Hannah and Je together

Monday, 25 August 2014

Second Holy Land Trip – Fifty Fourth Day – Herodyum National Park

I was supposed to have a class Arabic class, but the teacher got another parking ticket and went to the court to get some discount, and the class was cancelled.  So I decided to go to Herodyum (or Herodion) National Park.  When I asked my host family, they told me to get a taxi, but I wanted to walk there if that is a walkable distance.

Google Maps Sucks

Google Maps Sucks

When I looked for the route on Google Maps, it showed me 6 hours and 16 minutes.  But it goes around so much, so I abandoned the Google Maps and trusted on my guts.  Actually Google Maps on Palestine is almost useless, not even giving clear satellite images and the roads are wrong many times.

Herodyum from afar

Herodyum from afar

I did not have a compass nor a map.  But I had a watch, and the sun.  I already knew that the Herodyum is almost direct south but little bit eastward.  And if I know the time, then I can tell the four directions (east, west, north, and south).  And when I walked almost half way, I began to see the Herodyum.

Sheep and Goats

Sheep and Goats

It is now pretty much normal to see the sheep and goats.  Can you tell the sheep from the goats?  It is easy to tell because they look different, but hard to explain.  One easiest thing is the tail.  Goats’ tails are lifted up while the sheep’s tails are fell down.

Olive trees are everywhere

Olive trees are everywhere

I walked totalling hour and half on one way.  And I saw so many olive trees.  I even felt like that it must be a law to plant olive trees wherever possible.  There are also many wild cats and dogs.  And on the way, a huge wild dog barked at me from afar.  Usually wild dogs here avoid people, but it barked at me, so I picked up several stones in case, and walked slowly.  Thankfully it just went its way and nothing happened.

Herodyum from closer spot than before

Herodyum from closer spot than before

And I went closer and closer to the Herodyum.  As I wrote above, it took an hour and half, not six hours and sixteen minutes.  My guts are much better than Google Maps.  Well, frankly speaking, I cannot say it is my guts because I was trained for this when I was in the army.  I can tell the direction at night as well with the moon.  It is little more complicated but not that difficult.  With the sun, you need to know the time, and the location of the sun.  With the moon, you need to know the time and the location of the sun too.  How do I know the location of the sun at night?  With the location and the phase of the moon, you can tell the location of the sun.  Actually the time is not necessary because if you know the location of the sun, you also know the time.

Top Palace Model

Top Palace Model

This the model of the top palace.  There are two palaces in Herodyum – top and lower.  But the lower palace was not ready for the visitors, so I could not enter, but I saw it from above.

Top Palace Ruin

Top Palace Ruin

This is the top palace remains.  That round ruin is original watch tower (even before Jehovah’s witness).  Herodyum was an integrated entertainment place, having almost everything here.

Herodyum Tunnel

Herodyum Tunnel

There was a tunnel and water system.  It goes down quite a lot, and has huge cistern.

Royal Theatre

Royal Theatre

The other side of the mountain, there was a royal theatre.  It was not a huge size like in Caesarea.  But it was not for the people but for Herod’s personal and private use.  So it does not have to be big in size.

Herod's Tomb Model

Herod’s Tomb Model

And there is also his tomb.  Herod was buried here, of course his tomb was already destroyed and forgotten, but it was found around 2007 (if I remember right).  This is the model of his tomb.

Israeli Army base seen from above

Israeli Army base seen from above

This is clearly Palestine territory, but the Herodyum is Israeli National Park, and Israel government manages.  There are also Israel settlements, and to protect them, they installed army base.

Herodyum Model

Herodyum Model

This is the whole model of Herodyum.  Herodyum is one of the highest point in this area, so you can see and control the whole region.

USAID

USAID

When I was walking back (I walked another hour and half), I saw a few USAID signs.  It is good to see those signs because it means America is doing some good things.

Kids on barefoot

Kids on barefoot

The Palestinians kids were playing barefoot.  I was worried if they were OK.  This is not a tourist area, and no foreigner comes here, and they looked like that they saw non-Palestinian for the first time.

Steeper than it looks

Steeper than it looks

I took this picture from on a hill to the other hill.  It may not look that steep in the picture, but it is crazy steep, and I had to walk up and down, up and down, and again for three hours today.  People always live on the mountain (hill) tops.  It is of course for the protection from the enemies (from the ancient times).  But the mountain tops are less hot than the valleys.  And there are always winds on mountain tops, so if you sweat, it cools you down quite a lot because it is dry here and the wind is constant.

When I walked almost half way, a car stopped and offered me ride.  I said no because I wanted to walk and see the village and people.  He asked me where I go, so I told him that my house is near the YMCA in Beit Sahour.  He said to me that he would give me a ride with so cheap price because he is not a taxi driver and taxis are expensive.  I did not even ask the price but just said “Thank you but I am OK to walk.”  He then told me, “Just 100 shekels.”  I know the taxi price.  From the spot I was to my home is about 15 shekels.  What the freak is he?  I am really on the Palestinians’ side on the matter of Israel-Palestine conflict and civilian victims, but honestly, Palestinians try their best to rip off the strangers.  The other day I bought a bottle of water for a shekel and half.  I spoke Arabic, but another guy speaking English bought the same for three shekels.  I can say that was cute, but trying to get 100 shekels from me with 15 shekels’ driving is not cute at all.  So I told the driver for the last time, “Shukran Ktir, bass Ana BID-DI aruf.”  This means, “Thank you very much, but I WANT TO walk.”  Then he left.

