Posts Tagged ‘Jerusalem’

Darren Writes 26th November ’11 pic by Darren

Galaliee

What a choice to make: revolution in Syria, a glass of wine in Beirut, Lebanon and onwards through into Turkey and Eastern Europe. That was plan A and although we’ve managed to keep our route, more or less as planned, there was another option open to us.. Israel. Of course if we went to Israel we wouldn’t be allowed into Syria or Lebanon but still the holy land was alluring with its complexity of religion and politics. Also, the route north from Jordan was a little scary. Not because of the Syrian uprising but because of the snow and ice that would lay across our route beckoning shivers and aches. The one thing we had also learnt was the road was the most dangerous place on all our travels and of course motorcycles are not favoured in these slippery cold conditions. That’s settled then. Lets check out the holy land and catch a cargo boat to Italy.

Acco

On entering the Middle East we’d found unrivaled hospitality and the most friendly of people on our travels thus far and we were about to find Israel not to be lacking, from the very moment of crossing over the Jordan river and into the former Palestine. Unable to Cross the most direct route from Aman to Jerusalem we went north an hour and crossed near the sea of Galilee. Galilee was firmly in our plans and would now get the first visit. There was not a lot of people crossing this border but because of the extensive security checks we would find our selves there for a good few hours as the light started to draw in. The wait was softened by the friendly hebrew officers who were the first to enlighten us on Israeli friendliness. I was expecting them to be more hardened but despite them having to do their intensive interrogations due to us having been to Sudan, we found a people we could chat to with ease and who shared a similar sense of humour. We were on the same level. Things were not lost in translation and attitudes were familiar, if not a more care free. I was liking it and looked forward to the couple of weeks ahead.

Pilgrim touching the stone where Jesus was prepared for burial

Tiberias was our first call on the western banks of the famous lake known for Jesus’ ministry of healing and preaching, rasing of the dead, storm calming and of course, water walking as well as feeding multitudes with broken bread and fish. Here we met Eddie, the one-armed biker! We met him at the YMCA the following day to us camping in the grounds next to the lake. Israel is expensive and at £75/room, camping in the rain was preferable to the comfort of a bed in the dry. Eddie, the manager, insisted on us taking a room after his colleague, Almoghad prepared us some food. We stayed a couple more nights and enjoyed the company of every one there. Eddie had lost the use of his arm in a biking accident. He applauded our journey and respected our aim to raise funds for charity. At bill time he wouldn’t even except the camping fee. Thanks Eddie you’re a star and we very much enjoyed staying with you at the wonderful Tiberias YMCA.

Orthodox Jew Praying at the Wailing (west) Wall in Jerusalem

The north of the lake is home to a church that houses a rock on which it is thought Jesus divided the 5 loaves and couple of fish among five thousand men who had gathered there to listen to Him. Above is the hill on which he preached the Beatitudes and further along, Capernaum, the home of Jesus during his Galilean ministry. A wonderful feeling to know you are walking in the same place as Christ did 2000 years ago. However, Jesus wasn’t there and the multitudes who once followed him were now tourists or pilgrims who flock to the holy lands. Before leaving though, we had to sample the fish from the lake and imagine the life here, when the Son of God chose his 12 and dwelled in these lands, preaching the good news and doing all his amazing miracles. It was a bit cold and wet at the time so I didn’t try the good old walking on water trick, though!

The church upon Golgotha

From there we went to Acco,  the old crusaders town that felt like a middle eastern medina but built as an impenetrable castle.. one that even the short man, Napoleon couldn’t overcome. A bit of rest here was good untill upon leaving Russ had his helmet, gloves and Jacket stolen from atop of his bike. The owner helped to search for second-hand replacements which at a little over £100 turned out to be a silver lining as he is now more prepared for the cold ahead.

Nazareth was our next stop but just for a bite to eat and then through the West bank to Jerusalem. After passing through the security post between Israel and Palestine we found a completely different world and one that would be more understood after visiting Hebron in the west bank a little later.

Pilgrim in Prayer

The old city of Jerusalem is divided into 4 quarters; Christian, Jewish, Muslim, and Armenian and although it held all the tourist trappings one would expect, it remained an incredible, functioning collision of the worlds 3 main religions, who had all fought for their parts within the walled city. I cannot explain the mind boggling history of Jerusalems millenia within a blog update but it was a blessing to be on the ground of the worlds most important biblical sites like calvery (Golgotha). Jerusalem is a fascinating city for which to witness pilgrims from around the world following their hearts and fulfilling their lifetime ambitions. But as was Galilee, Jesus wasn’t here anymore and although both Russ and I are believers we felt God in the heart, not in the buildings despite their beauty and thus enjoyed discovering more of the cities history than beholding a spiritual experience.

Graffiti art on the wall

We also visited the town of Bethlehem within the West Bank and the church that lies over the birth place of Jesus. Or at least the place that is believed to be the manger of the christ. We rode along the infamous 8 metre wall that separated the Palestinian territory from Israel and started to get a better understanding of the oppression suffered by the Arabs of this turmoil region.

Israels teen soldiers

A day in Hebron and the Israeli settlements within this chaotic arab city was at first confusing but an up close experience of the controversial occupation of the former Palestine. To understand as much as possible I tried to be objective and thus attempted not to form opinion though this is impossible when witness to the oppression of the Palestinians. I have learnt much talking to both Israelis and Palestinians but again I cannot express all I have found in the space of a blog and so im not going to try. As a tourist in this land I am lucky to be able to visit both sides of the wall as neither Israeli nor Palistinans can pass to one side or the other without very difficult to obtain permits.

Old Town, Hebron

We are presently staying at the Abraham youth hostel which, with its great staff and management, has been a perfect place to kick back, meet other travellers and enjoy a spot of night life along with our historic and political touring. Our ship from Ashdod keeps being delayed and so now we are looking at the 28th to set sail. We will see.