Answers to the Abraham Path Trivia Quiz

Last month we sent you a quick quiz that tests your knowledge about the Abraham Path. Now, we are happy to explain the answers! But first, we would like to thank all those who submitted responses, as well as the five winners who will each receive one of our new Abraham Path T-shirts. Be sure to keep an eye out for an email with instructions on how to claim your prize.

For the rest of you, here are the answers:

This group preserves its ancient priesthood and continues to practice its religion in a temple atop
Mt Gerizim.

  • Answer: The Samaritans
  • Well known from the biblical stories of the “good Samaritan” and of the woman whom Jesus asked to draw water from a well, this ancient religious sect has survived for millennia despite severe persecution. In the present day, they live primarily in two communities: one is located near Nablus on Mt Gerizim, which is considered to be the holiest place for the Samaritans; and  a second, Neveh Marqeh, is near Tel Aviv.
  • Further Reading:

Archeological evidence found at this site, also known for its substantial expanses of copper slag,
gave rise to new understanding of human history, indicating that humans developed patterns of
settlement and consolidated religious practice prior to the advent of agriculture.

  • Answer: Feynan
  • Wadi Feynan is unique for its rich archeological history that dates back some 9,000 years. Hikers can easily spot the remnants of settlements ranging from the Neolithic era all the way to the Mamluk era; but the most notable feature is the estimated 100,000 tons of copper slag spread across the landscape, a testament to the valley’s importance during the Bronze Age.
  • Further Reading:

This site along the Abraham Path offers a unique opportunity to experience all four of Jordan’s
biogeographical zones in just a couple days’ walk. The four zones are: Mediterranean, which is primarily found in the highlands; Saharo-Arabian, which is primarily located in the northern region; Irano-Turanian, which is the eastern semi-desert regions; and finally, the Sudanian Penetration biogeographical zone, which represents the tropical influence on Jordanian geography.

  • Answer: Dana Nature Reserve
  • Due to the fact that it covers all four biogeographical zones, the wildlife diversity is incredible. There are an estimated 700 species of plant, 200 species of bird, and almost 40 kinds of mammals. The village is home to a world famous ecolodge, so enjoying the beauty this region has to offer is a true pleasure.
  • Further Reading:

This mountain is made of halite and grows at a rate of 3.5mm per year. Home to many unique geological features such as the world’s longest salt cave, towering halite pillars, and plentiful fossils, this area is great to explore; just make sure you don’t look back when you leave.

  • Answer: Mount Sodom
  • Rising 250 meters above the Dead Sea but still well below sea level, this ridgeline is home to a salt pillar that is commonly associated with the story of Lot and his wife, who turned to salt when she looked back as they fled from the cities of Sodom and Gomorrah. These days, the area is home to a spectacular variety of fossils, short hiking trails, and caves to explore. Climbing to the top is also well worth the views.
  • Further Reading:

The rocky canyon of Wadi Qelt is believed to have inspired this famous line from the Psalms.

  • Answer: “Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil, for you are with me.”
  • Made famous by its reference in Psalm 23, this isolated and barren valley is now home to St. George’s Monastery, which was built high on the steep, rocky edges of the canyon. Originally built in the 4th century, the impressive frescoes and beautiful decorations stand in stark contrast to the shadowy valley below.
  • Further Reading:

This city is the ancestral hometown of a woman called Aisha bint Ahmad al Baouni, also known as Aisha al Baouniya. Renowned within her own lifetime as a Sufi mystic, poet and calligrapher, Aisha preached and published in great centers of 15th century Islamic thought such as Cairo and Damascus.

