A Travellerspoint blog

Day 5

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Day 5
Today a very different day than we have had so far. Much more listening and not as much walking and moving around. It made for a harder day since listening is tough when there is no discussion more of a lecture. Not that the information was boring or anything but I am not an auditory learner so tough to just listen. Any way here is our day…

Got up and sang Happy Birthday to Glenn! We had a similar breakfast as yesterday but didn’t have to get around and be ready to go until 8:00 instead of 7:30. So not as rushed. Headed out and went first to The Shepherd’s Fields. The fields are pretty much covered by buildings now with an occasional little green field in between. The Shepherd’s Fields covers a large area or at least it used to. They still refer to the area by that name which is rather ironic since it is now covered by buildings. Anyway we did go to the cave where the shepherd’s watched their flocks that night. I was a grotto with a smoke charred ceiling and the little hokey thing was they had cut a star shape in the roof and put a light bulb up in it. But the cave was cool and much more natural than other places so you could image easier what it had been like. There was also a chapel near the cave and we went inside it too. There were 3 large paintings depicting the shepherd’s scene but the one with the nativity had a dog that when I first walk around a saw it, it looked like a kangaroo and my first thought was, “What the heck is a kangaroo doing in a nativity scene?” or something along those lines. I showed it to one of the other women and she agreed. So we now have to all add something a little special to our nativity sets, the Israeli kangaroo. It also bothered us a bit that once again baby Jesus had blue eyes even though our guide said the painter had used locals from the villages as models. Oh well.

After Shepherd’s Fields we went to the East Jerusalem YMCA which is actually located in Bethlehem. I know the name doesn’t make much sense but whatever. Anyway there a man talked to us about the Rehabilitation program that they have going there. It is to help the youth and families suffering from PTSD and also physical handicaps. The room we met in reminded me of the training room for nurses in Mungeli. It was almost an exact replica. Anyway our speaker shared that over 700 Palestinian youth from ages 12-17 are arrested for protesting every year. Many of these youth (he called them children but I really think that is a misnomer) are actually innocent but they are still imprisoned and often tortured for a confession. They remain locked up for usually around 5 months and then are sent home scarred from their ordeal. It is very hard for them to move back into normal life and return to their families and schools. The center provides counselling for them and their families. Our speaker had even been thrown in prison for “Recycling Warriors”. They also helped with families who have members with disabilities. First they started only helping those injured during protests caused from the Israeli broken bones policy of the military. This policy is basically that when confronted with youth protesting or throwing rocks they should break their bones preferably a joint like knees or elbows to put them out of commission for longer. They can actually get in trouble for not doing this. The Y later incorporated any Palestinian that is handicapped. It is an amazing program that helps these families learn to cope with an intolerable situation.

From the Y we headed into the largest of the refugee camps the Aida Refugee Camp. Aida means “the one who returns” so they are hopeful that someday they will get to return to their villages that have been occupied by the Israelis. Here we met with a man who works with kids in the camp teaching what he calls “Beautiful Resistance”. They teach this through the arts. The have a theater troupe, art classes, dance classes, photography classes just to name a few. Through these arts they teach peaceful resistance and give hope to the youth and their families. I was very tired during this presentation and had trouble following and not falling asleep at times. Too much sitting and listening without interaction. But they did have a very good video of the program too. It is amazing that in this camp over 3000 people, I believe, live with more than 65% being children and there is no grassy areas, no playgrounds. They are surrounded by this monstrous wall that has murals on the outside that pay homage to all the communities that were displaced into this camp.

After leaving the camp we stopped for lunch at the Christmas Tree Restaurant. Not sure why it is named that but it was. We have a déjà vu for lunch. I had shawerma and Glenn has Falafel sandwiches. We also had baklava and sang happy birthday to Glenn.
Lunch was followed by us walking through the check point gate as 3000 Palestinians do every work day. They say it is for security but it is a joke during the middle of the day. The metal detectors went off on several people and no one came to check. The girl hardly looked up at we waved our passports in front of the window. But the way was reminiscent of cattle going down the shoot for branding or whatever. No pictures from it since it is a military zone.

