Monday, 29 March 2010

Goodbye

Tuesday 30th (ignore time date above)
3 hours until I leave Jerusalem for the airport.
I was again well looked after by Bernadette and Elias (EnglishPAL friends)
I was invited to a special family Palm Sunday meal - unfortunately there was no way I could eat it so thought it better to not attend.It was just as well because I kept sleeping thru the day.
I was dropped in Bethlehem to go to the doctor.Unfortunately,they only treated Palestinians.The doctors were quite brusque but the patients recognised a fellow sufferer and directed me to another nearby.
Another man took me into a building led me to a waiting room and pointed inside.
I found myself sat with women and children.There were posters on the wall of pregnant women.My feeling of unease (mental- the physical was still very close)was relieved when I saw a man leave the doctors room- with wife and children.
My turn came, a helpful doctor prescribed some drugs.I repeatedly asked how much to pay and was only met with "have a nice day".
I met a friend who took me to a pharmacy amid much guffawing at my visit to the Obsetrician & Gynaecologist...
I managed to eat half a meal for the first time monday without ill effects.
I had the remnants for suffer.
After Mass at Notre Dame I felt tired and went to bed and slept 10 hours.
Last Day
I got up fairly early and went to Mass at the Holy Sepulchre.It was very cold standing there for well over an hour.
Although very hungry I am finding it hard to persuade myself to eat something.
I will probably settle for some bread - again.
Its Passover today and I've just heard a conversation about Nesher (the airport taxi service) being closed.Is my booking via hotel valid?On a normal day the regular taxi is 60 pounds...

Saturday, 27 March 2010

Laid low

It's been a good 48 hours since I started with a very dodgy stomach.36 laid in bed.Thankfully,the bathroom is only 1 metre from the end of the bed.
I've been hot,so cold my teeth chattering and all my bones aching.
In these parts the rehydration fluid is Sprite.
I have been well looked after by Khalil at HCEF.
Although,the rice dish he brought was great every grain went through me.
Elias and Bernadette from EnglishPAL are going to pick me up in less than an hour and take me to their house.
Thankfully,the frequency of my visits to the smallest room have decreased.
I just hope I'm OK by Tuesday afternoon when I fly...

Thursday, 25 March 2010

House of Fun

Spent a lot of Wednesday hanging about the Offices of a Reconcilliation organisation.
Quite moving some of the stuff I've heard.
Had dinner with an interesting couple who run a self help website.
Had some of Weds and all of Thursday with the children & Sisters at Children of God Home,Bethlehem.
It looks like after a couple of technical hitches the initial $600 will reach them.
Sat in the Chapel within the house you can hear the laughter of the children and occasionally their crying.The Sisters seem always to be laughing aswell.
They clearly love 'their' (my word)children.
I've heard some mind boggling stories of the number of handicapped children in this part of the world.The Bethlehem Children of God Home is going to have a booming trade for the next generation at least.
Happily i have spoken to a couple of young women that are not going to make a traditional 'choice' of husband.
Today is the Feast of the Annunciation - Patronal Feast for the Sisters.
A couple of carloads of children (Christians only),Sisters & volunteers headed for Mass.It was followed by a party at the House.I was the only native English speaker.
Apart from me EVERYONE spoke at least THREE languages.
I was woken at 5am today so now its Marsalama from me.

Tuesday, 23 March 2010

Stiff as a board

The one eyed mangy cat rumaging thru a waste bin was the last sight of the hostel as
we went out for a 3 hour Tour of the Old City - which wasn't that good.
I learned next to nothing new.
In the afternoon Jan & Ana went to Masada and I caught the bus to Bethlehem.
(Got to say Jan was a great travelling companion - El Nazra to Al Quds.Good luck with the Medicine Degree - hope you get to Africa.Ana thanks for the company and your 'secret' is safe with us - Oh and keep smiling!)
Werner's contact in Bethlehem came good - thanks
I'm now ensconced in a Guest room above the Holyland Christian Ecumenical Foundation.
On being given a brief drive round Bethlehem I met Victor (Rony's Dad).I was soon dining with Rony & Carol.I did manage to get lost going the 400 yards back to HCEF
(I always say getting thru Towns/Villages is far harder than finding them in the first place).
My one and only pair of trousres have done sterling service for 3 weeks but are as stiff as a board so I have taken the risk of washing them and hoping they will be dry in the morning...

