Wednesday, July 25, 2007

1982 Israel, Kibbutz Grofit to Kibbutz Dan Trek

After two months at Grofit, Leah and I cashed in our shekel-sheets and accumulated leave and left Aravah Valley. "Don't catch Arrab buses," smirked Moshe. "Don't heetch-hike blue nomberr-plated West Bank and Gaza veheecles." We Egged bussed to Beersheva market -place, and saw Bedouin haggling over camels and sour dates. A black-dressed Jewess handed a fowl to a rabbi, who stroked the fowl's neck and slit its throat with a knife. He up-ended the fowl into a metal funnel, draining blood. A chuckling Jewish man then ground away kosher-fowl's feathers on a grinding wheel.

At Ancient Sodom, Dead Sea shore campsite, we saw salt pillars in the water...

At Masada, climbing the Snake Path to the plateau, we watched a camel-train in the desert below. Other tourists rode the cable-car. We wandered ruins, and saw huge water-cisterns and Herod's palace. When besieging Romans had finished their rocky ramp, hundreds of trapped Zealots committed suicide, escaping torture. We snaked down, seeing busloads of Sabra kids on a "Masada shall not fall again" brainwashing tour.

At Ein Gedi, we floated high in the Dead Sea, while brine stung our eyes. Leah showered in a men's change-room, locking herself in, when a busload of doddery Germans changed, leaving their wallets in their trousers.

In Jerusalem, we trudged through Damascus Gate into the walled city of David, Mohammed and Christ. There were no Hosannas. In the souk, an Arab youth, sitting on a three-legged stool before Fat Fathers shop, said to Leah, "Fuckie, fuckie, fuckie, fuckie..."

I berated him, pointing to Leah's and my wedding rings: "These rings show we're married. Be careful how you speak to my wife!"

Whipping his stool from beneath his bum, the youth brandished it above his head. Fat Father squirmed between us shouting, "No fighting! No trouble!" Leah and I ambled through the souk, giggling at how silly it was. We bought leather sandals for our Holy Land trek, then looked at Jews praying at the Wailing Wall.

Moshe had forewarned us about our skinny Arab hotelier being into couples, so the Arab's smarming didn't disturb us. His cheap hotel on David Street had Ottoman vaulted ceilings and dormitory-rooms. When we brewed tea in the dining-room, a Yank shouted above breakfast-babble, "Hey Boers! Whadaboud Sharpeville?"

"What about Sharpeville?" I asked.

"When ya son-of-a-bidch regime shod blacks."

"How many blacks were shot in 1960?"

"Uh?"

"You know nothing about SA. You're not the first Yank to bollock me about apartheid. You Yanks fought a Civil War over slavery. Yanks discriminated against Negroes and Red Indians. Yanks' civil-rights are a joke. Yanks' affirmative-action doesn't work. Yanks shot Doctor Martin Luther King. And shot President Kennedy and his brother. Yanks bombed Vietnam, Cambodia and Laos to hell. And who's funding the forthcoming Israeli invasion of Lebanon?"

Silence.

"In Angola, you Yanks proxy-warred SA troopies and UNITA against commie MPLA, Cubans and Soviets. Will USA sort out apartheid's mess? Who'll pay for SA fresh water, electricity, sanitation, roads, housing, schools, hospitals and shops?"

Angry silence.

Yad Vashem museum showed extermination of Jews by Nazi -Europeans. But Israelis were hypocrites, due to their forced expulsions of Palestinians, and occupation of Palestinian land, and non-right-of-return for Palestinians. Whereas any Jew anywhere had automatic right-of-return to Israel anytime. Due to Israeli oppression of Palestinians, Arabs we met were passively-aggressive.

In outcast Palestinian Bethlehem, Leah and I found the Grotto in the Church of the Nativity. We knelt, touching the marble slab, covering Christ's "birthplace." We sat, while candles spluttered warmth. We felt a powerful presence, tear-welling eternity, until noisy Yanks arrived, disturbing our peace.

Northwards, Tel Megiddo had been excavated by archaeologists. We clambered down a rock-shaft, and walked along a water-tunnel, which had watered old Megiddo.

Palestinian Nazareth was an outcast Arab town with a flashy Christian church...

At Haifa, we climbed Mount Carmel, and viewed the Bahai shrine. We talked of post WW2 displaced Jews evading a British blockade in small ships...

In wide-walled, Crusader-city Akko, we lingered along medieval alleys, imagining King Richard the Lion Heart slaying Moslems, and housewives throwing slops from windows into alley middle-gutters.

We bussed to the Lebanese border "Friendly Fence," and chatted to friendly Yanks admiring the distant Mediterranean...

An the way to Safed, at a bus terminus, amongst lonely hills, a crazy Arab shepherd begged from us. "Go away!" I said. He hit me with his stick. I threatened him...

"You go to Rama?" shouted a crazier Israeli pickup-driver, "I go to Rama." We sped down a pass, pickup wheels screeching at corners, dirt-road so narrow, his pickup swiped a mirror off an upcoming car...

We sped in and out of Safed artist tourist-trap...

We sped north to Qiryat Shemona, where PLO rockets, fired from Lebanon, had pock-marked buildings...

We slowed down at Dan kibbutz, in the Golan, and saw a wrecked Syrian tank, left in a garden, commemorating an Israeli - killed: stopping the tank's advance.

See Masada and other Israel sights.

1 comment:

Mark JS Esslemont said...

Email from SA family who went on a Holy Land trip:

"We arrived safely in Jerusalem to extremely hot weather. The flight on Egypt Air was fine, food OK but not great. We soon found that Middle Eastern manners are not that great. A lot of people push and shove you out of the way - if they can get in front of you in the queue then they are happy...

We have done lots of walking and have to walk up or down 65 steps to the apartment. Hubby wants me here for a month so that I can come back home slim and trim! Hubby is enjoying admiring the beautiful young Israeli girls - most of whom are in army uniform as they have to do compulsory service.

We did a bus tour of Jerusalem and spent a whole day in the Old City - we went to see the Western Wall (Wailing Wall), Via Dolorosa, and lots of other places. We have been to various historical and biblical sites, including the Garden Tomb of Jesus - all of which were amazing. We also walked around the Old City wall...

It is so hot here that we will definitely not be following mom / gran's tradition and bring back loads of chocolates - they will not survive more than a few minutes in this heat...

C... is taking us to meet an old lady who became a dear friend of theirs' - she survived the Holocaust and recently told her story in the local newspaper.

Over the weekend we are driving from Jerusalem to the Sea of Galilee to see various places up there. On Sunday we are driving down to Masada and the Dead Sea, where we will have a swim and cover ourselves with Dead Sea mud, which apparently does wonders for the skin.

On Monday we will have to leave early to take the shuttle back to Tel Aviv and fly to Cairo. We will arrive at 1.10pm and will get a room and breakfast before we catch our flight back to SA at 2.40am. There are quick tours to the pyramids so will do what we can.

Most places charge in either Israeli shekels or US dollars, so we have to have our wits about us to check prices. A cuppacino costs 11 shekels. We have enjoyed their coffee and their pastries are delicious, but we will definitely not be coming home fatter than when we left - we have done so much walking and have lots more to do...

Enjoy the cool weather..."