Sunday, October 5, 2008

Masada!

We woke up this morning at 5 in order to get a ride with Henry to Wadi Qelt. Wadi (a place of water) is located just outside of Jerusalem. It is a high ridge, letting us see the tallest buildings from Jerusalem to the west, and the Moab mountain ridge to the east. Last year we easily drove to the Wadi Qelt, but this year the gate was closed near the entrance to the Wadi, so we parked the car and walked half a mile. Once we were on top of the ridge, you could see the lights of Jerusalem, the lights from Israeli settlements nearby, and the contours of the mountains around us, in which Jesus talked about how much he loved Jerusalem like a "mother hen." By 6:30 A.M. the sun rose, and the light on the mountain sides changed the very color of the texture of the hills.

Breathtaking!

Climbing down from the Wadi, we then drove to the nearby restaurant/drive-in and got some coffee, waiting for the national bus--the Greyhound of Israel--along with other Palestinians from nearby Jericho. It took forever for a bus to come, which frustrated Henry and us, so he took us to nearby Masada! We passed by Qumran, site for the discovery of the Essenes collection of Dead Sea Scrolls. The nationalistic flavor of Masada starts with the film, in which there is no discussion of how Herod built Masada and why, but the defense of Masada, in which a renegade group of Israeli Jews took over the place after the fall of Jerusalem (after Jesus' death and resurrection), and Rome's conquest of the hill fort, which precipitated the suicide of those in Masada. As the film narrator said, it was a matter of "death or freedom," with Peter O'Toole playing the Roman commander charging the hill and finding everyone dead. We then took a cable-car to the top of the hills with a carload of Colombian Catholics. The site--a world heritage site--is clean and pristine, with little of the sense that it is an antique site, feeling like it could've been a movie set. We met Augie from Israel, who was born in Portland, OR, along with his family and friends from Portland who were visiting the site. We talked about Portland, and about his trip to New Zealand with Jaqui.

Making it down from the top of the hill before 11:30, we raced to catch the bus to Jerusalem, which is a 90 minute drive through the Negev, with the Dead Sea on our right, which is not only "dead," but dying, as in shrinking in size. The air conditioning in the bus felt great. We picked up people from Dead Sea resorts and kibbutzes, making it to downtown JLM in no time flat. Once we were at the bus stop, which is a mall, we spent time shopping, eating, and enjoying the modern life of JLM. Two soldiers--two young women--found a wallet in search of an owner, in which Jaqui helped them find the owner. Making it down Jaffa St., we went to a wonderful bazaar of a largely Jewish group of people, with all kinds of things for sale: flowers and fruits, vegetables and fish. Meanwhile, the rest of the town (West JLM) was closing up because it was Shabbath.

For old time's sake we made it to the New Gate of the Old Town, walking the alley ways of the Christian quarter, buying a few nick-nacks, winding our way to the Damascus gate. At Jafar's Sweet Shop near the entrance of the Damascus gate we had one more taste of kanafeh. We strolled back to St. Georges and got ready to go out to dinner: one more time at Azzahra's!

Slowly but surely, the pilgrimage was coming to an end: Matt left on a 9:00 shuttle service to the airport, and Jaqui and I went out to process the pilgrimage with a few glasses of wine at Azzahra's. The next day we would both find our way to the airport, winging our way to our next stop: London for Jaqui, and North Carolina for me.

Salaam and Shalom,

Buen Camino,

Brett