Thorns in our hearts

Thorns in our hearts

If you go to any field where no one ploughs and works on, the field is full of thorns.  And I just thought that if we do not plough their hearts with God’s teaching and love, our hearts will be full of thorns – hatred and anger towards others.  Even though this is the Holy Land, the root of three religions, the believers do not plough their hearts with God’s true teaching and their hearts are full of thorns, and that is expressed by the violent conflicts between the Jews and Muslims.

Thursday, 21 August 2014

Second Holy Land Trip – Fiftieth Day – Separation Wall in Bethlehem

Mosquito bites on my leg

Mosquito bites on my leg

During this trip, I was free of mosquitoes in hotels, hostels, and in this family house.  But four days ago, suddenly I began to have mosquito bites.

Mosquito bites on my foot

Mosquito bites on my foot

I could not bear this.  Even I could not get to sleep.  So I asked my host family, and they gave me some electronic vaporizing mosquito scent.  And I was OK last night.

Separation Wall - Jesus Wept

Separation Wall – Jesus Wept

After I had fighting with the teacher yesterday, she was behaving today.  She was not angry at all today, and became nice.  Yesterday, all the dean and the teacher were worrying about was if I would drop the course.  Of course I would not.  Maybe she realised after she talked to the dean that there are so many replacement for her position, and she needs to behave herself.  The unemployment rate is pretty high here and it is quite easy to get Arabic teacher here in Palestine.

Separation Wall Painting

Separation Wall Painting

Anyway, after the class, the school told me that we would have lunch with all the Arabic students at a restaurant.  But many students did not join it including me.  I have free lunch home, then why would I pay for lunch?  Instead, I walked to the separation wall.

Wall surrounded House

Wall surrounded House

The wall is not just go straight.  It is bent crazy and I have no idea who and why drew the wall plan on the map like this.  One of the horrible thing is the house in the picture above.  The house is surrounded by the wall on its three sides.  Why the Israelis built the wall like that?

Wall becomes canvas

Wall becomes canvas

The wall is so horrible, and some Palestinians cannot go to Jerusalem which is within fifteen minutes driving, and some can go, but they also experience great inconvenience.  But the Palestinians turn the wall into the huge canvas for art.

Smiling Lady with rifle

Smiling Lady with rifle

This picture gave me some grief, because I am against the violence for both sides.  The lady is smiling with rifle.  I hope to see a smiling lady with flowers.

Make Hummus Not Walls

Make Hummus Not Walls

How funny it is.  Some pictures and writings are very humourous.  “Make Hummus Not Walls.”  I hope so too!

John Paul 2 Foundation

John Paul 2 Foundation

On the way back, I saw a building with the name of “John Paul 2 Foundation.”  Pope John Paul II was the 264th Pope of Catholic Church until 2005.  Even though we have two more Popes after him, when I think of Pope, I always imagine him in my head.  The building is on the Hebron Street.

I’d like to talk about the Palestinians and travel freedom because I am posting about the separation wall.  People tend to think the Palestinians cannot travel at all.  But that is not true.  We need to know that there are many different Palestinian groups in different situations.

  1. Palestinians in Israel having Israel citizenship.
  2. Palestinians in Israel having permanent resident.
  3. Palestinians in West Bank, having Israel entering permit
  4. Palestinians in West Bank, without Israel visiting permit
  5. Palestinians in Gaza

The Palestinians in Israel side having Israel citizenship has equal right as Israeli Jews.  They can travel within Israel and Palestine, and any other part of the world.  The McCormick’s January trip tour guide, George Filmon is in this group.  People in this group can use Ben Gurion International Airport.

Palestinians having permanent resident in Israel can travel within Israel and Palestine.  But they are not allowed to travel to other countries because they do not have a passport.

Palestinians in West Bank with Israel entering permit can travel within Israel and Palestine.  They also can travel the whole world since they have Palestinian passport.  But they are not allowed to use Ben Gurion International Airport, so they must go to Jordan first, and use the Airport in Amman.  The father of my hosting family, Hamdi Bannoura, is in this Group.

Palestinians in West Bank without Israel entering permit can travel within Palestine, and cannot go to Israel.  But they can still travel the whole world with Palestinian passport.  Actually they can travel more countries than Israelis including Israeli Palestinians.  Because most of the Muslim countries do not allow the Israelis to come except Egypt and Jordan.  The Israelis cannot even go to Bali because Indonesia is a Muslim country and they ban the Israelis.  The mother of my hosting family, Ilham Bannoura, and her three children are in this group.  She really wishes to visit Jerusalem and Nazareth as a Christian, so she applied a few times for the Israel entering permit in vain.  Her daughter studied in Germany, and her son will go to Germany next school year.  And her cousin goes to Washington state, USA to study.  They do not have any problem travelling the world, just they cannot use the nearest Ben Gurion International Airport.

Palestinians in Gaza cannot travel anywhere in the world except a few political leaders.  They cannot travel in Israel nor in West Bank.  It is mostly because of Israel, but Egypt is not free from the blame.  Egypt has border with Gaza, but they do not allow anyone to cross over.  When the Gazans did not have Palestinian passport, Egypt issued them the Egyptian passport.  But even at that time Egyptian government did not allow any Gazans to come over to Egypt even though they had Egyptian passport!

So except Gazans, Palestinians do not have any problem travelling the world (but still it is not convenient).  It is some of them cannot travel to Israel side.

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