  • Answer: Baoun
  • Recognized by UNESCO for the significance of Aisha’s contribution to Islamic thought, her hometown is nestled in the lush Ajloun Region, which is home to numerous archeological sites and villages that are famous for their local wares.
  • Further Reading:

For hundreds of years, this soup has been served free of charge in a kitchen located in the old city of Hebron to many a hungry passerby, whether pilgrim or local

  • Answer: Abraham’s Soup
  • As one of the oldest continuously inhabited cities in the world, Hebron has seen its fair share of travelers. While the soup is reprentative of its unique approach to visitors, don’t miss out on the city’s uniquely layered history. The old city’s layout follows the Hoash model of habitation, where families built additional structures surrounding a central courtyard as their numbers expanded. These courtyards were further divided based on ethnicity or occupation, leading to a city that is home to concentrated sections that have a long history associated with a particular craft or people. Famous examples include the Glassmakers’ Quarter, the Yoghurt Quarter and the Armenian Quarter.
  • Further Reading:

Believed to be the third oldest in the world, this church is supposedly built on the site where Jesus healed a group of lepers while traveling to Jerusalem from Nazereth.

Abraham planted this type of tree after he had dug a well when he first arrived in Beersheva. Digging the well and planting this tree represents a crucial shift in the Abrahamic story, indicating a change from a nomadic lifestyle to one of sedentary agriculture.

  • Answer: Tamarix Tree
  • While at a glance this area doesn’t seem like the most obvious place to stop a journey, its dry climate and lack of visible water belies the fact that it lies above a narrowing subterranean riverbed that pushes the water to just below the surface. Digging a well in this area promises to quickly reach the water table.
  • Further Reading:

According to tradition, this city houses the cave where Abraham’s mother went into hiding while she was pregnant with Abraham. She was fleeing from King Nimrod, who had ordered all children born that year to be killed in response to a dream he had that foretold of a child who would end his rule.

  • Answer: Urfa or Sanliurfa
  • Sanliurfa – which translates to ‘glorious Urfa’ –  lives up to its name with a history that includes one of the oldest religious sites on the planet, as well as a town-center that includes an incredible system of fish-filled canals and an old market that is world renown for its spices and craftsmanship.
  • Further Reading:

This mosque, once visited by famous explorer Ibn Battuta, is reported to have been built on the site where Abraham prostrated himself in prayer that God would not destroy the cities of Sodom and Gomorrah. Abraham’s nephew Lot, who lived in these areas, is said to be buried nearby.

This mountain, named for a ninth-century Sufi mystic, is now home to a shrine symbolizing the mystic’s grave. Local veneration of the site is traditionally so great that one twentieth-century doctor recommended that his patients take their medications nearby – not because he believed the medicine would be more potent, but because he believed his patients were more likely to have faith in his prescriptions.

First Day on the Job

By Cully Lundgren

I sit here listening to the sounds of mellow rock music and Bob Dylan pulse through the cool night air. I drink my cold beer and my mind wanders and meanders through the events of the past couple days.

Recently, I was in Boston preparing for this two-week trip. I was headed to Jordan for a few days of hiking, and then I would quickly visit Jerusalem, the West Bank, Palestine, and Israel (the names vary depending on where and who you are). Watching the news in the weeks leading up to my trip, I saw a constant barrage of images and stories of the worst that the Middle East currently has to offer. It was hard to escape it, and the headlines certainly had their intended effect on me. I was getting a little nervous.

I’ve traveled around the world. I have been to over fifty countries, and yet still I was not able to approach it with a level head. It wasn’t just the pictures and the stories that got to me – there were also warnings from friends and family, and they were ringing through my mind: “Grow your hair and a beard; it will make you look less American.” “Wear muted colors.” “Don’t tell anyone your plans.” “Militants could be around every corner.” “The border is porous between Syria and Jordan, you know.”

I was buying into the hype. I was losing my faith in humanity. My ability and passion for relating to people from all walks of life – one of the things I hold most dear – was abandoning me. The media’s portrayal of regional instability had allowed dark stereotypes and fear to develop.

