Snapshots of Israel

Re Snapshots

October 2015

I am a passionate supporter of Israel and always will be. Like my other snapshots, this is not an article – just observations from my holidays – in this case, Israel in 1999. There are a lot of references to God and holy-type vibes because that is precisely why I went – to get a sense of the Holy Land and hopefully get some mystical ‘feedback’. Not entirely successfully as you’ll read.

Why didn’t I type them up at the time as I usually did for my Ma? Probably misplaced loyalties and the hyper-critical tone of said observations. Anyway, here they are, minimally edited – showing my many flaws and all. Meaning I really was grumpy and over-critical, so forewarned and all that!

23/8/1999 Renaissance Lobby Tel Aviv Monday

07:50am

Long journey but God was listening. The twitching woman sitting next to me moves and I have an empty seat next to me for the entire trip. A Medusa  however sits in front with his (yes) snakes overhanging the video screen. I am stroppy. He is polite and moves them.

The immigration/ passport control is appallingly crowded and as disorganised as Los Angeles. Try not to let intense heat bowl me over.

Outside, Unitours are wonderfully efficient and suddenly I begin to enjoy myself despite being caught in the rush hour. The hotel is right on the beach and splendidly cool – typical  four star business variety rather than ultra-special.

Israelis are really ‘in your face’. It’s just as well that I like them and understand otherwise the rudeness would be appalling. The Arabs on the other hand show enormous charm and concern – even if it is hypocritical.

Am still very sleepy and still have a slight headache with nausea. Could be due to the changing nature of the first few days: four different hotels in four days … till Jerusalem.

Trying to ‘think God’ to avoid negative influences but the crowding of personal space is making me narky. Like being vamped.

08:30am

He’s still picking up people from various hotels…will be seven tomorrow. So far two middle-aged Danish ladies, one Israeli(?) woman with man who seems ‘simple’. Pullman Tours. Mixed bag. This is the naff end (of the bus). Heavens knows who is this pickup but she’s got enough luggage. It’s a young girl. Hopefully we can now get a move on. No. A phone call first. Small change in the number of passengers.

So much for biblical Israel. It’s just like any other city so far. Wednesday in Tiberias is probably going to be the best stop (I hope). Still, it’s good to chill (?) out.

12 noon

Very very tired during drive to Caesaria, even with brief detours. Finally starting to perk up. The ‘friendly’ interrogation from the Danes and the bus driver probably also vamped a bit. Actually, the other couple are from the States. It is possible he has had a stroke though some of the behaviour is ‘childish’ as opposed to ‘child-like’.

Am avoiding the Danes now because the chief questioner is also a heavy smoker. The lass with the luggage is an Australian Greek who’s ‘doing the tour’. She’s a graphic designer, like Margaret.

7pm – IN BED!!!

Dan/Haifa

Yes, I’ve eaten, washed, written postcards and am now in bed! Although I am tired and a little sleepy, it’s also because there is little to see round the hotel and I didn’t fancy a tramp round yet more shops. I do enough shopping in the UK and there seems little that is ‘exotic’. In fact, during yesterday and today, everything ‘Israeli’ seemed Western materialistic with no history or depth. Even the restaurants are McDonald-ish. The best architecture seen so far has been Graeco-Roman (okay Roman) and Arabic.

I’m sure Tiberias and Jerusalem will be different. At least I hope so. Having been brought up with Jesus and the biblical perspective, it’s a large disappointment to have heat, sand and sea alone. That said, I did like Caesaria. Quite classy.

Also, I am not sure how I am going to enjoy nightlife on my own.

24/8/1999

07:30hrs pre-pick up

Israel is like one of my sisters: gruff and grumpy, attracting like, but with a deep core of love and charm. Today, I can feel my protective love for Israel returning. …

AA Explorer explained why practically nil art and architecture: because of God worship – meaning only God. Yet the Ashkenazim created such wondrous art and music – and therein lies God.

Slept till midnight then again till alarm – back very stiff still. Also roasting hot already!