Next we went to Yad Vashem Holocaust museum. Unfortunately our guide was rather monotone and I was really tired of listening and really wanted to read the personal stories that were available. The museum with our guide really didn’t make you feel what I would expect to feel in a holocaust museum. I compared it to the Titanic exhibit and the OKC bombing memorial and this fell short. Not near as experiential, it really only hit one sense at a time and that was either seeing or hearing. Nothing to help you to fell the being there experience. Of course no one would want to really “be there” but there was no physical or emotional tie. After I turned my little headset off, which is how our guide was able to communicate with us and not distract others, I read the stories and looked at things and was much more engaged. I was not the only one who did this. After we got back on the bus the guide got on the bus with us and some asked her questions. Ends up she is originally from Germany and converted to Judaism after she moved to Israel. We sort of got her feelings on the wall but it was more of a political correct non statement. She did not see the irony of the Israelis building a wall and moving the Palestinians into camps away from their homes. Her comment was it was not the same at all because they were not trying to kill them all.

We had a few minutes between the museum and dinner to unwind in our rooms. Dinner was at My Grandfather’s House. It was a good restaurant with a very yummy dinner that I can’t remember what its name was but it is Arabic for upside down which consisted of chicken, rice and veggies cooked in a pot and dumped upside down on a plate. Of course we had lots of hummus and pita and such as our salads beforehand.

Normally after dinner our evenings are over except for debriefing. Tonight we had two gentlemen from a group called The Parents Circle come and talk to us. This group consists of Palestinians and Israelis who have lost children to violence during the occupation and decided that revenge is not the answer but forgiveness is. One man’s 10 year old daughter was killed by a Palestinian suicide bomber and the other lost his 6 year old from a rubber bullet fired by an Israeli soldier. It was a very powerful and moving talk. The Israeli had to sneak in to Bethlehem for the talk. It was actually illegal for him to be here. The restrictions placed on each is rather ridiculous and all for the name of safety which is rather false sense of security. The Israeli said two kinds of people can find the gaps in a wall, those bent on destruction and those bent on forgiveness.

It has been a full day! Tomorrow we get an extra 30 minutes and I will take full advantage of it!

Posted by MaryDavis 11:48 Archived in Israel Comments (0)

A brief reflection

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Just a few thoughts to share after a good night's sleep....

Bethlehem is now surrounded by a 10 meter high concrete wall built by the Israelis for someone's protection. Not sure who's as our guide is a Palestinian Christian that said he would welcome any Israelis that wanted to come to Bethlehem. It divides the city from Jerusalem for the first time in their long and rich histories. Israelis are not permitted to enter Bethlehem without special permission and Palestinians are not allowed into Jerusalem without special permission. The wall costs 10 million dollars per kilometer and there are 700 plus kilometers. Wow! Each day as we leave Bethlehem we have to pass through a guarded checkpoint with big signs saying this is all for their protection and violating it is very dangerous and could cost them their life...not from the guards but from the citizens who are just ordinary people living ordinary lives.

Our guide, Ibrahim, has lived in Bethlehem area, actually a little town outside of Bethlehem, all his life. He is bitter about the wall as is understandable. He can trace his ancestors back to the Shepherd's in the field's watching over their flocks by night! And we brag when ours came over on the Mayflower! He has given us a good view of the Palestinian viewpoint and I look forward to hearing what the Israelis and Muslims have to say about the situation. He is very bitter about what has been done and rightly so.

