I went to church a few times in the 80s, as I recall, but nothing more. So, I am no religion buff, but you don’t have to be to enjoy this part of the world. Jerusalem is a sacred place for three major religions: Judiasm, Christianity, and Islam. I don’t think there is another city like it in the world. I will be so bold as to call it a “religious mess”, making it a very interesting place. I’ve heard the Muslim call to prayer in the Christian quarter and church bells in the Muslim quarter. Just outside the muslim Temple Mount, Jews are praying at the Wailing Wall. What’s more, The Church of Holy Sepulchre is shared between 6 different Christian denominations. So, who holds the key to the place? The answer perfectly describes Jerusalem: A muslim family, which has opened and closed the church everyday for over 8 centuries.
The Wailing Wall. You can write prayers/notes/whatever and stuff them in the cracks of the walls, hoping they will be heard. I wasn’t feeling inspired and nothing worthy of such a place would come out of my pen. Btw, if you are too busy to make it here in person, no problem, you can go to a website and they will take care of it for you. Technology facilitating prayers, there you have it.
Here’s a good one: You know the town of Bethlehem that is in all the Christmas carols? The place where Jesus himself was said to be born? Well, it turns out the place actually exists. It’s in the Palestinian West Bank. I went there. I have seen the birthplace. It wasn’t that big of a deal for me personally, but others who were visiting as part of a religious pilgrimage knelt, kissed the floor, and wept. It was quite moving.
All of this religion aside, I also did a lot in Israel of what I do best: having a good time. My friend Erez, who I met in Asia almost two years ago, took me desert trekking. It’s tough. You have to deal with some things you don’t have, say, in Canada. One, it is silly hot. This, combined with the fact there are no lakes or rivers anywhere, leaves you carrying a LOT of water. As you may know, water is damn heavy. But, on the plus side, in the desert you don’t have to worry about a bear eating your food. Pros and cons.
I never thought of myself as a desert guy. It can be miserable during the day (hot, dry, barren and the flies are so thick they can carry you away). But, oh, at sunrise and sunset, the desert makes up for it all. It’s true colours come shining through. I slept outside under the stars.
Israeli single track is quite good, with good flow and banked turns. Who would have thought? This trail goes right past 2,000 year-old ruins. Even the mountain biking is historical here!
I want to say a big thanks to Erez and his family, who gave me the all-star treatment in Isreal. I have never been so comfortable in somebody else’s home. It got to the point where I was going to the kitchen to help myself to food, something my conscience has never allowed me to do in other places. Such is the great hospitality here.
Speaking of food, my guidebood says that the best in the Middle East is always in people’s homes. I found out this was true at the Horesh house, where the food was so good I did not have the self-control to stop eating, even long after I was full, right up to the point of causing myself pain. I over-ate every meal. It was a bit embarrassing, actually. The crowing jewel of all this was a Thanksgiving feast. Unfortunately, no pics, as I was too busy easting.
The usual post-country album is here. I left Israel with great memories and a full belly.