All of these thoughts began to wash away about halfway through my airport taxi ride to downtown Amman. I used my halting Arabic to say hello to the taxi driver. I saw the people smile. Old thoughts and worries still rushed at me, though, as the taxi driver reached for his phone. “Great. He’s calling someone to meet the taxi, grab me, and take me to a secluded hideout.” Instead, of course, the taxi driver handed me his phone and a gentle voice asked me in English where I was going. He relayed the information to my driver, thanked me, and five minutes later I was at my hotel, shaking hands with Mahmoud and telling him I hoped to see him again.

Photo Credit: David Landis/API

The following day I went to walk the Abraham Path. I walked it with Palestinians, Jordanians, Europeans, and Americans. We walked on trails that have been trodden for thousands of years, stayed as guests in family homes, and experienced the friendship and hospitality that is synonymous with the cultural memory of Ibrahim or Abraham across the region. I have a lot to learn about the Middle East. This complex and rich land is facing serious challenges, and yet it has so much to offer.

As I begin my job as Development Director with the Abraham Path Initiative, I am focusing on raising philanthropic investment from individuals who share our goals of catalyzing sustainable economic and community-led tourism by supporting the Abraham Path. While there are certainly challenges, I have never been more hopeful.

Photo Credit: Julian Bender/API

Resilient Landscapes: Tel Ta’anek to Burqin

“The landscape is so dry!” was all I could think to myself as we left Jerusalem and headed north for the first of the Abraham Path’s weekly autumn hikes.

I had arrived in Jerusalem just two days ago, and for most of the last year I had lived in Virginia’s Shenandoah Valley. There, on hikes or mountain bike rides through dense Appalachian forests, I often had the sense that I was traveling through a series of green tunnels. Prior to that I had lived in Bosnia and Herzegovina and there rarely had to carry more than a liter of water on hikes because of the plentiful, potable mountain springs.

Now what I saw before us was an expanse of harsh, rocky hills rolling down to the Jordan River Valley to the east.

Beautiful, but barren.

How could anything grow here?

Yet when we arrived at the beginning of our hike in Ta’anek – a village of 1,000 people in the northern part of the Jenin Region – and set out on foot, we immediately entered a hardy grove of olive trees that had managed to flourish there for hundreds, if not thousands, of years in the dry rocky soil.

Just a little further up the trail, around a bend, we entered a stand of almond trees. While muted now after the hot, dry summer, our guide Mohammed assured us that they would be beautiful and in bloom in the spring after the winter rains.

Another of our guides, Ahmad, taught me the names in Arabic. Olive tree was zatoun. Almond was los.

“Only zatoun and los here,” Ahmad laughed as I recited the names of the trees as I saw them.



Zatoun, zatoun, los…


A couple hours later, after winding our way around the outskirts of Ta’anek and another local village, Mohammed stopped beside a small, leafy bush half his height. “All the plants here are central parts of our daily lives. This one here, serlis,” he pointed out the bush, “we even mention it when we have weddings.”

He smiled, “Before the wedding the mother of the groom sings this song to him.” Mohammed then sang a few lines of a local tune in wonderfully melodious voice.

When he finished he roughly translated the text to English (which unfortunately can’t convey the clever rhyme of the original Arabic):

“Mother: Where did you take your shower?

Groom: Under the shadow of the serlis.”

We chuckled. I thought about weddings and the serlis, and I thought about the resiliency of the flora and the resiliency of the people of this region.


I thought about our guide Mohammed and the resiliency of his humor.

Earlier in the hike he had told me about his failed attempt to enter a master’s program in archeology in Great Britain.

“While I was studying in Nablus, a Palestinian archeologist teaching in Great Britain noticed me. He invited me to study there, assured me that he had the appropriate paperwork lined up, and asked me to take the TOEFL test.” He flashed me a grin before delivering the punchline, “I swear he waited until I got my mark before he died of cancer!”

I thought about the resiliency of the people in this region that had allowed them to thrive here for thousands of years.

In Ta’anek before we started walking, Mohammed had explained a bit about the town’s history. “Everyone thinks that history began with the Bible,” he joked, “but caravans have been passing through this region from town to town for many thousands of years. This little town of Ta’anek is mentioned in Egyptian records as early as 4,000 B.C.E. These caravan routes were the reasons why Abraham’s path took him through this area.”