The Girls of St ...Joseph's.

Monday 22nd
The three of us - Jan,Ana and myself went to Jericho to walk up Wadi Qelt.
We got up the Mount of Temptation whereupon we could get no answer at the door.
The girls of St Joseph School,Bethlehem were also visiting and tried a bit of singing to get Abouna to open the door - no luck.Jan had the girls swooning "great jump" as he climbed over a high fence to explore some lunatic idea of us going over a cliff edge - we didn't.
It turned out Georgette is a Volunteer at the Bethlehem Chidren of God Home that the money is being raised for.The girls and their teacher also know "Our Rony" Tabash.
We never did get up Wadi Qelt and returned to Jerusalem.
After catching up on a bit of sleep we met one of Ana's friends in West Jerusalem for an iffy Ethiopian meal.Later Belgium waffles were much better.
After a mad dash back to the Old City we ducked under the Midnight Portcullis.
We had insisted on a new room as we did not want a repeat performance at dawn.
Tired as I was I could not help noticing the bed linen was rather 'interesting'.
The Matrix coat doubled as a 'ground sheet'...yep it was that good.
But I slept.

No good turn goes unpunished...

Sunday 21st
We eventually made it into Jerusalem and found a Hostel
It was chosen to suit my student companions budget...
The 'features' in this establishment probably coincide with most people's imagination back home.I delayed a shower to the last possible moment - not relishing the cold water.But was pleasantly surprised to find it warmish.At any rate warmish enough to dislodge half a toenail suitably 'cooked' over the last 3 weeks in my walking/only footwear.
As 'bus ticket' moments are burnt into my soul (Egypt Museum circa 1980)I was adequately prepared for all 'occassions' but I have to say I found crucial necessities were provided.
Altho absolutely knackered I had made a fatal mistake in the evening.
Upon treating my fellow traveller to the Austrian Hospice apple strudle I had a double expresso long.This made sleep elusive - then from the room next door came very loud snoring.I read outside the room for a while but it was too cold.
I must have drifted off about 3am- then beeb,beeb,beeb we frantically went thru our phones to switch the alarm off.finally realising it was the snorers next door.His alarm was set for 'dawn prayer'.He didn't turn it off!
Then on top of beeb,beeb was ring,ring,ring and he still didn't turn it off.
Forgetting all the rules of this land I went virtually naked and pounded on his door.
Not a sausage!!beeb,beeb and ring,ring for another aeon of time.Finally it stopped.
The bliss was interupted by the most horrific throat clearing imaginable...

EnglishPAL delivers the goods.

Saturday
I found the exact spot where Habib had made us tea the year before.
Another very enjoyable day in the countryside.But we then paid the price with plenty of asphalt.
It was cool by the time we got to Ramallah.
We briefly met Shadi one of my englishpal contacts who assisted us to get to MK's place in Bir Zeit in the dark.
After shower and laundry we set of into Ramallah with MK's friend Anas.
We ended up talking well into the night - maybe 3am when we got to bed.
I have heard all sorts of ghastly stories of suffering in this HOLY LAND.
MK and particularly Anas conveyed their stories with passion but without rancour and a quiet dignity.This hit home harder than some other 'less quiet' ones.
I hope to meet the lads again...

Ana joins us

Friday
This was the day I anticipated most difficulty and so it proved.
Once again I was finding places on the previous year's route.
The first part was a gentle and enjoyable stroll through a ravine.
The climb over rocky hills was much better this time - maybe because my load is so light.
However,the tracks ran out and we had to scramble up and down ravines - that was hard work.
We met a much travelled polyglot in Deir Jerir (apologies for mispelling)who gave us refreshments.
Jan thought he had found himself a 'liberal' man.The women's heads were uncovered but when he addressed a young woman she waved her finger and pointed to her father and conversation went thru him.A few hundred yards down the road and there were women on the street- by then it actually felt a little 'different'!!
In Taybeh we met Ana who had travelled from Galilee to join the walk.
Nothing to do so we told stories...
Jan & Ana tried to sleep on the roof.Jan returned to the room frozen around 3am

Hailstones

Thursday
Habib was at Yasmeen bright and early to Guide us.It was good to see him again.
Again I remembered most of the Route.The most difficult bit is getting out of Towns & Villages on the right track.
There were showers and Hailstones at one point.
I think that is where I got my cold.
We took the day at a stroll.
Habib's wife put on a fine chicken and rice meal.
In the evening we visited Anwar who is was interesting to talk to.
He also likes the idea of bringing more people along the JESUSWAY.

