Hannah and Je together

Tuesday, 26 August 2014

Second Holy Land Trip – Fifty Fifth Day – Rachael’s Tomb

Beginning of last week, the teacher told us that the final term exam would be on Wednesday, but today, she changed her word and we took the exam today.  The other students were a bit mad but I was OK because I know one day would not make any difference to me.

After class, I wanted to visit the Rachael’s tomb.  When I googled a few days ago, one of the result webpage said that the Israel Authority would not allow anyone to walk there, so I must use a vehicle.  But I just thought I would try.

Dumb boys doing dumb things

Dumb boys doing dumb things

So after the class, I walked to the Checkpoint because the Rachael’s tomb is the other side of the separation wall.  When I was walking on the Hebron road near the separation wall (checkpoint was still far), I saw about twenty boys were on the road.  They looked like middle school students.  They put a lot of garbage and stones on the road and blocked the traffic, and they were yelling at the cars when they tried to pass.  I was just walking on the sidewalk, and when I almost passed them, suddenly the boys came to me and pushed me roughly, yelling something I don’t understand.  Someone told me later that the boys were protesting against Israel.  But I don’t get it.  How can it be a protest against Israel when they block the traffic illegally with bunch of garbage and stones on the pavement, and yelling at the drivers?  All the drivers are Palestinians because this is Area A where no Israelis present.  And how can it be a Protest against Israel when they yelling at and threatening a foreign tourist?  Bunch of adults were on the sidewalk in front of their shops, but nobody tried to stop the boys bullying a tourist.  The boys got more and more rough with they pushing, and I reached my limit, so I thought I would kick and punch, and beat a few of them.

Nostalgic Tear Gas

Nostalgic Tear Gas

At that time, I heard two familiar sounds – the shooting of the tear gas.  I was protesting a lot when I was college student in South Korea, so I am very familiar with tear gas.  With the hat that Hannah bought me in Chicago, I look very much like a tourist even from afar.  And the Israeli soldier on the watch tower saw me surrounded by the angry Palestinian boys, and they shot two tear gas cans towards me and the boys.  The Palestinians boys all ran away in a blink.  When I looked up the Israeli watch tower on the separation wall, the soldier waved at me.  And his waving made it clear that he shot the tear gas for me.  What I do not understand is where the hack are the Palestinian police officers?  They are responsible for the safety and the order of the society in Area A.

When I finally walked to the Israeli checkpoint, I met Hamdi, the father of the hosting family.  So he became my guide in the checkpoint.  The walking checkpoint was huge, and it is like a maze.  But I was OK because I was with him.  Even though he has a Israel entering permit, he cannot drive there.  So he parked near the checkpoint, and cross there walking, and get a bus after the checkpoint.  While George Filmon, McCormick’s January tour guide, can drive both sides because he is an Israeli Palestinian.

After the checkpoint, there is an initial gate for the Rachael’s tomb.  There were two girl soldiers, and they told me that they cannot let me walk in because it is dangerous.  I asked them if I had to get a bus or taxi here (there is a Egged bus from Jerusalem Central Bus Station coming to the Rachael’s tomb).  The girls were very kind and nice to me, so I also told them that they are cute and pretty.  They became so happy, and we talked and laughed about ten minutes.  Then there was a car coming.  The girls stopped the car, and let them give me a ride.

Gender Separated Entrance

Gender Separated Entrance

After we got there, I asked them if they want me to pay for the ride, and they answer me back, “English No.”  So I didn’t pay.  And before I went inside, I asked a lady in front of the building if it is the Rachael’s tomb just to make sure of it.  And she did not understand, so I said “Rachael’s tomb” a few times and very slowly.  Then she asked me back, “Bathroom?”  Then I thought that the Rachael’s tomb must be “Kaber Ra-hel” in Hebrew, and that was right.  And of course, the entrance is separated by Warriors and Women.

Inside the Synagogue of Rachael's Tomb

Inside the Synagogue of Rachael’s Tomb

There were lots of Jewish people wearing the thick black coat, and a Jewish guy wearing casual with just kipa guided me and took the pictures of me there.

Rachael's Coffin

Rachael’s Coffin

This is the actual (but no evident except tradition) tomb or coffin of Rachael, the beloved wife of Jacob or Israel.  Even though Jacob loved Rachael more, I think God loved Leah more.  After all, she is the mother of tribe of Judah, and the grandmother of Jesus and David.  And she is buried with her husband while Rachael is lying alone.

Toward Jerusalem

Toward Jerusalem

One common thing of Islam and Judaism is that they always tell the direction, and pray towards there – Mecca for Muslims, Jerusalem for Jews.

Parking lot

Parking lot

This is the parking lot at the Rachael’s tomb.  The pavement on the right of the picture leads to the bigger parking lot.  The other day I complained about the shape of the separation wall when I visited the Palestinian side of the separation wall.  And I realised that was for the Rachael’s tomb.  No Palestinians are allowed to the Rachael’s tomb.  I got another ride back to the gate.  The kind Jewish guy helped me to get a ride too.  When I got to the gate, the two girls were still there, and we talked and laughed a little more.  Then I walked back home from the checkpoint, taking about hour and forty minutes.  When I told my hosting family that I walked from the checkpoint, they were very surprised and told me that they’ve never seen anyone walking that distance.