14:00hrs  lunch en route to Safed

Rather a nice place though the company still palls despite valiant efforts on my part. I paid for the Australian girl’s lunch because I’m sure she is eating rice to fill up rather than for gastronomic reasons. A one-off act of generosity as she was still a miserable creature.

My morning love vibes soon wore off in the bus with the fellow travellers. They are not awful, just not life-enhancing and therefore more draining on the spirit.

The newcomers are Canadians. Loud ones. The simple bloke with the migraine is still simple despite getting over his headache, but his wife, young-ish and pretty, seems very in love, concerned and touching him all the time. He is not one of life’s beauties so they make an interesting couple.

17:10hrs

Safed was rather disappointing. Some good art but no sign of ancient mysticism. With its war-torn past, Israel is a bit hick(?) at tourism. The Golan Heights projected a sense of history but this stop off to chat with a callow youth from the UN Austrian  section is boring. The Canadians are gifted at asking dumb questions. It is very hot and dusty – which, for some reason, does evoke Jesus, up to a point.

My need for Jesus seems to have diminished as entheism rooted. Anyway, I’ve had enough for today and long to return home. Emmanuel (the bus driver who constantly stared at me and rather harassed me every day) keeps stopping for fag breaks (not because there was anything particularly worth seeing).

In all honesty, I haven’t felt any spiritual pull. The tour guide has not dwelt on anything remotely religious, as if to play down the ‘Holy Land’ and build up the ‘tourist’ trap. Imelda was right. I should have taken the pilgrimage tour, if only as a gesture of respect to Jesus as 2000 approaches. (2015 aside: yes, Jesus still seems real to me even in 2015.)

Emmanuel talks too much but says little of value. At least Tamer in Egypt studied archaeology and we learned something new each day. Emmanuel told me he wants Israel to be known for its progress and achievements and sun/sea/sand-type holidays rather than the religious bit – which rather defeats the purpose of it, for me at any rate.

We didn’t get back to our hotels till past seven by which time I was ready to drop. Too many detours and much pointless conversation.  A lesson here. NO MORE PACKAGE TOURS. EVER! They do not suit you. In fact, I am going to check out a bus ride to Meggido, or a taxi. On my own!

25/8/1999 Holiday Inn

07:45am in the lobby

For a four-star hotel, this one has been a nightmare. Everywhere is so unclean. The bedroom had the sofa bed made up. The lobby and dining room were filled with noisy kids and Arabs and the whole place resembled a souk. The view over the Sea of Galilee though was splendid. Stood on the tiny balcony watching dawn break over the Sea of Galilee hoping to get some good shots. Am surprised I am awake, alarm notwithstanding. There must have been a party or festival of some kind. ALL NIGHT LONG.

I took a taxi bus into the centre and found an Israeli restaurant where I had a delicious meal and got a marriage proposal. He thought I was 30. Not bad after a stressful day. Can you imagine being stressed on holiday? Actually, we all were on the Nile cruise too. We really need half-day tours with the rest of the time for exploring alone. Who wants to be with over-excited jolly holidaymakers day after day after day? (2015 aside: Yes, I can still feel my uber grump even in 2015!!)

I get stared at a lot by older men here. I mean they look, walk away, then come back and look again.

I’m very glad I never actually visited when I was Middle East Sales Manager. In business mode, I can be even more peremptory than I am now!

Postcards have gone – including one to myself.

Really rough bunch staying at or passing through this hotel. I do hope the next ones are more refined!

09:20

Peace of the boat trip with engines switched off ruined by competing ‘teams for God’. Absolutely diabolical racket with the Brazilians winning by a large margin with their diatribe and loud chanting. The Africans at least sound sweeter and mellower.

Oh good. The engines are back on. What a punishment! But at least the bus passengers are more pleasing company now. I am back in my corner seat and we are all conversing as opposed to ‘measuring-up-interrogation’ mode which I’ve never liked. I do hope we are nowhere near those ghastly Brazilians.