On a different topic as we toured yesterday I was greatly reminded of the Indian Jones movies where they were looking for the Holy Grail. In the end when he had to pick out the actual grail it ended up being the plain clay cup not one of the bejeweled golden ones. That is how I felt in St. Anne's church yesterday. If I were God that is the church I would want to be in. They others are so over the top with gold and icons and hanging lamps and just plain glitz that to me God was lost. In the simple stone church with beautiful acoustics God could breath a sigh of relief and just be. No trying to impress, no dressing for prom, no glamour, no jewels... just the comfort of being home.

Now to get ready for today... oh and I already sang Happy Birthday to Glenn. And Kris, I gave him his card yesterday and he laughed!

Posted by MaryDavis 20:28 Archived in Israel Comments (0)

Day 4

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When I said yesterday that today was going to be a busy day....I had no idea just how busy and how many things we were going to see and experience! Wow! As one of the other people on the tour said at dinner... OVERLOAD! Her brain shut down after awhile because it was just so much to process! So here it goes....

The day started early after a full 10 hours of very deep sleep with breakfast here at the hotel. They had cold cuts, cheeses, salads, yogurts and some other stuff along with boiled eggs and eggs sunny side up. But there was coffee and juice so we ate and drank and were filled. We were to all be ready to meet in the lobby at 7:30 to hit the road not expecting to be back until after dinner! They said to dress is layers so I wore my sweater and took my jacket. Yesterday had been sunny and warm and they had thought today was to be the same and not change until tomorrow but they were wrong.

We started out by leaving Bethlehem and heading to Al Aqua Mosque which is the Temple Mount... you know the place Abraham went to sacrifice his son, where Mary took baby Jesus to be circumcised, also the place that Mohammad ascended to heaven from. So it is a holy place for Christians, Jews and Muslims. There is all sorts of religious turmoil surrounding this area and our guide even said if they could figure this out then they could work through anything. We entered old Jerusalem through the Dung Gate which just as it says was the gate where they would toss out their refuse. There are 2 mosques at the Temple Mount but non-Muslims can no longer tour them after one man went in a set an altar on fire and burned it. (So much for religious ecumenism) In the area there were many groups of Muslims studying the Koran together and even kids playing soccer and digging in the dirt with little shovels. It was a very relaxed and family friendly feeling. We had a group picture taken with the mosque behind us sitting on some steps. The steps lead up to a "scale" where at the end of time God or Allah will judge each person to see if the good they did out weighs the bad. It was not a scale as we would picture it but more of just a part of the stone pillar and arch way system. Kind of hard to explain bout I am sure Glenn has pictures of it! We had time to walk around (Glenn took more pictures, surprise!) and explore before we headed to another gate. This one was called The Shepherd's gate or Mary's Gate or the Lion's Gate.

After that we headed to St Anne's Church. St. Anne was the Virgin Mary's mother. It was said that the church is located where she was born. It was a very beautiful church for it's simplicity. A refreshing change from some of the ornateness and gaudiness of some of the Greek Orthodox areas. It was rustic and beautiful and had the most incredible acoustics! We all sang a couple of hymns and it was awesome! I kept wishing Jonathan and Sara had been with us so that they could have sang something in there! It was incredible with us mere mortals singing so I can imagine how wonderful it would have been with really good voices! Guess we will have to come back with them... oh and Emily! You all can work something up for it!

In the St. Anne's complex is also the Bethesda pools. This is where they would gather the water for the whole Temple for cleansing and sacrifices and such. This is where Jesus healed the lame man and told him to pick up his mat and go home. We walked down a steep set of steps and saw the Roman Cistern that was still there. It was so quite and the water was clear and not skanky at all. From there we walk on a tour of the Old City and walked the Via Doloroso (14 stations of the cross). We had a scheduled time at the Church of the Flagellation and Glenn had volunteered to lead the worship. After a miscommunication and some scuttle we were not allowed to have communion in the church. Jeff, one of our leaders, was upset by this but Glenn worked it in perfectly and the service was very nice and meaning for to all. We continued walking the station ending at the Church of the Resurrection. Inside this church is the sight of the crucifixion, the anointing stone where they anointed Jesus before burial and the tomb. We saw it all except the line to view the tomb was exceedingly long, 2 hours maybe, and we had places to go and people to see. Our guide said of we wanted to see it we should come next Sunday at 6 am and there should be no line!

