Nov 15, 2012
Trip Start Nov 09, 2012
16Trip End Nov 25, 2012
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City busses have always been a little scary for me. Knowing what bus went where required you to know the city in and out and upside down. Generally I stick with trains and taxis. But today we conquered inter and intra city buses.
Church of the Holy Sepulcure
I had great hopes for this. For a majority of the world this is *the* holy place. I wanted this to be something meaningful. It is a hajj a pilgrimage and it has pulled at my culture like the marble placed on stretched silk. Everything gravitates to here. No pressure.The church of the holy sepulcure was crowded with the devoted. Priests an nuns from different sects pushed around each other. Every corner was laid claim by some group for some reason. Gold tarnished and tired overlaid each elaborate mural and there were holes in the floor covered with plywood.
Our guide told us there was gold under the floor. Golden coins from the crusades, piles of them. But no one would let you dig, he said with a sigh. This, he said with a touch of humor, was Israel's gold reserves. We paused and lit a candle outside of one sanctuary. It was a still lone gold flame--so quiet an straight. I pushed the candle into the sand and explained to my kids that this was how some religions pray. The room was crowded and smelled like unwashed tourists. We could see our guide rolling a cigarette an knew we had to get going. An orthodox monk came and blew out all of the candles.
Our guide described it as the most holy spot in Judaism. A spot made holy by the defeet and death of so many. The wall is devided in two groups men and women. The mens side took up two thirds of the wall and was practically empty. The women's third was full. A orthodox Jewish women ran up and told me to cover my elbbows with my shawl. And we went forward. Trash swirled around mixed with slips of paper crumpled with prayers. White scratched plastic chairs were set up haphazardly and filled with old women reading and swaying. The closer you walked to the wall the more earnest the prayers seemed. I had written a prayer with a sharpie on the back of a brochure. It was rolled into a tight wad and pressed in my hand. I quietly made my way through the crowd. When I reached the wall I was crying too. I took my wadded up prayer and pushed it in a crack already filled with a paste of prayers. With one hand on the wall I could finally get the pull to Jerusalem. This place mattered.
They called him in on short notice for our little group. I should have guessed that a guide who could be ready in half an hour might not be the cream de la cream. He thought Jerusalem was a "Honkey Tonk town" and most of the information he gave was wrong (who invented the cell phone (Israel) who invented the internet (Israel) who invented modern war strategies (yep you guessed it)). He said F** while describing the wailing wall and hated muslims. He was an expat from Canada and fiercely devout to his new country. His "any questions?" at the end of each lecture was more of a challenge than a question. But we were glad to have him. I was lost the moment we walked off the main pathway. And we had planned to visit Bethlehem until he recieved a text. "Oh ****** it looks like the ministry of tourism doesn't want us to go to Bethlehem...there are demonstrations going on there.." Good to know. I was sorry we couldn't go to Bethlehem. But I was glad to know it wasn't safe. I realized that I had paid for a guide. Not a teacher but a guide in the Luis and Clark sense of the word. He knew the terrain and he could get me and my kids safely there. That was worth something.