26/8/1999 Thursday Royal Wing Renaissance Jerusalem

06:00hrs

Snapshots of yesterday, post-boat

Very busy and more enjoyable especially Beit She’an and Jericho. The fellow travellers were definitely easier to be with although Emmanuel’s coarse comments were a bit much for me. There’s rude humour and plain vulgarity and this was the latter.

Beit She’an was splendidly impressive and atmospheric especially after Capernaum. Still no sense of Jesus anywhere though – which was the spiritual reason for the trip. So I bought a book about ‘his’ Galilee … and discovered he had visited Beit She’an en route to Jericho.

(2015 aside: Yes, yes, I know Jesus can be found within. It was more for the historical sense of Jesus… and it did happen, btw, much later.)

The Israelis (or perhaps just this tour company) haven’t quite got the hang of archaeological tourism, so Emmanuel has a tendency to witter while providing no specifics or historical details at all. Deprived myself of sensory enjoyment by hanging on politely to his every word.

It is now past 6am and I have been up for more than an hour. Possibly because the meal here made me feel very ill, very quickly. However, my alarm call still has not come! No wonder my inner mechanism woke me!

One alarm, one partial crap. (2015 aside: Sorry about the scatological asides. They feature a lot in my snapshots mostly because I think bowel movements seem spiritually so unevolved and also because they really do differentiate cultures and places. Well, to me at any rate.) Great timing.

Tudor Rose parking arrangements have thrown me fast forward. Late night arrival and palaver with car delivery. I shall not be using them again. I’ll have to dig out the details for the ones I used during the Nile cruise.

The Royal Wing of the Renaissance is very quiet away from the noise and bustle of the, by now, typical Israeli hotel. Children are remarkably badly behaved. And the surliness of the male staff specifically is breath-taking!

(2015 aside: I really must visit Israel again, in case things have changed or I just got a bum deal.)

Oh I forgot Nazareth. As ever, we were given double time of Emmanuel wittering and hardly any to explore alone. However, the visit to St Gabriel’s Church (ex of Annunciation) was uplifting – at last. The first moment of the trip, which then got better. I realise this tour is meant to be compressed but it is ridiculous how little time we are given to pootle around. Probably because of the amount of things we are doing in one day.

Beit She’an was probably enjoyable because we were let off the leash.

Today is Jerusalem. Not too sure where we are going but it’s a lot of walking.

My shirts yesterday were stained with yellow dust caught in perspiration. Gross. Had whole bath-tub of clothes soaking (not sure why I didn’t use concierge services). All need a good bleaching on return, but I don’t fancy travelling with really dirty things. (Aside: Emmanuel kept asking me why I wore white every day and a hat all the time.)

Happily, we have not seen too much poverty. In fact, only from a distance, the Bedouin encampment.

Not sure how I’m going to ‘do’ Meggido. It’s not near and the taxi won’t be cheap. Have to check out driver for a day.

10:30 Dome of the Rock

Skipped going into the mosque. Too many peasants. Tourists can be an ignorance and a nightmare. It’s not just a question of leaving shoes and belongings with the guide. The whole kaboodle makes me feel uncomfortable. Seconds into trying to re-align, some fat foreigners sat either side of me with barely a gap. I looked up to a swarm of them so, much to my disgust, I had to move!

27/8/1999 Friday

05:30am Yes, again!

Firstly, snapshot of yesterday – apart from Dome of the Rock. The morning was spent walking round Old Jerusalem: the Armenian, Jewish, Christian and Moslem quarters. Vicky, the Australian, is also Greek Orthodox, and was getting mightily peeved at spending too much time in any of little interest to her (faith). Emmanuel, with his usual telepathy, picked up and allowed us to spend more time at both the Holy Sepulchre and, later, in Bethlehem.

At the church, built representationally over Golgotha, I finally felt Jesus’ vibes again. For the rest of the day, as the day before in Nazareth, the tune in my head was Jesus Christ Superstar. But such crowds!

We lunched at one of the better kibbutzim and I had a healthy large salad.