After all of this we walked to a small restaurant and filled it for lunch. We had very tasty sandwiches on pita that was soooo fresh. Glenn had falafel and I had shwarma. Both were very good and filling. After lunch we headed to the Jewish section of Jerusalem and went to the Western Wall also called the Wailing Wall. By this time it was raining and I had loaned my jacket to someone who failed to follow instructions and dress in layers. I was warm enough but the jacket was to keep my dry. Oh well. At the Wailing Wall men and women are separated and the areas for each are totally divided from each other. The area for the men was much larger which was rather ironic since there were 10 times more women there than men! It looked different than what I thought it would look but you could see the little scraps of paper with prayers written on them shoved into all the cracks and crevices. The Wall really has nothing to do with the Temple that was destroyed there. It is part of a retaining wall built by Hadrian long after the temple was destroyed.

After the Western Wall we headed to the Mount of Olives which was a little disappointing because it was basically a scenic turn out off the road. You could actually go on the hillside but there was an incredible view of the city and the Kidron Valley. After that we went to the Garden of Gethsemane which was also fenced off so we could just walk around. The olive trees that are in there are 1000 years old and are the ancestors of the ones from Jesus' time. It was neat and chapel there was pretty. It would have been nice to be able to walk around the garden.

After all of our touring we were taken to a cooperative shop run by 38 Christian families. It was very reminiscent of India and all the "wonderful shops with the best prices and for you they will make a deal" places we went to in each city with each guide there. This was similar and we got a much better deal at the shop owned by a friend of Jeff's that we went to the day before. We will go back to Mohammed's shop if we want to buy anything more here.

Dinner was at another restaurant which was a plethora of different appetizers and meats with more incredible hummus and pitas. It was a fun full day. After we finally got back from the day there was a debriefing time but I debriefed by blogging. I figured there was no way I would have the umph for both! Today we have grown closer as a group and it is a good group. We will see what tomorrow brings!

Posted by MaryDavis 11:10 Archived in Israel Comments (0)

Day 3

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Had a much better flight from London to Tel Aviv. No screamers and we were very tired. Glenn slept well and I got some sleep but I had slept in the airport so I also watched a movie and rested. We got in to Tel Aviv at 5:15 in the morning and had no trouble going through immigration and there was virtually no customs. Instead of a stamp in our passports we got a little paper visa to carry in it. That way when you leave you can take it out and your passport doesn’t show that you have been to Israel. We had a little over 3 hour wait for the others. We ate a bite for breakfast. It was a traditional Saturday morning breakfast of a bread that takes all night to prepare with a tomato salsa/puree thing. It was good and filling. After everyone got to the airport we loaded on a tour bus and headed for Bethlehem. Our group is larger than we thought, 29 including the leaders, but that allowed them to add a few additional things to the tour. Everyone seems really nice and it will be fun to get to know them better. On our drive to Bethlehem our guide was telling us about the area. We passed 2 areas that are thought to be possible locations for the walk to Emmaus story. Both looked just as I would have pictured them…dry, dusty and rocky. After a 30 minute get-settled-in-your-room time we had orientation and then headed out.
Our hotel is just off of the manger square and very nice. We first went and had lunch at a little local place. It was very yummy with two kinds of hummus, falafel, poul (a fava bean dip like hummus), pita bread, Arabic salad (which is just essentially tomatoes, onions and peppers chopped up) and a wonderful fresh squeezed mint lemonade! We were all full and a bit sleepy afterwards. We left the restaurant and headed to the Nativity Church where Jesus was thought to be born. Unlike the Emmaus location there is much more certainty for this location because it never wavered in the tradition as to the location. They even had the site of where the manger was thought to have been located marked. It was way cool and luckily for us not crowded at all! The guide said he had been there at times when the line went way outside the church and the wait being an hour or more but for us we were able to walk right in and not wait at all. Glenn has taken pics which will be downloaded soon I am sure. We also saw Jerome’s cave where he worked on writing the first Bible in Latin. There is also a Catholic church on site as well as several other orthodox churches all maintaining different sections and they all looked very different. Several had small services going on and the chanting was way cool. The stone walls echoed sounds so it was all encompassing. After that some people went back to the hotel while others of us went to the bazaar and shopped. We got a couple of things and it was fun to just walk and see the sights. It was very steep hills and luckily it was up hill for the first part and downhill when we were carrying our purchases. We walked to Milk Grotto where supposedly Mary dropped some breast milk on the ground as she was leaving Bethlehem to save Jesus. It was a very nice afternoon and we had time to clean up before dinner.
Dinner was a buffet of 3 meats, some veggies and salads. We had lively conversation and got to know each other better. Since I am falling asleep mid-sentence I am going to bed now. Tomorrow is an early morning with lots going on. We are both looking forward to it.
BTW internet is weak in the rooms so I will take this downstairs tomorrow and post it.

