The Fifth Day – Staying Home (Jerusalem)

I slept soundly last night, a solid nine hours until I was woken by the wake-up call.

I couldn’t detect much swelling on my foot, and the rest overnight certainly helped. Moving very slowly, I was finally ready to head down for breakfast. I’m a bit cold-y and queasy, so I was planning to just have a cup of tea.

When I got down to the dining room, the leader of the group cornered me to tell me off for not saying anything about my foot last night. “You shouldn’t tell everyone in Australia before you’ve told us!”

I thought I hadn’t done much damage to it last night! I mentioned it to the group member helping me on the wall when I did it – “Ow, I just landed a bit funny” – but by the time lunch was over, I’d gone pretty numb. The temperature dropped dramatically over lunch – it even hailed for a few minutes – so that probably contributed. I knew it hurt a little after I’d rested for a bit before dinner, but I didn’t realise just how much it hurt until I was ready for bed.

It’s not like it’s broken or anything. It’s not even bruised.

And I did ask to miss some of the walking today. Just because I didn’t specify why!

Although, as it turns out, it’s not possible to just miss the tunnel walks this morning; I’d either have to go on the bus and wait, or miss the whole day. Since the group leader had already told me off for not ice-packing my foot last night, and I was pretty close to tears by this stage (no doubt in part due to the fact that I’m still exhausted – I’m not tired, really, anymore, but still exhausted), I decided to stay at the hotel today.

“After all,” I said something along the lines of, “For a tunnel and two fake things, it’s probably best to stay and rest for other things the rest of the week.”

“Don’t say ‘fake things’!” I was admonished. “That’s very offensive!”

The Upper Room is a traditional site, so I concede it’s probably not fake. A lot of these traditional sites, I’m sure I’d rather enjoy, were it not for being with a group of Pentecostal-Baptists who generally scorn anything involving Catholic/Orthodox tradition, with a tour guide who makes no secret of his opinions on anything.

But the other thing this afternoon is the Garden Tomb, and we already had a long diatribe a few days ago from our fearless guide about how it’s a very recent tradition, it gives you an idea of how it would have looked but it’s mostly wishful thinking, and so on, and so forth.

“It’s very offensive to many of our group members! They’re not fake!”

“I’m sure they’re not,” I allowed, “And I’m sure if I were less tired and sick, I’d be less offensive.” Right then, I didn’t care. Also I was trying to convince myself that I wouldn’t miss too much by staying home for the day.

“It’s like that conversation the other day; you’re being a bit judgemental.”

Remember that conversation that messed me up all night? Yeah, apparently it was about me being a bit too judgemental. That’s not how I recall it. Maybe everyone’s just hearing me wrong to how I intend it. The other night, I’d commented on how the tables of Korean Catholic tourists were praying before dinner, and how we hadn’t prayed over our meals the entire trip.

“Well, that’s your responsibility!” I was told harshly then. “You can’t blame anyone but yourself for not praying!”

“I have been saying grace to myself,” I insisted. “I just thought it odd that on a Christian tour, we haven’t been saying grace, that’s all. I miss it.”

“How do you know we haven’t been saying grace?” one asked, and another added, “Our knees are raw from praying!”

In an attempt at levity, I scoffed and said, “Yeah, because Baptists are known for praying on their knees.” (That’s sarcasm, by the way).

I have no idea how we got from there to me trying to defend my Anglican church and the Anglican tradition (“we’re up and down throughout the service”), and then I was accused of saying people from other churches were wrong.

“I don’t think other churches are wrong. I consider myself anti-denominational. There are lots of traditions among Christian churches, and I think each tradition has merit. There’s nothing wrong with the various traditions, they’re just different expressions of faith and different ways of doing things.” (Also, you know, we’re commanded throughout the epistles to “keep the traditions as they were taught to us”. I have a much better time accepting a tradition more than a thousand years old than I do one that started a few hundred years ago).

How anyone could think I’m judgemental of other denominations is beyond me. I grew up non-denominational, I’ve spent formative years of my life in Baptist, Pentecostal, and low-church Anglican churches, I’ve visited Lutheran and Adventist churches, I have good friends who are Catholic, and I’m currently splitting my weekends between a traditional Anglican church and the Church of God Seventh Day.

“Although,” I couldn’t help bur point out at the time, “I’ve noticed some people at college can be very judgemental about other denominations.” It’s been a major sticking point of mine last year – one of the lecturers actually said that we shouldn’t visit other denominations in case we ‘get confused’!!!

“We shouldn’t talk about denominations,” I was told, “We should just say whether people are Christian or not Christian?”

“So you’re saying we should pass judgement on whether other people are Christian or not? How is that any different?”

Even if I’m anti-denominational, I have no problem with other people choosing to identify with one church tradition or another. But honestly, it’s one thing to observe people’s behaviour and deduce from the fact that they’re praying both before and after the meal and crossing themselves that they’re Catholic; it’s another thing completely to look at someone and say whether they’re Christian or not.

