So very few people know about my trip. Why, because so many people would try to talk me out of it. I have come to Israel, a land, most Westerners who only read about it in history books. Its a totally different culture than what we have learned about in Civics and World History Classes. Being here makes you want to buy one of those biased books on Jewish History that makes them seem like the best thing since sliced bread. I mean, every ethinicity, religion and culture does that. It is part of the marketing scheme. Well I did just that, and I can't get enough of it, or the people here. Such an amazing trip so far.
Okay so my first full day in Jerusalem was suppose to start with tour of Bethlehem and then old city tour. It was derailed by just poor timing and inability to communicate effectively where we wanted to go. Myself and a girl named Caroline were suppose to leave at around 9 to venture towards Bethlehem on the number 21 bus. Well we really left at 11. We met a orthodox non orthodox Jewish woman at Breakfast here in the hostal. She was cool but a little crazy. This crazy Jewish Lady and Caroline having to move to another room delayed us for about 2 hours. That and the need to ask over and over where we are going and the to debate Philosophy, (not me). This crazy Jewish lady thought she knew everything including how to get around Jerusalem even though she has only been here for six months. We took the wrong bus to the old city, through her direction, and then searched for the number 21 bus line, where she proceeded to ask to go to Rachel's Tomb (Kevar Rachel). Why was this wrong, BECAUSE NO BUS GOES TO RACHEL'S TOMB!!!! Bus drivers were telling us to take the 71, the 72 the 163. Needless to say we were waiting two hours for a bus that runs every 15 minutes. And yes, Bus 21 does go near BETHLEHEM, a place name Beit Jilla. If we had just said that, then of course we would have been where we needed, in 40 minutes or less. So annoyed at this point. So why don't Israeli buses go directly to Bethlehem, Jesus birthplace. BECAUSE IT IS IN PALESTINIAN territory also known as the West Bank!!!!
So we arrive at the Bethlehem checkpoint, and of course the haggling begins. A guy is trying to get us to go to his souvenir store and he will take us to the Nativity Church. Where Jesus was born. Of course I was skeptical but Caroline was like okay, I have a good feeling about this. I didn't. I hate feeling obligated to buy something because you take me somewhere, I'll just pay for a cab. However, I was not by myself. I was with two other people. So I went along with it. Went through the check point and of course ended up in this guys souvenir shop. I just want to go to the Church. So I looked but didn't buy, and we pressed him to take us to the church, which by the way is guarded by Palestinian guards!!!
The church is small and unimpressive. Stone walls with very little art work. It is a functioning church, not like St. Peter's Church at Vatican City, which is functioning, but has the great works of artists works, you only dream about seeing. This is how you know the church is not as big with everyone as it may seem, At Vatican City or any other church of signifgance, you pay a fee to get in, even at Notre Dame in Paris. At this church, you walk into a small opening guraded by men with guns. However, when you go down some stairs the atmosphere changes. Now I believe in God, and Jesus Christ, but I am the last person who will get the holy ghost and run around a church. But I almost did cry. There are two places in the cave, a place that shows where he was actually born, and then the place where the manger was kept. The Jewish woman I was with prayed at the spot that He was born. A monk also kissed this spot! It was one of those moments you had to be there for. Back into the real world, where there is a fight over territory and a Palestinian protest. Of course our driver is like, we go back down to the store, you finish your business with Joseph and then I take you to Rachels Tomb. Let's not talk about the Jewish woman and her need to get to an appointment that everyone knew she was going to be late for. She was just crazy. But we had to go see Rachel's Tomb, where Jacob buried her on his way to Jerusalem after giving birth to her last son. We went to this souvenir store where I bought nothing. I hate being foreced to buy somet hing that probably isn't real. Caroline did though. A bracelet, which was very nice. After haggling from 800 ILS to 100 ILS, I know that's a big drop, we asked the driver to take us to Rachel's tomb and then on to Jerusalem. I had to refresh myself with the story of Rachel because I don't quite honestly remember it. Basically, it's a love triangle between Jacob, Rachel and Leah. Read the bible, if you interested.
Jewish women go to pray to her. I don't know why, but they call her Mother Rachel. The crazy Jewish lady told me because Rachel gave the signs over to Leah. In my mind, what signs, Laban tricked Jacob into marrying Rachel and then a week later he married Leah. But, I am Christian and she was Jewish, and I am not one to question a person's beliefs.
On to Jerusalem. So on this trip we met a really nice Swedish lady who was a parole officer. Totally different from the US version. Very lovely. Anyway, the Jewish lady needed to get to her appointment in 15 minutes, yes 15 minutes, and while our driver was flirting with Caroline, I was talking to the Swedish lady, the Jewish lady was yelling for the driver to concentrate because through her own accord, she made herself late. And then, she only gave him 8 ILS after he drove us around all day. Even though it was a scheme, she schemed Caroline and myself as well. Well back to the hostal...Caroline ditched me, and so I traveled by myself for dinner. You see how I mentioned that I had breakfast and then dinner, because that's all I had. I had a cheese burger and it was oh so good. I'm sorry God, please forgive me.
I fell asleep reading a book, and now it's 530 am and I am typing this blog because my body has not quite adjusted.
Today's plan, OLD CITY and the Garden Tomb.