Mary is the bus source of knowledge. She’s the Canadian married to Stan with a taste for Burger Kings. She said Elena and Manuel had had a bad car crash last year with serious head injuries resulting in the child-like behaviour and simple gait. He is talking a little more. She too is more New Jersey talkative and less shy Portuguese.

(2015 aside: Jesus clearly made me less horrid in my thoughts about them with each day!)

The nicest person on the trip is one of the Danish ladies. Her smoking companion is a bit feisty but she seems to be the appeaser.

We stopped off at a shop in Bethlehem and bought souvenirs for all family. I treated myself to two cheapish pairs of pretty earrings, then en route home found a black sapphire missing from my ‘job’ ring. Wasn’t overly bothered – I can always buy another. However, I did remove them all, just in case. After the Dead Sea Scrolls – in the Israel Museum – I got dropped off near the Yehuda Mall, which we noticed previously at Vicky’s drop off. The others, bar Elena and Manuel, went to the Old City. With shops shut at lunch time and all day Saturday, it was a good time to do a recce.

Unsurprisingly, I found myself gravitating towards jewellery shops – for a replacement ring pre-getting mine fixed. Then found myself not only getting it fixed – with a more blue-ish sapphire – the ruby broke(?) – but also buying another one and a pair of so-called golden topaz earrings. The price indicates more vitrine than golden topaz …

Had enjoyable meal, bought a book, then took a taxi back to the hotel. He has given me a price for Meggido on Sunday.

After a bit of a faff, post-shower et al, I went to sleep around 9:30pm. Not bad. Except I got another call mid-sleep. Didn’t understand a word and he rang off. I was furious.

28/8/1999 Saturday – though notes do not show day or date

This morning, consciousness regained, but lights still out, I noticed the orange light flashing on the ‘phone. Another (or same?) Middle Eastern voice asking me to meet him at the pool. He said I’d know who it was! I didn’t and don’t. But anyway, it was too late. Not that I would have gone.

So what’s on the cards today? We missed the Mount of Olives so have to fit that in then it’s the Chagall Windows, planting a tree, Yad Vashem… I just hope he keeps the wittering down to a bare minimum. Not so much walking, so I’m taking my guide book which makes good reading.

6pm

Been in bed for about two hours. Didn’t go with the troops after all. Got Emmanuel to drop me off at Yad Vashem and spent almost three hours walking around the entire site – and I mean entire.

One oldish chap said it was ‘some schlep’ either way (inner or outer perimeter) – and by gum it was.

(2015 aside: while there Emmanuel and troops arrived with Emmanuel glaring at me for doing my own thing.)

Then got taxi to Mount of Olives with intention of touring all the churches and spots of Gethsemane. But the top and just about every spot up and down it was covered with beige buildings and leery men, so I took the main road and walked – and walked – and walked.

Got to Gethsemane eventually, but it was rather disappointing. Again. Israel seems to have killed off all vestiges of spirituality in its sites, probably in order to make it more secular.

After Gethsemane, I found myself in a deserted part of Jerusalem, but strangely enough more attractive. Caves etched into the stone as well as Graeco-style pillars. Climbed yet more bleached & dusty steps onto ‘The Last Path’ and up into an upper perimeter road into the main city via the Kidron Valley (aka Valley of Jehoshaphat).

Flagged taxi, short of breath – well hot, really. (2015 aside: not very good at drinking fluids so mostly likely heat exhaustion.) Asked price and got him to stop and let me out when he said 50 shekels. Stormed off back down the road with the taxi now trailing me offering 35 shekels – so I got in.

Barely a couple of yards, he stopped for a relatively attractive guy who turned out to be English – a teacher of tourism. Who he also overcharged. But my sense of humour came back and I got a small laugh out of the situation.

Back at the hotel, washed and primped, I had lunch, bought plastic flip-flops and then watched the prehistoric television. The last time I saw something similar was about forty years ago. And this is supposed to be a four-star hotel!

Then I fell asleep.

I really don’t feel up to dressing and meeting the masses again. Still, it is meant to be a break, free from stress and right now I do feel calmed if rather alone. But that’s all to the good. Prep for company tomorrow.

