Six entries for six people (Israel: Part 6)
And so, the time has come to close out my feelings about my Israel / Palestine trip. I thought six entries for the six people in my travelling group was an appropriate place to stop. To try to lighten the load, I shall fill this with random memories of why, no matter how difficult and intense the trip was, I still wouldn’t change it for the world. I learnt a lot, just not what I expected. This is an entry for the fun and the laughter that we held onto, no matter what.
Up until we went to the Dead Sea, I was convinced I would never step foot in that country again, but that day was such a pleasurable mix of emotions that I felt my stubborn head be swayed. We started the day at Qumran, and then walked, for what felt like hours in the searing 40/45 degree heat, to a resort. I learnt that the hijab makes a lot of sense, because those scarves, coupled with a bottle of water, meant the walk was actually pleasurable. The air is thick there (it’s the lowest point on earth) and there is no humidity, so your only real foe is the potential for burning if your skin is not fully covered.
Frankly, the woman who ran the resort that we got access to the Dead Sea via, was an inhuman monster. On the upside, she served great Moroccan food. On the pinnacle of that upside, floating in the Dead Sea has to be one of the funnest of fun things I have ever done! There was so much joy in that day, that I don’t know where to start for fear of recounting every little detail and boring you. But let me say that having mud fights, covering yourself head to toe in that glorious brown goop, baking yourself dry in the searing heat, and then floating as you wash the mud off, is more fun than I could ever convey. Also, something that will forever make me smile, is the juxtaposition of me in my bikini and ink, and H & L in full hijab. All of us laughing, mud bathing, and floating together. It can work, you know?
Night had fallen by the time we walked to the bus stop, and I sat by myself on the kerb, enjoying the stillness and warmth of the night after such a wonderful day. Occasionally, cars and trucks would speed by and somehow they fit into the haunting, soothing, melancholy that was the night. Suddenly, I saw something white, almost glo-in-the-dark, scuttling around on the road. I got as close as I dared before calling J over to investigate with me. It turns out it was a scorpion, which elicited much screaming and giggling, and the leaping of most of the party onto the plastic seats of the bus stop. A little while later H’s arm, complete with extended forefinger, suddenly appeared over my shoulder, ‘iiiiiiiiiit’s baaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaack’ she intoned, as if she were the voice for some horror movie. This time I leapt a mile into the air and screamed like the little baby I am.
Another high was our evening in Tel Aviv. We walked from the bus station into Jaffa, and strangely, on that small walk, Tel Aviv reminded me of a safe version of seedy, downtown LA. There are too many guns in Israel for you to be afraid, if that makes any sense. We ate at a restaurant in Jaffa overlooking the sea, and walked back along the beach into Tel Aviv. The inky, black, night-time Mediterranean was still so warm and the breeze so embracing that I felt to throw myself into the sea. There it made sense, if only for a moment, it made sense. Then we looked up and on the other side of the promenade was Mike’s Place, the bar the British suicide bomber targeted a couple of years ago, and just as suddenly, the world stopped making sense again.
Several times, in the new city of Jerusalem, we saw a fantastically mad woman shouting that she was the King of Kings and that Israel was a whore who would be saved by a woman. She had on white flowing robes and a staff which she rapped on the floor for emphasis. Clearly she was suffering from Jerusalem Syndrome and for some reason, my desire to follow her around for shits and giggles resulted in J and L deciding that I was The Light. Well, that and the strange things that kept happening to my camera when I would try to take pictures of Jesus stuff. It started with a spinning light, in the shape of a halo, above the mausoleum inside the Church of the Sepulchre, which marks the site Jesus is supposed to have been crucified. At first I thought I was going crazy, so I asked L if she could see it, to which she responded that I was being called by God. I rolled my eyes and noticed instead how satanic sounding Greek Orthodox services are. Later, when we were in Bethlehem, L decided to anoint me from the holy water in the Church of the Nativity. She then promptly anointed herself and declared herself my first follower. I tried to punch her as we ran out into Manger Square laughing.
And so what is it, this trip, which seemed so long and made everything feel so different when I got back home? This trip that I still can’t call good, but only intense. What is that time, which seems so long ago now? What is that place, where peaceful rooftops are irreconcilable with the angry human life in the streets below? What is that country, which I barely know but felt so deeply when I was there? I can’t answer any of my questions, but one thing I can say, is that the alley cats were friendly, even if no humans were, and I am glad, at least, for that.