January 11, 2009
On the 7th day they rested
Sunday morning took North American bishops to worship at Lutheran congregations across Jerusalem and the West Bank and then into the homes or favorite restaurants of those congregations' members.
They've been in region since Jan. 6 to stress accompaniment with the Evangelical Lutheran Church in Jordan and the Holy Land, raise awareness of regional issues and boost advocacy for peace.
The official portion of the trip ends Jan. 13, although some bishops and their spouses will remain for two additional days to see the Israeli area of Galilee.
At the end of Sunday, the bishops gathered at the Shepherd Hotel in Bethlehem for a reception hosted by the Palestinian Authority Ministry of Tourism.
According to Palestinian officials, the Israeli-occupied West Bank accounts for 70 percent of the religious pilgrimage sites yet visitors to the region spend 95 percent of their tourism money in Israel. (More information is available at http://www.travelpalestine.ps.)
"Many come to the Church of the Nativity" in Bethlehem to see the church and then get back on the bus to leave and "don't buy even a bottle of water," one official said.
On Monday the group heads for Ramallah, the de facto capital of the West Bank.