old monastery, painted from inside a cave.
imagine you are a young man working as a tourist guide in your homeland. in your younger, more reckless days you attended demonstrations on behalf of the basic human rights of your people, whose homes were regularly being taken away. your friends, neighbors and fellow activists were regularly being jailed--and sometimes killed--if they spoke up for human rights. you yourself were jailed several times for participating in non-violent actions. you cringe as your remember you were tortured in jail. you are older now. you are married and have several children. your children are now starting to have children. you need a steady source of income to help all the members of your family survive in the very tough economic climate of your country. you have found that taking people on hiking trips to some of the most beautiful places you know and love can be a good source of income.
one of the destinations you take people is a very old monastery about 10 miles outside of the city where you live. after you arrive at the parking lot above the monastery, you tell the tourists that the monastery was build in the fifth century and yet is still in use. monks used to come here to practice strict self-deprivation by living in the caves that line the cliffs near the monastery. you describe the whole area around the monastery as having a deeply sacred history.
as you all walk along the rocky trails, the tourists marvel at the beauty of the desert landscape. you all comment on how beautiful the monastery is in the afternoon light. the monastery is very large, including many different buildings of many different rooms. the buildings are several stories high. irrigation canals, no longer in use, run alongside the architectural masterpiece. trees and vines grace spaces between the buildings.
on this particular journey to the monastery, one of the tourists has requested that the group stop for a couple hours so she can make a painting of the monastery. in order to get a good view of the buildings, you will have to walk down to the valley floor and then cross over to the caves on the opposite side of the valley.
as you get closer to the stream that runs below you explain that settlements have been built upstream from the monastery, in jerusalem. the settlements dump their human waste and other garbage into this very stream which once ran clear and clean below the monastery. all three of the tourists comment on the disgusting stench coming from the stream. the woman who came to paint the stream is very angry because the waste is dumped into the stream. she exclaims, "how can this be?"