Later as we arrived weary in Burqin, George Rishmawi, Executive Director of Masar Ibrahim, introduced us to the local Byzantine Era Orthodox Church, now nearly 2,000 years old. “This is the third-oldest church in the world and the fifth Christian holy place,” he noted. At this site Jesus had purportedly healed 10 lepers held in quarantine.

I thought about the tough resiliency of the people there today as they continue to carve out homes from one of the hillsides and still have the grace to offer ice water to travelers trudging by.

Riding home I had new appreciation for that dogged, resilient life that surrounded us.

Kulli, kulli! Eat, Eat!

“Kulli! Eat!”

Just barely remembering my manners, I uttered a quick “Shukran,” before taking my first bite, thanking the Palestinian woman placing heaping plates of rice and chicken and stuffed grape leaves on the table in front of me. My gratitude was entirely genuine, and I began to shovel the food down rapidly, eager to replace the last 15 kilometers’ worth of calories. As one of the local guides reached across the table to load up his dish with seconds, he paused, observed all of us in the midst of our feeding frenzy, and smiled. “We have an old Palestinian saying,” he told us. “It’s something like…” he struggled for a moment, searching for the best way to convey the heart of the proverb in English. “It’s something like, ‘As much as you love, this is how much you will eat.’” And, having shared this with us, he shamelessly scooped another mountain of the delicious, home-cooked food onto his plate.eatting

We laughed, agreeing that our appetites had rendered us a pretty loving bunch after our first day hiking on the new Jenin section of the Abraham Path. But the old proverb stuck with me over the next five days, repeating itself frequently in my mind. As much as you love, this is how much you will eat. I was reminded of the phrase later that night, when I sat on the couch with our homestay family in their living room. Next to me sat the family’s grandmother, her face tanned and weathered from 80 years of Middle Eastern sunshine but her eyes still alert and curious and her mouth more given to grinning than to any other expression. Noticing I had finished my (third) bowl of popcorn, she grabbed her own bowl and – despite my protestation – patted me on the back as if to assure me that I would not starve and began to pour half of her own popcorn into my bowl, her rheumatic hands shaking and causing the plates to clink together cheerfully as she did so.

I thought of the saying again as we came to Arabe village and wound our way through the narrow, stone alleyways of the old city. Upon our arrival, two of our hosts from the village immediately brought us a staggering spread of delicious foods they’d been preparing for us all day: musakkhin and mujaddara and harisi, all these previously foreign words which now awaken in me a rumbling stomach and extra-active salivary glands. We thanked the women profusely; they smiled and nodded their understanding. Both chatted with us a bit, occasionally stumbling over a word in English. One of them laughed apologetically, “I’m not so good at English. Cooking food for people – that’s what I’m good at.”

zatarAnd I was reminded of the proverb repeatedly as I walked the trail itself with our local guides. As we traversed the countryside – now drowning in fields of wildflowers up to our waists, now victoriously summiting a stunning mountain, now poking around in ancient stone dwellings – our guides would periodically dart into the surrounding vegetation, emerging with some apparently edible piece of nature and urging us to try it with that ubiquitous Arabic demand: “Kulli, kulli! Eat, eat!” They would then proceed to describe the traditional dishes their wives and mothers and grandmothers had made from the plant; and often, they would supplement this gastronomic instruction with an old folk tale or song featuring the plant. Traditional foods, connectedness with the land, cultural heritage…they are all tangled one with another, the guides told us.

foodAs much as you love, this is how much you will eat. The longer I walked the path, the more I began to understand this correlation. Even if our guide hadn’t shared the proverb with us – even if I hadn’t heard it put into so many words – I think I would still have intuitively felt the truth behind this sentence. I couldn’t have missed it. The spirit of hospitality and community and connection is as alive around the Palestinian table today as it was thousands of years ago when Abraham invited weary travelers to join him for a meal in the shade of the oak trees.