Is it mosquito or what?

Is it mosquito or what?

I posted two photos of my leg and foot with the (mosquito) bites.  Since that day, I used the electronic mosquito repellent, but still I get lots of fresh bites.  And when I was writing this blog, I felt my arm bitten, and caught this.  Is it a mosquito?  It is very small – a quarter size of the mosquitoes in Chicago.  Maybe that is why they can come through the bug screen on the window.  But two more nights in this house, and a night at the airport.  So I will be OK.

Wednesday, 30 July 2014

Second Holy Land Trip – Twenty Seventh Day – Bus to Cairo

Today was very long day, spent most time in Buses.  I got up at five and checked out the Hostel in Eilat.  They packed me breakfast, which I ate for breakfast and also for lunch due to the huge amount of food.

Taba Egyptian Border

Taba Egyptian Border

Because the bus to the border runs from 8am, I had to get a cab.  Israeli exit border was OK, and everybody was in line, everything was in order.  I just paid big money for border passenger fee.  But as soon as I crossed over to the Egyptian border, it was total chaos.  There was no line at all, people were yelling and screaming.  Even the officers yelling at the people.  Sometimes people argued with loud yelling voice with the officers.  There was no line at all.  I have no other words but ‘total chaos.’  I spent about fifteen minutes at Israeli side, but I spent more than two hours in Egyptian side.  But I finally got the Sinai permit, with which I can stay only in Sinai peninsula.

Sherut to Sharm

Sherut to Sharm

Because I need to get the Egyptian Visa, I had to go to Sharm International Airport.  But anyway there was no direct bus to Cairo even though I had the visa.  The Egyptian Consulate General in Eilat opens at 9:30am, then I waste a day.  But if I get the visa at Sharm International Airport, I just waste couple of hours.  Thanks to the chaos in Egyptian border, I spent more than two hours and the bus to Sharm already gone.  The next bus is at 11am.  And I got a Sherut to Sharm, which turned out to be better eventually.

Mountain Area on the way to Sharm near Red Sea

Mountain Area on the way to Sharm near Red Sea

The sherut driver drove as if there is no centre line.  I did not see the Mount Sinai but passed around that.  When I saw the mighty mountains, I thought it is not strange even if a guy tells me that God came upon any of those mountains.

Sharm International Airport

Sharm International Airport

I went to the Sharm International Airport, but the immigration officer refused to give me the visa, but said that I have to apply through any Egyptian Travel agency.  The Sherut driver helped me to get the visa by introducing me a travel agent.  And he waited for me and gave me ride to the bus station for $10.  The other taxi drivers called $25.  While we were waiting for the agent, he said that Jewish Torah and Christian Bible were hand written, but Coran literally fell from the heaven.  And he said “Fucking Hamas,” which is the expression that I heard the most from the Egyptians today.

One thing I notice is that Russian sign everywhere.  And the Sherut driver confirmed me that Russians are the most tourists in Egypt.

Business Class Bus to Cairo

Business Class Bus to Cairo

I rode the Go Bus to Cairo.  When I bought the ticket at the booth, the guy asked me if I want Business class or economic class.  The price was almost double, but I was curious about the business class of the bus, so I paid 160 Egyptian Pound (L.E).  Well, the bus has its own flight attendant, I would say the crew.  And it has large legroom, and it also provides meal, not to mention bottomless coffee or tea.

Egyptian Checkpoint

Egyptian Checkpoint

McCormick Group experienced the Israeli Checkpoints and we complained a lot.  I have to say, that was nothing.  Actually, there was no checkpoint inside Israeli territory or West Bank.  The checkpoints are on the border of them.  We experienced the checkpoint when we went into West Bank and came back to Israel.  But in Egypt, there were dozens of checkpoints, probably every twenty minutes.  It was the same from Taba to Sharm, and from Sharm to Cairo.  And even the Egyptians have tanks and armoured military vehicles at the checkpoints.  Some places, they placed machine guns on top of the hills.

Nothing to See on the way to Cairo

Nothing to See on the way to Cairo

The scene on the way to Cairo was mostly boring.  That was just nothing but dry sands.  This experience is good for just once.

The bus finally arrived at Cairo.  And a taxi driver approached me, so I asked how much it would be to Le Meridien Hotel in Giza Pyramids Cairo.  He said 100 L.E, so I got on.  Then I found that it is not a taxi.  The car does not have windshield wipers, engine was knocking.  He turned the music as loud as it hurts my ears.  And all the cars in Cairo ignore the lanes, and drive crazy dizzy.  Right after he began to drive, he said I have to pay 150 L.E – 100 for going and 50 for him to come back to the bus station.  A month ago, I would pay just saying, “Oh really?”  But now, I am trained by the Palestinians:

Je: No, you said 100.
He: OK, then 125.
Je: No, you didn’t say anything about that. You said 100. Don’t LIE.
He: OK, 100.

And when we arrived at the hotel, he said I must tip him 50 because 100 is for the car, and 50 is for him.  And I repeated the above conversation.