Posted by MaryDavis 10:24 Archived in Israel Comments (0)

Days 1 & 2

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Our first day was short and uneventful with the only bump being a short delay out of Tulsa. With plenty of layover time in the schedule we were not worried. We hung out at home for an extra hour and then headed out. Glenn's mom gave us a ride to the airport and things were smooth from there on out. At DFW we ate a late lunch, about 2:30, and started working on changing our bodies' times. The flight to London was 7 hours 45 minutes and seemed even longer. We were cramped in with a no extra seats to spread out in. At first we were thankful that the SCREAMING (yes, very healthy lungs on the baby!) baby was several rows away but not to worry the dad walked the baby up and down the aisle sharing his misery with everyone! The child did quit briefly but sleep still did not come. We got brief rests during the flight but no real sleep. As I said it was a long flight!!!

We arrived in London (day 2) at 7:30 in the morning or 1:30 in the morning to our bodies. I do believe we resembled the walking dead! After clearing customs we rested for a bit and I was actually able to sleep for about 45 minutes before we bought out tube pass and headed out. Knowing the city helped immensely and we wasted no more time. We rode the tube and changed lines to get us where we wanted to start. We were very mindful of the gap and felt right at home. We walked around seeing the sights and Glenn snapping pictures. We crossed the Thames on the Vauxhall bridge and then walked along the river in a fine mist. The day was rather gloomy and we had rain or mist most of the time. We were not deterred and reached Big Ben at 12 noon to hear him sing. We then went on down the river to the pizza place we had eaten at before. It was further than we remembered and we were growing weary. Lunch help revive us but Glenn was ready for a nap! Instead we went to the Tate Modern museum and walked around out of the rain. We saw some great Picasso's and Miro's and one Monet. We also saw some verrrrry interesting pieces that let's just say were not something I would care to have in my home. After walking around inside, we realized that the mist had turned into a heavier rain. Since we were both pooped and damp we headed back to the airport. RIding the tube back was hypnotizing and hard to stay awake during. We got back to the airport about 4:45 and settled in to a comfy sitting area and I actually slept! We had fish and chips for dinner, surprisingly good for airport food and were glad we could get on line. As Glenn's free 45 minutes were about to run out he finally got conformation on our "audience with the Pope" which means we get a reserved area during his Wednesday time that he comes out! We are pumped!

Spending a bit more time at Heathrow and then getting on our flight to Tel Aviv at 10:30 pm. Hopefully it is not a full flight and NO screaming anything!!! Feeling a little less like the walking dead and hope to sleep on the this flight. That is it for now! Looking forward to our arrival in Israel!!

Posted by MaryDavis 12:22 Archived in United Kingdom Comments (0)

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