October 2012 - Vol. 63

Scenes from the Holy Land - art work series by David Kurani

The Sea of Galilee, watercolor, 18x25.5 cms, by David Kurani

The Sea of Galilee
Villages, ruins, and archaeological treasures beckoning to an older way of life are here. Fields planted with grain, rocky hillsides with pasturage for sheep and goats are still to be seen, and the boats and nets of the fishermen look like they might be unchanged from those of long ago. And on one side there is Tiberias; with some older churches and a Roman sea-fort on its waterfront. There are, of course, modern features too, like new buildings, bungalows, and, surprisingly, eucalyptus trees brought in recently; they are quick to grow in the local soil - shouldering aside the old stones they encounter almost with impertinence; but they cannot change the gentle hills and ancient topography.

Bethlehem, from the Shepherd's Field, watercolor, 18x25.5 cms, by David Kurani.

Bethlehem, from the Shepherd's Field

I visited Bethlehem in the Easter of 1967. The Church of the Nativity can be spotted as the high tower on the brow of the hill, center left in this picture. I walked around the town with my mother and was affected by its simplicity which seemed to resonate with its illustrious past; the unchanged hills, the stone-cut walls, the white clay roofs and roads, and of course the central grotto; once a simple stable, and now a lodestone for deep devotion.

Mount Sinai and St. Catherine's Monastery, watercolor, 18x25.5 cms, by David Kurani

Mount Sinai and St. Catherine's Monastery

I have friends who have climbed to the peak of Mount Sinai (or 'Jabal Moussa' - the mountains of Moses as it is known in the arabic of the locals). They say it is a taxing but wonderfully inspirational climb - especially to arrive to the peak at dawn and watch the glory of sunrise there. Truly a "widening" experience hard to put into words but easy to perceive in it the "finger of God". I imagine the plain encamped and full of people, all facing the mountain which then shakes, thunders, is covered with smoke and inspires the deepest and almost unbearable awe.
Now, able to lie still in the quiet of the New Covenant, the mountain shelters the Monastery of Saint Catherine at its foot - the smallest of the autocephalous (independently governed) Orthodox churches (the largest being the Russian Orthodox Church); an oasis of faith for pilgrims to the site, and a repository for objects articulate of God's past actions.

Anemones before Mount Hermon, watercolor, 18x25.5 cms, by David Kurani
Anemones before Mount Hermon

Anemones in the wild are what many believe to be the "lilies of the field" that Jesus referred to, comparing them to (and saying they surpassed) the glorious robes of Solomon. There's an interesting note; Solomon's robes were probably dyed Tyrean purple - that being the standard for the accoutrements of royalty at the time since purple-colored cloth could be achieved in no other way than by the expensive and jealously guarded secrets of the purple-dye trade in nearby Tyre.

Just outside of Tyre there are mounds and even hills of the shells of the Murex water snails; harvested from the sea-bed, each with a small hole bored in the side to extract the precious ink for the dye. Depending on how it was processed, the dye could give a range of colors from crimson through the purples, to a deep indigo - just the same range as the anemones; red but sometimes purple and even, occasionally, white. It's as though God threw down a color gauntlet and said "There; match that;" which then man more or less did - but not so effortlessly.

In the background is Mount Hermon, one candidate for being the "high mountain" of Jesus's transfiguration (the other candidate being Mount Tabor). From Hermon one can see a vast panorama from the Lebanon mountains in the north, to the Sea of Galilee in the south.

David is a noted Lebanese landscape artist. He teaches classes in art and theater at the American University of Beirut, Lebanon. David has exhibited widely in art galleries and private collections throughout Lebanon, Europe, and the USA. He and his wife Gisele and their three sons are active members of the People of God in Lebanon, a member community of the Sword of the Spirit. 

Also see Archives Art Works by David Kurani

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