they actually allow you to drink the water from the well, which tasted super fresh and pure! The priest that manages the church is of ill health and sadly dying, but I feel like his legacy will be around for decades to come. To hear his story and see the video of my Nablus adventure, click on brand new the video below:

 

What do you think are you enjoying these travel videos? Let me know in the comments below! And have a wonderful Thanksgiving!

4 thoughts on “Off the Beaten Path- In the Holy Land!

  1. Blanche…of course we enjoy your travel videos!! Most of us have not traveled there. You take us to an incredible part of the world. The history… It’s fascinating. I love the way you provide the little details of the region. I appreciate the videos, pictures and the stories. Thanks so much for sharing. I can see why you went to Palestine again this year!! Hope you can share some more of your visit there. S Davis, El Paso, TX

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