6:50

(2015 aside: actually my notes have this still on the Saturday page  but not sure why I wrote 06:50. Anyway…)

How very appropriate. A film called Switch about God and the Devil, and letting a soul redeem itself from philandering male – but the joke is that ‘he’ wakes up a woman. The task being to find  woman who likes ‘him’ since he was a complete toerag, who ended up being murdered by three previous females.

(2015 aside: am about to detour to Google ‘Switch’ for more info – and even to see if I got this much correct!)

29/8/1999 Sunday moved to Mount Zion Hotel at some point

07:20am Lobby – Royal Wing

Am waiting for the taxi driver re Meggido trip. Is this blind optimism?

Woke up 5am – very truculent. Clawing at face of jeweller who had removed my ‘topaz’ stones (from a non-owned bracelet) and was sort of swindling me. I suppose that is how I feel about the citrines – the ‘poor man’s topaz’.

Anyway, for the next half hour, my mind was all over the place, and I am only now realigning. Now, no pent-up aggression.

Yesterday was a full and pleasurable one even though my discomfort with Emmanuel continued.

And yet, on Masada – an absolutely splendid site and sight – I felt very unlovable, as if everyone else’s view on me made me. Apart from the height fright, these personal – selfish – emotions seemed to dominate and take away from ‘sensing the stones’.

Perhaps it is only when there is a Roman influence that I feel a leap of recognition inside?

(2015 aside: have had past life regressions many years ago and am pondering trying again.)

13:35 Mount Tabor – waiting for the church to open

Before I could finish the above train of thought, the original taxi driver – Maier – turned up. At 07:30! He had been looking for me at the Mount Zion and had even got his wife to call the hotel. So I didn’t wait for Moshe. Couldn’t really since this chap had put so much effort into getting his £87! Yes, that is what I am paying even though Moshe would have been £20 cheaper.

Anyway, less trivialism and more of the morning. After dropping his American lift off at the airport, we drove on to Meggido. Emmanuel needs to study his guide books because it is substantially more than a ‘tel’.

Although I was only there for about forty minutes, it felt much longer. No adverse vibes on the top. In fact rather nice, light ones. Then, following the set path, I descended the 183 steps into the water silo and that was spooky. No-one else was there and it was very badly lit. If it hadn’t been so steep, I’d have raced out through there. As it was I OMM’ed out loud to re-harmonise and stop my imagination working overtime. That said, there was a truly awful energy, like dark shadows trying to cling on to me.

The only time the Holy Father has been to the Holy Land – apparently – was 1964 with Paul Vl, who met the Israeli President at Meggido. Anyway, despite the brevity – and spookiness – I  really enjoyed it. My legs, however, were shaking for some time after.

The church here at Mount Tabor doesn’t open till 14:00hrs but it’s certainly a magnificent view, and Maier doesn’t seem to mind waiting as he’s catching up on his missed sleep so I don’t feel too inconsiderate – and anyway he’s got a full day’s pay PLUS!

(2015 aside: I still remember him smelling though as he hadn’t showered pre picking me up.)

There’s a particularly gabby family sitting at the one and only table here and it’s a little run-down – or, rather, uncared for. The Christians in Israel don’t seem to have put much effort into the more religiously significant spots. I wonder why?

10 minutes to go … and since they are still gabbing onto my wavelength, I evidently haven’t been as transfigured (metaphorically-speaking) as I’d hoped!

I have a feeling I left Meggido sooner rather than later because I didn’t want to pick up any vibes that might haunt me later. That said, I am hoping to get some insights into this war and judgement stuff in the Bible.

Wandering alone, a couple pass and the man shouts at me ‘Gog and Magog, English Lady’. Yes, just that. Not sure what tipped him off that I was [a]English and [b]interested in Armageddon stuff. Well, apart from being at Megiddo, that is.

17:40 Mount Zion Bar – but when did I leave the Royal Wing?