Jacob's Well

Wednesday
Along the route to Nablus we had long discussions with Nedal.
I remembered most of the Way.Jan made some notes.
On arrival at Nablus we visited the beautiful Jacob's Well Church -
the site if JESUS meeting the Samaritan woman.It took several seconds for water thrown down the Well to splash in the darkness.
We stayed at the Yasmeen Hotel in Nablus.
We then met Gabi who took us to Mass.
As it was in the Melkite Rite and Arabic it was quite different to home.
Gabi's family and friends gave us a fine meal and we enjoyed the whole evening.

Tuesday, 16 March 2010

Meeting Nedal again

After another hearty breakfast we bade a fond farewell to our hosts.
We called on Father Frias to say goodbye.
We decided we wanted a more interesting walk so we avoided traveling on roads.
The entire day was spent in the countryside.Between my memory,the map and checking our position on the Israeli grid by GPS we managed not to get lost.Although,we were not on the exact route taken in 2009 when Guided we were close all day.It was tough going underfoot so we traveled slowly.There was much scrambling up and down hills.Quite a lot of time with no semblance of path.But it's all 'doable'
We had two stops to eat the masses of fruit we still have left...
It was good to meet Nedal again.We discussed the various walks in Spain, Galilee and the one we are on now.Then we heard a depressing resume of the current situation.

Monday, 15 March 2010

Zababdeh

Fr Firas -who is an enthusiastic Melkite Priest -
has brought us to the Arab American University of Jenin (altho actually in Z)where Jan and I are making use of the Internet.
As we are both students of medicine & Islam respectively we are welcome...
It is like an oven in this room so I can't concentrate enough to do the Report I am part way thru for my lawyer friend from 'DC'.
Time for a walk round the Campus.
Back is holding up well.Exercise doing it good - as predicted by Doctor and Specialist.

Nearly 'killed' with Kindness

Sunday 14th
A big breakfast.Our bags packed and full of fruit from the night before.
Then we were given a small rucksack full of sandwiches and more fruit EACH!!
We just didn't know what to do!In the end we declined the actual rucksacks and took most of the food.We just had to start eating it to lighten the load.
Jan kindly took most because I didn't want to risk aggravating my back.
Jan also put the Matrix coat on his bag as we crossed the border as it had attracted too much Security attention previously.
I carried some of Jan's water to equalise weight.
We were refused Crossing on foot.It took two minutes to hitch a ride.They still delayed us for about 15 minutes.Once across our driver and friend couldn't understand our insistence on walking.
We finally made ourselves understood with showing the Crucifix and saying
Meshi Haj Yalla Al Quds.
Which very roughly means Christian Walking Pilgrimage going to Jerusalem.
From then on we made slowish progress due to the insistence on "coming to drink coffee" (I never thought that could become a burden - but happily bourne)and farmers handing us oranges and tomatoes along the way.We had to eat them instantly to keep the load down.
It would be an absolute piece of cake hitch-hiking on the West Bank.
We had been recommended a visit to the 4th oldest Church in the world.
St George's Orthodox Church in Burqin - about 3 hours South West of Jalame Crossing.
Again everyone really friendly.
The morning was thru field's ,afternoon mainly on asphalt.
We have a good room and plentiful food here in Zababdeh.

Great Hospitality - Christians of Muqebli

Saturday 13th.
After a nightmare world record snorer made me sleep in the lounge Jan and I walked the 25 km from Nazareth to Muqebli.A long hot day but carefully following our maps we were OK.Fr Marco met us at the Church.The Parishioners made us very welcome.We were greeted with handshakes by everyone and men and women were happy to talk to us.
I just managed to get thru Mass without falling asleep.Rarely have I been so tired.
Another rarity,Jan and I were a part of Fr Marco's sermon and got a round of applause.
We had good rooms & showers.Fr Marco and The Sisters were invited to dinner along with us.We couldn't eat all the food or drink all the tea,coffee,lemonade and wine.
We were given fruit for the journey next day.
Fr Marco would not take a penny - so another donation the BCGH.

