TIBERIAS – The breeze cooling the furnace-like lakeshore funnels down between hills that are redolent of history like so much else in the Holy Land. One, an extinct volcano popularised as the “Horns of Hattin,” marks the site where Saladin defeated a Crusader army in 1187. Closer again is the cliff-face where, over a thousand years before, Jews are said to have committed mass suicide rather than be taken captive by the Romans in 67 AD, 3 years before the destruction of Jerusalem and a better-known mass suicide at the Masada. Downhill is the reed-laden lakeshore along the Sea of Galilee, where Jesus Christ walked. He may well even have preached in what is a startling discovery 200m from the water’s edge at Magdala, a town thought to be the home-place of Mary Magdalene, 5km from Tiberias and around the same from Capernaum. The discovery is a synagogue dating to the first century AD, possibly destroyed during the same Jewish revolt, and uncovered during excavations for the construction of a new Catholic pilgrimage center.
RAMALLAH — It might be unwitting irony, but the coffee-shop overlooking central Ramallah tips its hat to an American consumer icon, in what might otherwise be deemed an outpost of anti-Americanism. Stars and Bucks cafe in downtown Ramallah is branded with almost the same colour scheme as the better-known global chain from which it plays its name, a hue pretty close to Islamic green. Hummus and labaneh are on the menu should the customer want a more “authentic” experience than just downing a Middle East macchiato. Inside, some women wore in Western garb, others wore Islamic garb. All kept to their own tables, silent behind outsized sunglasses or tapping away on laptops. Some men lounged on sofas, puffing on shishas and just as silent as their female counterparts as they watched a World Cup football mismatch between Portugal and North Korea.