Le Meridien Hotel, Giza Pyramids Cairo

Le Meridien Hotel, Giza Pyramids Cairo

Le Meridien Hotel is nice hotel, but I am not happy with it for couple of reasons.  First, they advertise Free Wi-Fi, but I have to pay for the Wi-Fi if I want to use in the room.  It is only free at the lobby.  Second, Hotels in Israel, the online price includes everything, but this hotel includes nothing.  For example, Gloria Hotel says $110.  Then I pay $110.  Eilat Hostel says $30.  Then I actually pay $30.  But here, they say online $78.60 but when I pay, they charge me $99.  Third, it is too far from downtown Cairo.  I didn’t know it is this far.

Well, today, I trod the African soil for the first time.

Monday, 20 January 2014

Israel Trip Tenth Day: Church of Nativity, Refugee Camp

Today was another lecture day.

Stars and Bucks

Stars and Bucks

We walked to the Nativity Church from the bus terminal, and I thought I found on the way ‘Starbucks.’ But it was not.

Christmas Tree

Christmas Tree

In front of, or between the Bethlehem Peace Centre and the Nativity Church, there was a huge Christmas tree. I wonder if it lights up at night. I saw so many tourists here from all over the world; I could recognise some of their languages such as Chinese, Korean, English, French, Spanish. And there were more languages that I could not recognise. I just thought how much Jesus has been contributing to local economy just by being born here.

Church of Nativity

Church of Nativity

This is the Church of Nativity, basically built by Helena, the mother of Constantine the Great (Personally, I don’t like ‘the Great’ part). Helena built this Church, and later Persians came and destroyed all the Churches over 95% of them. When they came to this Church, they saw a paining – three magi offering to Baby Jesus. And the magi were dressed as typical Persians. And the army thought, ‘Wait a minute… this building must have something to do with our ancestors.’ And they left it. This story reminds me how cultural diversity is important.

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If you see the three pictures, you can see the original huge gate at first picture. And then little bit smaller but still cargos can go in and out. Last one is current door and is low so that everyone bows down whenever they go in and to be humble.

Church of Nativity Catholic Sanctuary

Church of Nativity Catholic Sanctuary

The original place built by Helena and repaired by Crusaders is owned by Greek Orthodox. And next to it, Catholic Church is attached.

Jerome translated here the Bible into Latin Vulgate with the help of Paula and her daughter

Jerome translated here the Bible into Latin Vulgate with the help of Paula and her daughter

Catholic Church is of course commemorate the birth place of Jesus. But they also has another purpose – Jerome. If you go down to the basement, you can see the rooms where Jerome stayed and worked. In the picture, Left two persons are Paula and her daughter, the helper of Jerome. Jerome is the only Church Father who studied Hebrew in order to translate the Bible into Latin. And to help him, Paula and her daughter also learned Hebrew and Greek, and eventually they became or fluent in both language than Jerome.

Key to Home

Key to Home

This is one of the refugee camp. The key on top of it means the key to going back home.

Graffiti on Separation Wall

Graffiti on Separation Wall

On the wall, there are lots of graffiti. And the streets are so dirty with overflowing garbage.

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On the wall, along with other graffiti, I found John 3:16 in Korean. It struck my head. Yes, God loves them so much. God loves these persecuted people so much so that He sent his only Son so that they can live.

Lajee Centre

Lajee Centre

There is Lajee Centre. I don’t know what exactly is this, but they have a library for children (where we were sitting), and computer lab, and a few more.

American History

American History

Surprisingly, they have whole volume of American history.

Blocking Entanglement

Blocking Entanglement

They are surrounded by separation wall. Out of the wall used to be their farming field, and work place. But they most of them lost their job. To Jerusalem it used to take 10-15 minutes and now it takes more than 2 hours thanks to the Israeli checkpoint.

Bethlehem University

Bethlehem University

We went to Bethlehem university. It has beautiful buildings.

Dr. Mazin Qumsiyeh

Dr. Mazin Qumsiyeh

Dr. Mazin Qumsiyeh spoke about his perspective of Palestine’s future and history. Interestingly, he is biologist and biology professor. He said if American government moves in the right way, the illegal occupation of Israel would end within two weeks. Well, that might be true since US government give about 2 million dollars to Israel every single day. But the thing is American politicians cannot live without the money from the Jewish lobbyists. And if Obama calls Israel to stop it, he may not be a president the next day.

Lawyer Raffoul Rofa

Lawyer Raffoul Rofa

After lunch where we had before on the day of Shepherds’ field, we came back to school for another session. Mr. Raffoul Rofa is a lawyer, working at St. Yves, a Catholic centre for human rights where 20 staffs working including 8 lawyers. They’ve been working for people with family reunion issues and house demolitions, and the likes. For house demolitions, they’ve got only one permit so far for fifteen years with thousands cases. And even the one was a school building built by US Aid. US Aid pressured the US federal government, and US government told Israel government. This is why they’ve got permit not because they fought in the court.

Rimon Kando Shop

Rimon Kando Shop

And then we had some time in the souvenir shop. I also bought something.

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