Church

Holy Land Deserted by Tourists as Fighting Empties Hotels

From Bloomberg News: 

Omer Benjoya took a job this summer selling drinks, snacks and postcards on a hill that offers one of the most breathtaking panoramic views of Jerusalem.

Now all the 17-year-old needs are customers. Since hostilities flared this month between Israel’s army and Palestinian militants in Gaza, tourists have been scarce.

U.S. aviation regulators delivered a further blow this week, temporarily banning flights to Tel Aviv by American carriers for the first time since 1991, while their European counterparts also recommended a suspension after a rocket fired from Gaza landed about a mile from the city’s airport. The decisions came just days after a Malaysian Airlines plane was shot down in Ukraine’s war zone.

“Look around, see how empty it is,” Benjoya said next to the bright red truck his employer uses as a refreshment kiosk. “Normally, there’d be one or two hundred people standing here,” he said, gesturing to the near-empty stone-paved promenade that overlooks the walls of the Old City, the Dome of the Rock and the Mount of Olives.

While Jerusalem is calm, fighting that has left hundreds of Palestinian and more than two dozen Israeli families grieving their dead is threatening the livelihoods of many more. Almost a third of foreign visitors expected in Israel in July have canceled, according to a top trade association. An industry that welcomed a record 3.5 million overseas visitors last year is facing substantial damage.

Read on here.

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Church

400-Year-Old Crucifix Found

By a Canadian student:

It is tiny in size — measuring only 1.1 inches in width — and its top is broken, but a 400- year-old copper crucifix found at Newfoundland’s Avalon Peninsula earlier in July has big historical significance, according to historians. It symbolizes an early dream of religious freedom in North America.

The artifact is clearly a Catholic item, featuring a simple representation of Christ on the front and the Virgin Mary and Christ Child on the back. Yet it was found in a predominantly English settlement.

Back in England, its owner would could be fined, imprisoned or put to death for practicing Catholic faith, according to Barry Gaulton, Field Director of the Colony of Avalon and Associate Professor of Archaeology at Memorial University of Newfoundland.

“The Catholic iconography is unmistakable. As with all archaeological discoveries, the context in which the artifact was found tells us its story,” Gaulton said in a release.

The story the crucifix tells is that of the dream of the Newfoundland’s settler, Sir George Calvert. Calvert was an English lord who helped settle the colony around 1628. His vision was to create a community where all Christians could enjoy freedom of religion without fear of persecution. He was one of the early pioneers of religious freedom in North America.

Just the presence of the Catholic crucifix reveals that Calvert’s vision had started to take shape. The small cross was found by Anna Sparrow, an undergraduate student at Memorial University in St. John’s.

As for who the crucifix belonged to, the archaeologists are not sure. They say it could have belonged to one of the craftsmen working on Calvert’s house, or the colony’s second governor, the Catholic gentleman Sir Arthur Aston, or even George Calvert himself.

An archaeologist’s job can be painstaking, tedious work, involving careful excavation, delicate sifting and gentle brushing. For Sparrow, the thrill of finding such a significant artifact, made all the hard work worthwhile.

As she said in a press release, “There is so much time, effort and patience involved in excavation, that to find something with such historical significance is incredible.”