I’d love to say the day was fantastic and it almost was until Maier dropped me off. In my generosity, I decided to round up the agreed £87 (ie 576 shekels!!!).Fool!

He said that was just for Meggido! Since we only stopped off at his choices, apart from the wait at Mount Tabor, that was too rich. I was choked and said that if he wanted to charge me more he should have said so. I also said that his daily rate was 420 shekels to Haifa and I was paying him way in excess of that. I stopped short of calling him a charlatan and stomped out of the car. No wonder he had been chasing around looking for me. Probably thought I was a sucker to tap.

He tried to say Gabriella’s rate was in dollars. Oh, yes?! Who the eff would pay that!!?

Anyway, enough of the bile. Leave to God. And my Guardian Being.

(2015 aside: I cannot for the life of me recall moving from the Royal Wing to the Mount Zion – actually I can’t really recall the Royal Wing even with my notes but still have strong memories of the Mount Zion. It is also 1.7km between them so I presume I must have had my reasons for moving though I do vaguely recall pre-booking ie from England.)

This place is FABULOUS. It’s in the Hinnom Valley aka Gehenna ie Hell – but it is anything but. It has great views and smiling personnel. And it’s walking distance from lots of great spots.

So what did I see?

Maier kept suggesting places which, frankly, bored me. Like Yardenit – where there are mass baptisms in the River Jordan. And seeing camels and so forth. However, for some reason, I though Wadi el Kelt (sp) was visible from the road and I was prepared to be bored by that too, but was totally  astounded (a) by the vertiginous drive and subsequent walk and (b) by its beauty. Fabulous.

(2015 aside: have to Google this as I cannot recall it at all… And Googled. Yes, it really does look fantastic – but sadly, I still cannot recall it. Looking at yet more Google images – since I apparently took no photos of it – I cannot think why this particular experience has been filed extra deeply. )

Undated so unsure what day this is poss 30/08/1999 Monday

10 to 1 – YES, that EARLY

My watch seemed to pack up at 5:40 last night and I lost all track of time. When I asked someone, it was 7:35 and I had a salad prior to the restaurant opening. It didn’t, so I had to go back to the bar and had a warming onion soup then retired to bed.

I thought it might have been around 10 that I feel asleep but it could have been earlier. Anyway, with great surprise I am sort of fully awake. No great revelations in my dreams. No strong emotions except a desire to be home.

If I’m not careful – which I haven’t been – I’m going to lose ‘spirit’. Apart from obligatory shopping, I must tune in and sense God again. I certainly don’t feel as fierce despite the ghastly Maier. But somehow I need to remember my divine truths and relate to them wherever. I was grateful he kept mentioning it – which is why I asked to stop there. BTW – we took a GHASTLY route to Meggido. All rotten,, un-scenic motorway. All I asked was for a more pleasant drive back. He got enough bucks out of it.

Undated but probably still 30/08/1999 Monday

Nearly 6pm

From the lush to the olfactory nightmare.

Awake with a 7am alarm, I breakfasted and then walked down to Jaffa Road to find the BA office. It’s closed but thanks to proximity to Zavalin, I swapped the citrines for God’s Eye earrings. Not worth the £66 it eventually cost me so I tried to think what the watch seller told me. That it is what you feel about things that you pay for. Well, I did like them – certainly more than the God’s Eyes but the experience has taught me that the jarring feeling tends to grow.

(2015 aside: I do not have said earrings anymore and don’t even recall them. On the other hand, I rarely part with my citrines so they must have been bad for me to swap them. I have given an *awful* lot of things away to charity so guess I must have with these too.)

Anyway, the important bits done, I decided to walk to the Jerusalem Mall via the King David Hotel. There, in pleasant comfort, I chilled out for a while. The waitresses (sic) talked me out of walking to the Mall. They told me it was good for shopping, so I still went but took a bus – a crowded, horribly smelly one. And then I was there a grand ten minutes.

Yes, a large collection of shops but absolutely nothing special. So I took a bus back but then got off too early. The top end of Jaffa Street is obviously the local end, beggars, crowds – more Moslem.