Friday, 12 March 2010

A stroll around El Nazra

After a 'cut throat' razor shave had a pleasant stroll around El Nazra.
Managed to buy a new shirt.Coffee with old friend Martina at Cactus House.
My idyll of a five bed room to myself at 'mates rates' has come to a shuddering halt with two aussie couples.I have explained the house rule of no snoring.
Contacts have come good and got next 3 nights accommodation sorted for my soon to be travelling companion Jan and I.
Shukran to Sister Muna (Jenin)and Tamer (Cana).
After tomorrow's 25km walk on asphalt and potentially the next day 18km on asphalt we may have got the following 2 days Guided thru the countryside.
Now awaiting the Volunteers at Fauzi to be ready - they are taking me to smoke sheesha from 10pm onwards.I'm told I'm 'half a volunteer'.
I forsee getting going tomorrow being horrific.
In the midst of all this I am trying to write a report for a Washington lawyer.
The delay is my 'techno numptiness'.

Thursday, 11 March 2010

Long hot day

Good breakfast at the Green Goat.Attentive hosts.GG will be a good place to stay.
The Trail markers vanished about an hour out of llania.It took ages to find my way - good job I had a good map (in hebrew).
My GPS converted to the Israeli Grid is great for pinpointing my location.
Also the Co Founder of Jesus Trail has programmed it with various trail co-ordinates.
No surprise to any one I can't understand a damn thing.Might aswell be greek.
In Cana had to wait an hour for the Latin Church to open during lunch.
I did meet Tamer - thanks for information about Muqebli.
(I have telephoned your friend and he has given me the name of the Priest to get accommodation)
On arriving in Nazareth I asked Francis for directions -(thanks to you and your family for inviting me for a meal).
On arriving at Fauzi (thanks to Nukshi for the Tish Dish)
Apologies to all the above for my 'sulphuric' shirt.Sort of eau de vagrant...
I will buy another tomorrow.

Wednesday, 10 March 2010

The Green Goat & the Vicaress & me smelling like a goat

Arrived Green Goat,llania at about 4pm.
It is an Eco Farm.They make cheese from 14 goats.
Had stopped at Nebi Shueib ( I think the Tomb of Jethro - Moses' father in law).
Drank from the spring that Salah uh Din blocked to induce thirst in the Crusaders.
Had lunch with Druze gentlemen.English was thin but ginger candy was plentiful.
Then long climb to Horns of Hittim the sight of the defeat of the Thirsting Crusaders
Long hot walk through Galilee countryside.
Sally was the only other guest.
I had a shower and realised my second shirt had fallen off the back of my coat - so had to put the same one back on...
The evening ended with tea and buns with the Vicaress.

Still an Angel

It was a close run thing but I think Shavitz Guest House just 'outpoints' HooHa (Mount Tabor) to be Best Breakfast West of Saigon.
A marvellous selection washed down by a 1 and half litre pitcher of mint tea.40nis.
Sarah in her Angelic way donated the cost of bed, 100 shekels to the Children in Bethlehem - Thankyou.
Met Werner & Marleen and had what I hope will be a most significant conversation....
So I didn't get started until 1015 hrs

First Day Walking - Tuesday 9th March

0545 hrs up.On Tiberius bus 0645.Grabbed some bread and nuts and got taxi to Capernaum.After visiting the Church and having breakfast set off 0845.
Managed to waste 1 hour going on wrong path more or less as I did last year.
When it came to the business end of the day I walked up the valley - Wadi Haman rather than try the cliffs.I drank 5 lires of water en-route.
Walking minus getting lost and lunch stop about 4 and half hours.Arrived 3pm.
As last year Israel & Sarah were great hosts.
I was provided with a 1 and half litre pitcher of fresh lemonade - and drank the lot.
As I was wringing wet a plunge into their pool was great.
Dined with a young American - yet another Christain volunteer.She is teaching English to Palestinian children.Great lamb casserole - a snip at 20 pounds...

Monday, 8 March 2010

Kiss of Peace and Bible class...

A nice surprise - breakfast provided at Fauzi Azar Inn.
Fond greeting from Sureida - as lovely as ever.
Took the Old City Tour with one of the Volunteer Guides at FAI.
Interesting as they have 'discovered' some places they didn't show me last time.
Afterward acted as 'amateur' Guide to Doc,Jim & Michelle from America.
Fruit and vege lunch.
Fell asleep reading.
Just resigned myself to food from the supermarket when 3 of the Volunteer girls rang me to go to Bible class with them.Giving up a meal was not a good thought.
I went and was rewarded by a meal! and meeting an impressive bunch of young people.
They are all volunteering in one capacity or another in and around Nazareth.
Best of all a girl who wants to walk from Galilee to Jerusalem.
Even though our dates don't coincide I think I have found a 'doer' rather than a 'sayer'?