“Would you say they’re Christian?” I asked, gesturing to the Catholics.

“That’s not for us to judge.”

“It’s just that I’ve known lot’s of people from the Baptist tradition who will say right-out that Catholics aren’t Christians.”

This Christian/not-Christian thing has been a recurring theme on the trip. Yuval stated boldly the other day that he doesn’t always believe someone when they tell him they’re a Christian. “Maybe if they say they are a Believer, or a follower of Yeshua, then I will believe that they are Christian.”

Right. So I tell people, “I’m a Christian,” but he wouldn’t believe me? It’s not like I’ll go around saying “I’m a Baptist” or “I’m an Anglican”. I might say “I’m a Christian and a worship at an Anglican church at the moment”, but I’ll always identify myself first as “a Christian”.

But, according to Yuval, that’s not good enough. He doesn’t trust people’s self-identification as Christians. They’re Ethiopian Orthodox, maybe, they’ll identify themselves as Christians, but he’s not going to believe them. How can he make that decision? If someone tells me they’re a Christian, then they believe in God and follow Jesus, and I’m going to assume that’s true until it’s proved otherwise, because they’ve told me that.

“I’m a Believer,” he wants me to say. Right. A believer in what? That Jesus is God? Satan believes that! A “Christian” is someone who follows and strives to emulate Christ – it’s in the name. I may be a Believer, but I’m a Christian more to the point.

But anyway, back to this morning. I concede I was a bit harsh in calling the Upper Room and the Garden Tomb “fake”, but in all fairness, I’m sure Yuval’s going to call them that not in so few words. He can be quite emphatic about places he doesn’t think are genuine. I was trying to hold back tears from the dressing-down and just wanted to get out of the conversation at that point.

So, yeah, maybe I should have told someone about my foot last night. But I didn’t realise it was quite so bad – and it’s not like it was very bad – and it doesn’t do to complain, anyway, particularly when no-one else seems to be having any trouble. I know I’m overweight and not as fit as the rest of them, and I don’t want to seem like the stereotypical unfit fat person. I’ve conceded enough weariness on this trip – I missed climbing Mount Arbel and Tel Dan last week – I don’t want to be a burden.

Not to mention, as I said, I didn’t realise how much my foot hurt until literally when I was typing up the last post right before going to sleep last night. When I got back, I was aching all over from exhaustion and just wanted to take care of that first. And it’s not like I didn’t try to get out of some things today. Would I have tried to miss out on half a day’s sightseeing for no reason?

On a completely different topic, it seems the Great Synagogue trip was overrated because the ushers wouldn’t let them in at all, so they walked for five minutes there and back for five minutes of standing at the door peering in.

So, after finishing my tea and asking for a bag of ice from Nader (who ticks our room numbers off as we go into the dining room), I’m back up in my room elevating my foot. I expect room service will be around sometime soon, although I’ll just ask them to deal with the bathroom (all our towels are wet).

I don’t mean to imply in these posts that the whole trip has been bad. It hasn’t. I can see how it might seem that way, since I’m usually pretty tired at the end of the day, and I tend to state the negative and leave the positive to speak for itself. (I’m trying to work on that). I’ve really enjoyed a lot of things (although there are many I think I’d have enjoyed a bit more with a bit more time and walking a bit slower).

But please, please, if you get worried about me from something I’ve said in the posts, please don’t start contacting the group leaders to tell them off! I just can’t deal with the headache of being pulled aside and told off for telling people in Australia about my problems; about being told that she’s got texts telling her things that I, per the rules laid down at the beginning of the trip, should have told her first. You may have all day overnight; I might plan to say something first thing in the morning but by the time I get down to breakfast, the message has already got through the wrong channels and then I’m in trouble.

And I’m sure it’s not meant to come across like a telling off. “You don’t have to do anything if you don’t want to; it’s not like we’re in school.” Yeah, but it seems like that. Maybe it’s because I’m immature; maybe it’s because I’m recently out of school; maybe it for who-knows-what, but it seems like we don’t get much choice in a lot. Yeah, maybe they say we do, but when it comes down to it, we get frowned at when we try to sit out of things without giving a good reason (“utter exhaustion” is not a good reason), and maybe it’s because he’s not the best with English but Yuval always comes across a little judgemental and condescending if you ask out of something.

I’m getting off-track, and I should definitely stop complaining now. I’m sure everything will seem nowhere near as bad after I’ve slept a little more. I so wanted to enjoy this trip, and see everything I could – and I have enjoyed it, for the most part. But I’m not as up for everything as some of the others in the group are. I can’t keep the pace they do. I can’t take the noise they can. I spent ten hours a day with twenty-five people, I can’t face games with them in the evenings when all I want to do is process the day and go to sleep.