(2015 aside: I really *must* re-visit Israel as I clearly need to get better memories. Plus I Googled Jaffa Street – or is it Jaffa Road? – and it looks much swisher now.)

Finally made my way to a road off Ben Yehuda and had a Mexican for lunch – reading one of the two books bought this trip.

(2015 aside: I seem to have given both of the books away or boxed them in least favoured, so won’t name them.)

Actually, I’m a tad bored, having seen all I want to and really want to be back working. I’ll probably trail  round the Christian bit tomorrow and am doing a final check to make sure there are no special bits I’ve missed.

(2015 aside: brief mention in my notes of ‘the ignorant Israeli’ – meaning I got pushed off the pavement a lot and was even thumped in the back – all by young, attractive women. The aggression was palpable and not just to me – as per conversation with Japanese couple at the airport. It was also contagious as I had a massive desire to wipe her off the face of the earth. But then I had had similar for virtually every day of the holiday which tested my fervent supporter of Israel a lot. I understand the aggression, up to a point, but I will not make apologies for it and will not be trampled on either.)

31/8/1999 Tuesday

16:35 Mount Zion lobby – for rather dried out looking cake and coffee – but well-deserved!

BTW the hotel has gone down somewhat in my favour. No hairdryers. No restaurant for pm meals twice in a row. After hours of walking all I wanted to do was eat ‘chez moi’ and stick it on the bill. Fat chance.

Anyway…

Off to another relatively early start this morning into Zion Gate slowly around the Christian, Jewish and Armenian Quarters, through the Moslem Quarter, stopping for a pomegranate juice and out through the Damascus Gate. Round the perimeter to Gethsemane (tiny – not much to see) and, brain loosened, found myself in a very shabby Arab ‘township’. People came out to stare and I started to feel uncomfortable. They were, however, friendly, especially the young girls who laughed and waved with one coming right up to ‘salaam’. Thankfully there was no begging or invasive behaviour.

And all in the very, very, very, hot sun.

So much for short cuts!

I had to head back to the Church of the Nations and walk all the way back up the hill on the outer perimeter road and found the Churches of St Anne – a Crusader church – and St Peter in Gallicantu – where the cock crowed – and one DID! Three times!!!

The best view of the Jewish cemeteries is definitely from the Arab township but I didn’t dare stop and take my camera out – meaning they may have been friendly but there was still a feeling of trespassing. The photo I managed once on ‘safer’ ground.

Anyway, as my sense of the ridiculous returned, I started mentally writing my guide to Israel and Jerusalem:

1.If you want to lose 10lbs a day, go when it’s 90c every day.
2.Jesus wasn’t really a marathon walker; taxi drivers’ interests and early squatters increased the distances between locations considerably…
3…except the holiest Christian sites within the Old City which scrunch into each other with great unholiness.
4.Nothing is adequately signposted and finding things requires at least two tours…
5…more so if you have an inadequate guide with vested interests
6.Why is everything here uphill?
7.What makes Israelis so damn rude?
8.Okay, well not all, but FAR TOO MANY.
9.Am I the only person in the history of the Dead Sea who sank?
10.Beware friendly Israelis. They overcharge you. And still want more.
11.But not all. (2015 aside I was very cross. Clearly.)
12.Why do Arabs like living cheek by jowl?
13.The problem of Jerusalem could be resolved by making the Old City a sacred spot for all.
14.Meaning co-owned by all interested parties

(2015 aside: doubt now this is feasible – nor any of the other ‘brilliant ideas’ I had back then to solve the various problems over there so not including them here though they were part of this list!)

15.Go at a time when you can eat home-grown avocado or mango!
16.Avoid tours.
17.Up at the crack of dawn, spending nano-seconds at each site & hours on the tour bus.
18.Learn Hebrew. All the signs are in it.
19.Very little concession to the foreign visitor, especially in the Christian world.
20.You need a real leap of imagination to picture Jesus last seven days.