Sunday, 7 March 2010

Code HR

Late evening at an undisclosed location myself and some Germans shared part of our Saxon heritage...no more can be said...
So much noise in the Guesthouse I retired to the roof.
The 'Matrix coat' once more attracted Security attention at Jalame Crossing into Israel.I was airport style scanned twice,searched 3 times and bag x-rayed twice.
All the while locals going back & forth.It took nearly an hour.
Once across another hour waiting for a Service Taxi - someone took pity & gave me a lift to Afula.Uneventful bus ride to Nazareth and a re-union with Maoz around 2pm Sunday.Still the great relaxed friendly atmosphere at Fauzi Azar.
Volunteer staff falling over themselves to be helpful - conjuring up food.
Managed to go to Mass in the Basilica at the wrong time.

Saturday, 6 March 2010

A Day in Jenin

I was accompanied by Tamin's nephew to Jenin.Bag dropped at Cinema Guest House.
Thanks go to Sister Muna at Latin Church for struggling thru her third language - hopefully sorting me some accommodation once the Walk starts when I return to Jalame Crossing.
Once again many thanks to EnglishPAL for another contact which has come good.
A day spent in coffee houses,smoking shisha (not bad!),playing cards and enjoying street cuisine.
The lads took me by taxi to the "3rd or 4th oldest Church in the Holy Land" in Berqin (0224692/0707072)about 5km West of Jenin where Jesus cured the ten lepers.
Particular thanks to Nafe,Khalid & Mohammed.

Friday, 5 March 2010

Wedding Party

Dinner was excellent. Tamin and I went for a walk thru the village.We joined a Wedding Celebration with virtually all the men of the village dancing.It was reminiscent of my cousins Lebenese style wedding in Paris. We met Firas,Raed and Mohammed.Many people I meet speak very good English.
video

A Day Volunteering

Shadi was one of the organisers of 50 young people from Ramallah -including about half a dozen Internationals.We went to the village of Qarawat Bani Hassan which is in danger from nearby Settlers.I am told they claim 'unused' land.Apparently,first using a bulldozer to fill in a fresh water spring,destroy a road and olive grove walls.So the volunteers using one wheelbarrow,one sledge hammer and their bare hands repaired the road and walls to thwart a 'legal' attempt to take over the land.
Due to my bad back I carried paper cups and took photo's.
Afterwards I was dropped off at Zatara checkpoint where a helpful Israeli soldier got me a Service Taxi to Nablus.
While waiting for the next taxi from Nablus to Jenin I met Tamin.
En-route he invited me to stay with his family in Silat adh Dhahr - 40 km SW of Jenin.
Nicely showered I await dinner...

Thursday, 4 March 2010

Arrived in the Holy Land

Flights all went well.Interviewed by Security at Tel Aviv.After concluding I was a harmless lunatic they let me go.
Long wait for Service Taxi.Arrived Petra Hostel,Old City,Jerusalem 3.30am.
Big mistake - no sleep due to road works right outside(also got no 'hair straighteners',Matthew)
After visiting the Holy Sepulchre went for coffee.Taken to SIM card shop and sorted.
I've had contacts already.Bumped into Ibrahim from Mt of Olives.
Took Service Taxi to Ramallah after receiving call from Shadi i met thru EnglishPAL ( a great organisation).
He has invited me to join some Volunteers on Community work near Nablus (City of Matyrs!-so they tell me).
Looks like I'm ahead of schedule.

Tuesday, 2 March 2010

GPS is not compatible with Isareli Map Grid

So my Etrex GPS has had to be re-configured with the following data:-

Grid format long. of Origin old 35 degrees 12.724 E, new 35 degrees 12.724 E
False Easting old 170251m , new 220251
Scale old 1.0 , new 1.0000067
False Northing old -2385259m , new -2885259m
dx old -235m , new -235m
dy old -85m , new -85m
dz old 264m , new 264m
da old -164 , new -164
df old -0.5473908 , new -0.5473908