My Afternoon in the PLO controlled West Bank

Day 5  Tuesday

Five hours sleep last night, a good breakfast, and it was off at 8:30 to Mt. Scopus and the Garden of Gethsemane and the Church of the Agony. Here’s one of the views of the City of Jerusalem.

This is the sight of the Olive Garden where Christ foresaw what was coming and prayed to God the Father to let it pass.

The place was crawling with pilgrims and tourists. Bus after bus load. There was virtually no order. Tour groups going in through the exit while other groups tried to get out. No place to unload the busses, so they jhust stopped in the single traffic lane. Car horns going off constantly, people running everywhere. It was akin to taking a stick and poking it into an ant hill. It was completely crazy.

We then drove to Ein Karem, the birth place of John the Baptist. A church was the focal point of the location. Eh…. Interesting, but not particularly unique.

Then we drove to Mt. Herzel and Yad Vashem, the memorial to the Holocaust. It’s important to note that all of these locations are within the city of Jerusalem. They’re not that far apart. It’s given me a new perspective about how Christ got around. Everything is really close.

The Yad Vashem is stunning in it’s architectural layout, and powerful in it’s message. Sorry. Photo’s not allowed. You weave back and forth between rooms that breakdown the history of anti-Semitism bu the use of video interviews with survivors, photo’s, films, news clips………

Uh, oh!

Air raid sirens are going off right now all over the city. Fortunately, I was told the other day what was going to happen. Tonight at sunset begins their memorial day, and they take it very seriously. Everything, and I mean everything, closes until sundown tomorrow. The only food available is hotel food. And once the remembrance of the dead in military service is over, it’s their independence day. That means fireworks, street parties, etc. Going to be an interesting 48 hours.

Back to the holocost museum. They have photos of some of the victims, and a paragraph or two about their lives. Each country that gave up their Jews to the Nazi’s has a room, and their are artifacts to go with the pictures and speeches of Hitler. You can’t go through it without being deeply affected. There is a second building, a museum dedicated to the children of the Holocaust. It’s amazing. It a room that uses mirrors and glass to create the impression of immersion in a universe of candles. A voice reads off the names of children, one at a time, and the country they come from. It’s so dark inside, except for the pinpoints of thousands of candles, that you have to hold on to a railing to walk through it. Very poignant for a memorial day.

Outside, four planes in synchronized formation, wide circular patterns for an hour over the city as a prelude to the start of the mourning period that is their Memorial Day. You really do get a feeling that life here for everyone is really on the edge.

We then left Israel and entered the West Bank which is under the control of the PLO. We passed through the checkpoint, and headed down the main street to a restaurant. The food, grilled chicken, hummas (Not Hamas 🙂 ), roasted veggies, pita bread, etc. was the best meal I’ve had since arriving in the middle east. The restaurant was called the Palms. (Photo of the inside).

 

Everyone there was polite… just like the average Israelie citizen. It’s really painful to see how this inability to get along has brought both groups to the brink when the average person is no different in terms of their wants, needs, and humanity. And it’s clear that the Palestinians are suffering by what’s going on as well. It’s so sad.

I’ve included photo’s from the West Bank. Check out this one. Notice anything unusual about the franchise name? Ha!

Bethlehem is in the West Bank, and our destination was the Church of the Nativity. Three different Christian groups control the site. Each has a church, and all three churches are connected together. We stood in line for almost an hour to get in to see the spot (cave)where Christ was allegedly born. Next to it is the site of the manger. They’re literally in the same room. The location of the birth is marked by a star on the floor. I photographed it and have included it for you all to look at.

I’m including photo’s of the walls at the checkpoint. The PLO poured 50 cal. machine gun bullets into a housing settlement occupied by the Israelies, so the wall was put up to stop the attacks. The result is a cold reminder of how difficult it is here, and the graffiti has become an artwork of the times.

 

At the border, two young PLO gunmen (army, security, whatever?) got on board with their automatic weapons and walked the aisle looking everyone over. I was pretty sure they were going to take me away because I didn’t buy anything at the tourist shop, but I guess I didn’t fit the profile of whatever they were looking for. I did remove my Kings hat…just in case they were Vancouver fans, but they passed me buy. WHEW!

We headed back to the hotel, but before we got there, the nagging throat tickle I’ve had all day has blossomed into a full cold. I’m already talking like Barry White…again. Could it be that I’m a victim of germ warfare? I had to pass on a night tour of Jerusalem because I felt so out of sync, so I ordered grilled fish for dinner from room service. Enough food arrived to feed four. (see photo). It was pretty good.

I’m so wiped out by the anti-histimines I’ve taken that I’m going to pass on the night tour of Jerusalem and crash for the rest of the evening.

One last thought. Although I like to write about the disasters that befall me during my trips, in truth, the Middle East is amazing. Other than some of the tourists I’m with, I haven’t met a single Isralie, Jordanian, or Palestinean that I haven’t liked. I feel safe being here in all three areas, it really has opened my eyes to the immense difficulties and problems that exist throughout the Middle East. I suppose it’s fair to say that if one was to stray away from the group in territory controlled by the PLO that you would quickly find yourself in deep trouble, they didn’t let us leave the restaurant, Church, or obligatory tourist souviner shop unless we were all moving at the same time. The West Bank’s economy is dependent upon tourism, so gun toting young men aside, it’s safe. But the Gaza Strip, controlled by Hamas, that’s another thing entirely.

Don’t worry kids. I’m not going there. At least… I don’t think we are?

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