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A Sabbatical in Jerusalem: Book l

About this book

This book, and the books that follow depicting my sabbatical in Israel, can never capture the full impact of my experience. However, my hope is that for those who engage with this book in the years to come, will read these images as a photo essay allowing them to speak for themselves.

A Sabbatical in Jerusalem: Book l

John Walker msc

A Sabbatical in Jerusalem: Book l

John Walker msc

A Sabbatical in Jerusalem: Book l

A Sabbatical in Jerusalem: Book l

John Walker msc

A Sabbatical in Jerusalem: Book l

John Walker msc

A Sabbatical in Jerusalem: Book 1

In September 2012 I traveled to Israel to be part of a sabbatical experience at Tantur in Jerusalem situated in the occupied West Bank and adjacent to Bethlehem. This was a three month residential program providing input from Jewish, Christian and Islamic scholars, together with field trips covering the length and breadth of Israel guided by archaeologists and anthropologists. This is a complex land with a complex history with no easy solutions to its current religious/political issues, in which everyone is ultimately a victim. The reality of the political struggle of the Palestinian peoples in this Holy Land greeted me each morning when I woke and cast my gaze on the grey concrete wall encircling Bethlehem; virtually an open air prison. Check points and IDF with automatic weapons; air raid sirens and the sound of thud as missiles penetrate the barren land south of Hebron were just part of the challenge of this life-changing experience; instead of walking the Holy Land, I allowed the Holy Land to walk through me. I literally captured thousands of photographic images during my three months but only a few have made it into these books in an attempt to tell the story. This photo essay will therefore trace the timeline of the program beginning with a few images of Tantur that itself will be the subject of a separate photo book celebrating its 40th Anniversary. John Walker msc December 2012

Westward bound

Early morning vista from Tantur overlooking extensive olive groves and the walled city of Bethlehem

Tantur: home for three months

Tantur olive groves; a Palestinian goat-herder and Bethlehem

Yom Kippur and deserted streets (above) and images from Tantur (right)

Seminars: Fr Frans Bouwen (above left), Fr Jamal Khader (below left) and Cedar Duyabis (below right)

On campus Bethlehem University, the day of my first exposure to the wall and the notorious checkpoint

Ronny and Machsom Watch

Founded in 2001 by three Israeli women human rights activists in response to violations of human rights of Palestinians crossing checkpoints in the West Bank and Jerusalem. Today the movement numbers several hundred women (men excluded) united in opposition to the occupation and in their commitment to human rights. Their belief is that the non-violent, nonaggressive presence of women at the checkpoints can lower the level of tension.

Venturing into the Old City for the first time: Dormition Abbey (above)

The West Wall (wailing wall) of the Temple Mount

Abu Gosh (French Benedictine) Abbey

Abud, an historic Christian Palestinian village

Nablus and Jacobs Well

The Samaritan community on Mt Gerizim

Sabastia: six successive cultures have occupied this site dating back 10,000 years

Manger Square, Bethlehem and the Church of the Nativity

Images from within Bethlehem

Illegal Jewish settlement (above left) next to Bethlehem

Taybeh, a Christian Palestinian village near Ramallah, celebrating Oktoberfest. A very acceptable beer by the way!

A privileged tour of the Temple Mount including the Dome of the Rock and the Al-Aqsa mosque (third holiest site in Islam)

The Old City and pilgrims on the Via Dolorosa

Thursday Bar-Mitzvah celebrations: entrance from Dung Gate to the West Wall

A descent into the Kidron Valley from Dung Gate and up the Mount of Olives


Views from Herodium over the Judean desert (left), and looking over an illegal Jewish settlement (right)

A view of Herodium from Tantur with the Bethlehem check point in the foreground

The Bethlehem check point and examples of wall art

Keila Khaled came to public attention for her role in a 1969 airline hijacking, and one of four simultaneous hijackings the following year as part of the Black September PFLO movement. She currently serves on the Palestinian National Council

Yad Vashem: the holocaust memorial site

The State of Israel made a commitment to remember and never forget the crimes perpetrated against the Jewish people. Yad Vashem, the Holocaust Martyrs and Heroes Rememberance Authority, was established in 1953 and is entrusted with the task of commemorating the six million Jews murdered by the Nazis, preserving the heritage of the thousands of Jewish communities destroyed, paying tribute to the heroic stand of the fighters and the ghetto inmates and honouring the Righteous Among the Nations who risked their lives to save Jews. Yad Vashem is indeed a most poignant memorial especially the Childrens Memorial. However, what visitors are not told is that once that they have passed through the main hall of the Museum and then step out onto an area over looking a beautiful valley, is that they are looking onto the site of a former Palestinian village called Deir Yassin. On April 9, 1948, the population of 750 was massacred by Zionist paramilitary. This was the first warning of a calculated depopulation of over 400 Arab villages and cities and the expulsion of over 700,000 Palestinian inhabitants to make room for survivors of the Holocaust.

Garden of the Righteous (above), and the Warsaw Ghetto Square (below and overleaf)

Entrance to the Childrens Memorial and the monument to Janusz Korczak (above right), a Polish-Jewish educator who ran an orphanage in the Warsaw Ghetto

On entering the darkened space of the Childrens memorial a visitor encounters this huge, ever-changing hologram; a tribute to the 1.5 million Jewish children who perished in the Holocaust; their names, ages and countries of origin are read out forever

Entering the main corridor of the Holocaust Museum

Overlooking the site of Deir Yassin

The Holocaust History Museum


A float in the Dead Sea at Ein Gedi

Qumran and the Dead Sea Scrolls

A taste of the Negev Desert experience that follows in Book 2