Some woman keeps walking up to the window to gawp out. Admittedly a great view, but first slurping a pear, next with mouth slack and open, ugh!

21.Except for a couple of places, the stones don’t really ‘talk’ any more.
22.In their keenness to be Israelis I think some of the historical magic has been lost.
23.Surprisingly obscure places seem to have retained the most spirituality.

Last night, having stomped out of the hotel as the restaurant was closed yet again, and for my hair still being wet, I went to a Moroccan restaurant three ‘doors’ down.

There, at peace, I thought of Kushner on connectedness. Any re-discovery of connection to others gives life meaning and purpose. A child’s chuckle drawing one in. I suppose the reason I have been feeling lost is because there has been no connection, or very little. The superficial ‘friendliness’ of fellow travellers or taxi drivers or vendors is not what I feel is true connectedness.

Connectedness to me is chakra-opening whether of the mind, heart or muladhara!

He (Kushner) also talks of God without the right or wrong being outside of God. That I also believe but it is a very dangerous subject. The paedophile, murderer, thief, rapist – all could justify their behaviour as God-flowing exactly as intended. Because there is a connection somewhere…

I am an awkward bugger. No two ways about it. Passion and powerful energy make me care but unfocused it can become wasted nit-picking on a grand scale.

Perhaps my destiny is to just be aware …  No, I am meant to express it somehow, though these last few days I seem to have been in a vacuum. A filled vacuum of sensory experiences, leaving no room for God to add that taste of honey. No wonder I feel lost. …

2015 PostScript

I either lost the rest of my notes or didn’t finish them. Yet the memories that remain the strongest are those not written down. Why?

Like the afternoon I was resting in my bedroom from the fierce heat and had a hugely vivid vision of crucifixions. What day? Can’t recall now.

It was at the hotel in the Hinnom Valley. My bedroom overlooked the swimming pool but in the vision, I was looking out the window at Hinnom Valley circa the time of Jesus during the Roman occupation.

It was not the crucifixion of Jesus but of several criminals and dissidents, nailed to crosses in the Hinnom Valley – and yes, I was one of them. A dissident in general rather than a follower of Jesus in this vision. All these years later, I can still see the man – looked more like a Viking than a typical Jew, but I was Jewish (in the vision).

Someone other-dimensional appeared to be talking to me. It was a slow and painful death but ‘I’ seemed to be very brave. Dying painfully for my principles.

Re the Dead Sea: that finally seemed like a holiday despite the brevity – meaning time for a quick float – or, in my case, a quick sink with painful salt in my eyes. Try as I might, I just could not float.

Anyway another thing not mentioned, if I have to remain painfully honest, was the quite horrendous Israeli aggression and my subsequent airport meltdown at the checkout.

I was in a queue with the Japanese, mentioned earlier, as well as other non-Israelis. But the female assistant allowed several Israelis to queue jump – which I was *not* going to put up with, unlike the other polite nationalities!!!

Unfortunately, I let rip about how much I had supported Jews since the year dot ie my schooldays and was a passionate supporter of Israel yadda yadda yadda and this is the crap behaviour I get in return? Oh and I shouted it so the entire ruddy airport could probably hear too!

Anyway, the next Israeli that the stupid assistant summoned to the front was a rabbi – but he refused, ushering me forward instead. Yes I can see him now after all these many years. A gracious man, not helped by stupid people. Not sure what happened to the other nationalities thereafter as I was still steaming.

I’d like to say all ended well, but it really was a sore point, so much so that I came back to England trying to make amends for my – actually wholly justified – meltdown, by contacting a synagogue in Hove re the Jewish equivalent of penance. He suggested sending a financial donation to the synagogue, which I did, but, truth be told, the financial element also did not sit well then – or now.

Be that as it may, I remain a passionate supporter of Israel and, though it may not sound like it, am strongly against anti-Semitism of any kind. Doesn’t mean I am a pushover for bad behaviour though.

So… when am I re-visiting Israel?

PS No mention of Masada (which I loved or Qumran – ditto – despite the guide. Ah well.)

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