Busting through the border to Bethlehem
Trip Start Sep 20, 2011
13Trip End Oct 08, 2011
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Jeanie and Monroe have gone with the guide to the Jewish Holocaust Memorial/Museum and Jim has decided to stay in the room and work on some of his stock work and I decided to head back into the Old City to try to take in a bit more and also check out the shops in a bit more detail
I had a great taxi driver on the way there and an awful - aggressive - rude one on the way back - I had asked him to please put on the meter - he told me it was on - which it of course wasn't - I asked again and he assured me that it was on - then he proceeded to hound me about going to various locations in Palestine - then as we neared the hotel - there was a lot of traffic and I told him that I could get out and walk - at that time he reached down and turned on the meter and it immediately started out at $45.00 Sheckels - the meter should start out at about $11.00 Sheckels and my fare to the location I was returning from was only $17.00 earlier - so I gave him $20 and he started screaming at me and I said he could take it or not - his choice and I got out of the taxi and walked - he had already turned to head in the opposite direction when I told him I was getting out - so I did not feel as nervous about him then trying to cause a scene.
I had a little time to spare before Jeanie, Monroe and Graeme were back to pick us up - so I worked on uploading photos
We then went to a Kibbutz for lunch. It was not the quaint idea of a Kibbutz that we had in mind - there were tourist busses everywhere and it was basically an overpriced cafeteria. I ended up just eating a bit of what Jim got as it was so confusing - you had different meal prices - meat meal and/or salad meal - and then based on the size of plate you had - it was more or less. Drinks were separate as were desserts. I wanted one piece of chicken and a bit of hummus - but in order to have both I would have had to pay two prices - one for meat and one for salad - it just didn't make sense to me. Jim's meal was over $25.00 US for one piece of chicken, rice, one vegetable and then some hummus, pickles and a little coleslaw and one beer. Seemed like a lot and I had had a big breakfast so it really wasn't the end of the world for me.
After lunch we headed to the West Bank and we approached the Separation Barrier which extends approximately 400 miles surrounding Palestine
After passing through we notice one thing - Bethlehem seems to have cleaner streets than Israel. There doesn't appear to be as much trash and debris on the streets. The streets are quite wide and there is hardly any traffic. I am assuming that this is planned cleanliness - but regardless of that - we were very surprised at the amounts of trash on the streets in Israel - along the roadways - in the desert - etc.
We see about three or four young kids wearing brand new white T-shirts with the Palestine Flag and the words "Free Palestine" running the streets
We are taken to Johnny's Souvenir Shop for some "hospitality" - they try to push overpriced objects on us - crosses - nativity sets - ceramics - etc - and are not amused that we are not interested. We have stopped here because the Church of the Nativity is not yet 'open' after the afternoon 'cleaning'. I say that I would like to go and walk around on the streets to which they seem to recall that the church is probably 'open' now and we really should get going.
We are passed off to another guide and he takes us to Manger Square and the Church of the Nativity. We bend down to almost crawl though the entrance - which is such so that people on horses could not enter the chuch. It must be effective as I don't see many people on horses trying to breach the entrance. There are three churches contained inside - One Armenian - one Greek Orthodox and one Franciscan.
We pass through another set of doors - built by the Armenians and enter into the Greek Orthodox church
It was a pretty quick experience - as people got closer they started getting quite emotional and pushing and shoving - so we paid our respects and then moved on. We saw the Armenian Alters, viewed the Franciscan church and then made our way back to the border crossing to return to Israel.
Bethlehem concluded our day of sightseeing and now it was time to make the drive back to the Port City of Ashdod where our ship had been for the past two days. The drive back was very nice - we passed through many different agricultural zones - reforested pine forests - wine regions and even a large field of satellite dishes that were perhaps the largest I had ever seen
We arrived exhausted but I think also enlightened. It was a great trip - we barely stopped moving for the past three days and now we need a couple of days to wind down - I know my calf muscles are hoping for a break.
We will spend one day in Mykonos, Greece and then we will be starting our journey back to Costa Rica on Friday.