I’m now nothing more than a defeated fleshy husk for a nightmarish jobbie helterskelter ride. I had been eating alot of fruit in Jordan to save money and its come back to haunt me. It turns out my digestive system is frighteningly efficient when it wants to be.
Anyway, the first couple of hours in Israel were spent in an office with a guy who wanted to know, amongst other things: “What are you doing in Israel/Who do you know here?/What are their names and addresses?/What did you do in Beirut and Syria?/Where are you visiting here?/Do you know Arabic?/How much?/Did you meet anyone local in Beirut and Syria?/Did you keep in touch?”
As I have a Syrian visa and a Lebanese stamp, (plus the fact I asked for the Israeli stamp on a peice of paper rather than my passport to avoid later problems) they needed to vet me until 1am. There were several times I wanted to lean forward and ask, “You know Mel Gibson is American, right?”
Eventually, they handed my now photocopied and filed passport back to me with a smiling offer to, “enjoy Israel!” which im sure I will, following a change of pants.
I didn’t see many travellers in Beirut and Jordan’s hostels for the most part were populated with an assortment of older folks that still deem socks and sandals an acceptable look. The Florentine hostel in Tel Aviv was people around my own age and i found myself hanging out with a group that pretty much stayed together throughout the duration in Israel. This included a creationist called Olivia, a swinger called Sarah, lawyer Ashley, obnoxious gypsy midget Elena, self confessed nutjob Terisa, Louis (who looks like someone you can’t put your finger on, possibly famous, possibly Bradley Cooper with a crack habit) and finally Callum, semi-pro footballer who believes that going down on a girl leads to mouth cancer. Regardless, all great people.
We hung out at the beach for the first couple of days and lived the opening scenes of Don’t Mess With The Zohan, all the while being under the watchful eye of two guys with assault rifles sitting on the roof of a toilet, sucking back on a couple of brewskis. In case, I dont know, that game of paddle ball gets out of hand.
When we had our fill of fizzy Bublech, Muchentuechen and numerous disco breaks it was time to head to the Dead Sea and Masada. This took us via Jerusalem briefly to drop off some of the group before waiting for a bus at the station where a suitcase exploded a couple months back, killing a Scottish woman. Damn you, Mel.
The bus was unfortunately delayed due to (of course) a bomb scare, so we waited and ate fast food expensive enough to overshadow the entire history of Israeli/Palestinian relations.
The next day we got up at 4.30am and hiked the mountain at Masada to see the sunrise, followed by a full day at the Dead Sea. Its a bizarre experience to just bob around, with even swimming normally being close to impossible. When you decide to go back to shore, you end up thrashing wildly but going nowhere like the freestyle event at the Special Olympics.
After couple more days in Jerusalem looking at some old shit that happened in a book, Cal decided to come with me to the West Bank and we approached the security wall main processing gate with a little anxiousness. Its about 25 feet tall, decorated with barbed wire, turrets, cctv cameras and stretches as far as you can see, rolling the entire length of Palestine. Luckily for us, it was a quiet day so we breezed through the turnstyles, passport booths and fences with only a mild look of disinterest from the soldiers.
When we eventually arrived on the other side, we managed to find a taxi driver who offered to take us to stay at his house with his family, feed us and drive us all over Palestine. For $1,500. After I discovered we weren’t going by helicopter, tense negotiations followed, it went to $800 between us and we got to see everywhere in Bethlehem (Banksy graffiti, the site where Mary first breastfed Jeezy Creezy, called and I shit you not, “the milky grotto”), Hebron (an unofficial tour from a local showed us flashpoint areas and where Israeli settlers and Palestinians clash reguarly), Ramallah (more Banksy, Arafats tomb) and Jericho (Mount of Temptation, Hishems Palace, an awesome monastery tucked away in the hills).
The taxi driver, Khaled, started every sentence with “MY BROTHERS!” and we would have felt very welcome had we not haggled him out of a holiday for him and his five kids to Hezbollahland. The accomodation was downstairs, pretty basic but had everything we needed. I got quite fond of the place even though I had to clear the floor of spiders and beetles every night before bed. The food was pretty decent and we got to taste alot of traditional Palestinian dishes along the way.
The month of May is chocka in Israel and Palestine, what with a fallen soldier rememberence day (that came with a terrorism warning), the Israel independence party (terrorism warning) and Israel Statehood day or “Al Nakba” (the catastrophe in Arabic and double warning) if you’re Palestinian.
After being in Ramallah three days earlier, we just missed a clash today between soldiers and youths near the wall. The Israelis opened fire at rock throwing teenagers with tear gas and rubber bullets. Even closer than that, East Jerusalem saw another kid killed that no one is taking responsibility for. Its a tragic situation but im glad I saw it for myself, talked to people and learned more.
If all that wasn’t enough, the Christians have decided that the Bible is going to have its Judgement Day on the 21st May which, quite frankly, is really going to fuck up the rest of the trip.