I can’t believe the trip is almost over. I want to stay for longer and see more. I want to go back to some of the places and see them again. There’s so much here, and the prices of everything aside, it’s a good country to be in.

But, on the other hand, I’m glad the trip’s almost over, because I don’t know how much more I can take. It’s a relentless pace – it has to be, I suppose, to see everything. And we’re a more leisurely trip than most! I can’t imagine that. And trying to get on with twenty-five people is wearing on me, too. It’s easier with some than others, and I think sometimes I just take things the wrong way.

So please, no more texting when you’re concerned about me. I’ll be fine. I can handle it. It’s not all bad.

(Even if, right now, I feel like having a good cry and going back to sleep).

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The Seventh Day – Jordan River Crossing

Since the camera I’m using had run out of battery, I didn’t get any pictures after this. So I’ll post with words for the moment, and then add pictures once I’ve got some from other members of the group.

After spending about an hour and a half at the Sachneh Springs, we drove for a little more than an hour, heading south again.

Map - Jordan.gif

I fell asleep again, immediately after the checkpoint into Sumeria (which is under the Palestinian Authority, so it was like crossing a border) which was a shame, because I didn’t get to see the countryside change as we went. For much of the journey, the border fence was within 50 metres of the road. When I woke up, it had changed from green valleys to orangey-brown cliffs.

We turned off the main road (interesting factoid: Route 90, upon which we’ve been travelling yesterday and today, is the longest road in the country, going from Metula in the north to Elat in the south) and headed east, towards the Jordan river.

The site where we stopped is the traditional site both of the Israelite crossing into the Promise Land and of Jesus’ baptism. When we arrived, there were hundreds and hundreds of Ethiopian Orthodox there, dressed in white, going down to be baptised and coming back up. The women had really big, ornate hair, and there were lots of little children running around, too.

On the other side, we could see a small wooden shelter with steps down to the river and a much smaller number of people – Jordan, another country. There were soldiers on both sides of the river. Our side was quite built-up, with cement walkway and steps along the bank. The river was only three or four metres wide, so I imagine people being baptised on either side could talk to each other!

When we arrived, the open-air chapel was being used for the baptismal service of a large group of Greek Orthodox, who later headed down to be baptised by the dozens, all wearing matching white tunics with a picture and Greek writing, which I presume said something along the lines of “January 2016 Mega Baptismal Tour to the Jordan!”

The site is most popularly used by the Eastern Orthodox churches. I didn’t see any sign of a Catholic church, and the only Protestants seemed to be our tour group and one other. There was a marked difference between the Orthodox people who were there for worship and baptism, and the others, who were apparently there to gawk and take photos.

Map - Jerusalem

After stopping by the Jordan, we continued south through the hills of Sumeria. As I’ve mentioned, this is part of the Palestinian Authority area, which causes problems for the people, who aren’t recognised as citizens by the Jordanian government but refuse to recognise Israel. Even as we were driving past orchards on our side of the river and greenhouses on the other, it was odd to think that ISIS was in control just a few kilometres away.

We circumvented Jericho and then turned from Route 90 to Route 1 (which used to run from Joffa to Amman, but only goes a little past Jericho now) and headed west towards Jerusalem.

Along the road in to Jerusalem, there were lots of Bedouin camps along the side of the road. They’re reasonably settled now, and live in shacks rather than in tents, and only keep camels for the tourism aspects of it, although most still seem to be herding goats.

The Bedouin in Israel seem to be pretty content to be part of Israel, unlike the Palestinians. (A lot of the staff at Ein Gev Tourist Kibbutz were Bedouin whose parents and grandparents had settled). Apparently the Israeli government offered a few years ago to build a city or a town for all the Bedouin who are living in small shacks along Route 1, but they refused, because living in a town there would put them under the Palestinian Authority, which they didn’t want. As long as they continue to live in camps, they come under Israeli jurisdiction.

We had to pass another checkpoint just before entering Jerusalem, as we were exiting the Palestinian Authority. It was a little amusing because Tzion got us through with just one word: he wound down the window and said, “Australiyah!” And we were let through right away!

We entered Jerusalem at about 3pm and stopped for about an hour at an olive-wood-carving shop run by some Christian brothers from Bethlehem who served us tea. I don’t know if I’ve mentioned it, but tea here is served very sweet, with fresh mint leaves in it and sometimes little slices of lemon.

Then we came to the hotel, which is much fancier than the last two places we’ve stayed! I’ll take some photos once the camera has charged (I also have some photos of Ein Gev I’ll do a post for on Monday). I don’t know if I’ll be able to get a good picture of the view from the window, because it’s meant to be stormy tomorrow. Once Sabbath is over in a little bit, I’ve got to go to the supermarket across the street to buy some more waterproof layers to wear as it’s a lot colder here than I anticipated.