Do You Speak Muslim?

By Anisa Mehdi

The nurse who gave the meningitis vaccine asked where I was going. “Mexico?” she wondered. “India?” These places were just names to her; she’d never left the United States.

“Saudi Arabia,” I said, “I’m making a film about a pilgrimage called the Hajj.”

Into her blank stare I continued. “It’s a documentary film series for PBS all about pilgrimage in different faith traditions. I am covering the Muslim pilgrimage, the Hajj. It happens once a year, starting in Mecca.”

For a moment she considered what I’d said.

“What language do you speak there?” she asked sincerely. “Do you speak… Muslim?”

The answer was embarrassingly obvious to me. Mecca is located on the Arabian Peninsula. People speak Arabic there. And since Muslims are from the world over they speak myriad languages. In fact, Arabic is not the primary language for most Muslims. More Muslims speak Indonesian and Chinese dialects and Urdu than speak Arabic.

“No,” I answered gently and plainly. “I speak English and Spanish. The people of Arabia speak Arabic. And Muslims speak many languages.”

She was satisfied. But I was not.

Do we, in fact, speak “Muslim”? Heading by car from Medina south to Mecca, about a four-hour drive, I had time to consider. My crew was resting, gearing up for eight jam-packed days in the Holy City and following pilgrims on the Hajj. There may actually be a common language with phrases such as Asalaamu ‘alaykum (Peace be upon you), Alhamdulillah” (Praise be to God), Allahu akbar (God is greater – whatever there may be, God is greater), La illaha il Allah (There is no god but God), and insha Allah (Let it be God’s will — although the more cynical among us would say it’s like “mañana” only less urgent).

It may be a language of practices that most of us understand (and put up with) like some men placing their hands on their hearts rather than shaking hands with women and vice versa, and making a ritual ablution before prayer that includes rinsing everything from your face, nose and ears to your privates and your feet. The language of eyes filled with knowing pride and compassion during the month of Ramadan when we go hungry and thirsty during daylight hours for an entire month. And increasingly a language called Muslim that speaks in defense of Islam in the face of fanatics and cults that seek to use faith to generate social unrest and political gain. The word for sociopathy in Arabic is “hiraba” and I wish that would become more common in the lexicon of Muslim than “jihadi.” Listen to my commentary, “Rethinking the Word Jihad” on NPR’s “All Things Considered.”

The Muslim language is spoken worldwide in unique communities. And here in Mecca it is lingua franca.

When people are swept into the circumambulation of the Ka’aba, the black cloth-covered building in the center of Mecca’s central sanctuary, they speak, feel, and hear Muslim all around. The greeting of peace among strangers; the give and take for position in the crowd; the resentment of folks who push too hard to complete their rituals. Speaking Muslim should mean being careful not to endanger anyone. To aid someone in need. To be hospitable, generous, charitable.

Let me be clear that I know there are many people who are not fluent in “Muslim.” But during the Tawaf — circumambulation — people try and it’s a joy to see. Pilgrims reported to me that they’d never been so squashed before. One tall man said he was lifted off his feet by the press; another saw someone crowd surfing. I’ve taken an elderly woman by the hand and walked with her around and around, speaking Muslim since it was the only language we shared, and keeping her safe and centered.

I keep asking the pilgrims who’ll appear in this documentary, “How do you think you can take your experience home? How will you sustain the transformation you seek? How can the power of all the love and intention to ‘speak good Muslim’ be channeled into making the world a better place for everyone?”

It’s a tall order.

But the Hajj is a tall order. Reckoning with the Creator is a tall order.

Hajj started today, 8 of Dhul Hijjah, 13 October 2013, in the campsite called Mina a few miles east of Mecca, and climaxes on 9 Dhul Hijja on the Plain of Arafat.

Insha Allah there’ll be a fluency in speaking Muslim gained over the next few days.