Hannah and Je together

Thursday, 11 September 2014

Second Holy Land Trip – Fifty Eighth Day – Flight Back

After I arrived at the airport Terminal 3, I waited several hours because they allow only three hours prior to the flight.  I went through the initial security check at 2am (my flight was 5am).  They just x-rayed my check-in baggage and asked just a few questions such as if anyone gave me anything, if I have a weapon or something sharp.  That was it.  It was very easy.  Then I checked in my baggage, and I went through the second security check.  The line was not too long at that time of day, but it moved slow.  A guy in front of me complained that it is too slow.  The guy looked like from East India but I cannot be sure.  The young lady staff set him aside, and eventually he got the security check after me.  She said to the guy quietly but firmly, “BEHAVE YOURSELF!”  The security check was very easy, they were all smiling at me, and I was joking with them too.  They had a strange thing, a light blue stick.  They rubbed the tip of the stick on all my belongings such as backpack and laptop which are pretty much all I had then.  And they put the stick onto a machine to analyse.  I asked the lady what that was, and she waved her index finger, smiling and said “secret.” Oh, the guy who was not behaving eventually went to a separate room, and I saw him two hours later at the gate. It looked like he was just released right before the flight.

It is always good to see the windows error message in public

It is always good to see the windows error message in public

McCormick group flew with Lufthansa, and we know that only Lufthansa uses terminal 1 while all other international flights use terminal 3.  Ben Gurion Airport gave the German airline its own terminal.  The security check at terminal 3 was normal, almost same as in America.  That of terminal 1 which is for Lufthansa was extremely terrible.  It looks like that Israel gives German airline very hard and difficult security check only for them.  So, my advice is not to use Lufthansa when you go to Israel.

What other airport has this easy chairs?

What other airport has this easy chairs?

When I went to my gate, I could not believe my eyes – the easy chairs.  So I rested two hours on one of the chairs.

Playground at Ben Gurion Airport

Playground at Ben Gurion Airport

Ben Gurion Airport has very good facilities including this bigger playground for kids.  The picture above is only part of it.

I flew to Zürich airport, and there I transferred to the airplane to Chicago.  As I had the emergency exit seat on the way to Israel, I also got that seat on my way back home.  It was very pleasant flight.  The best thing of flying with SWISS air was that they gave us ice cream as dessert.

One thing Chicago Airport does not have

One thing Chicago Airport does not have

It was not too difficult to find a power outlet in Ben Gurion Airport, and it was very easy in Zürich airport.  The power outlet is one thing almost impossible to find in Chicago’s O’Hare Airport.

The immigration line at Chicago Airport was a bit different from last time which is January 2014.  If I remember correctly, there were three different lines – for US citizens, for US green card holders, and for anyone else (in other words visitors).  But this time, they had three lines, but the first line was different.  It was for the citizens of US and Canada.  Why American immigration treats Canadian citizens as their own?  Are the two countries going to do M&A?

It was very good to be home, and I realised why everybody says “Home Home Sweet Home.”  It is because there is my sweet honey.

Another story. Egypt Story

When I planned to go to Egypt first time, I booked at a travel agency in Israel.  Not like the trips within Israel, the agency requires at least two or three people to do the trip to Egypt.  And because of war between Israel and Gaza, all other people cancelled the trip, and I alone left which resulted in the automatic cancellation of the trip itself.  Of course I got refunded.

I was digging at Megiddo at that time. I had no idea how and what to do.  Then my co-volunteers told me that we had a guy from Egypt.  His name is Remon Nabil Samuel, and he was actually a square supervisor, and I talked to him about it, and he was kind to help me.  He talked to several of his friends back in Egypt, and one of them was willing to help me.  Her name is Dina Jacob.

She told me to just come and she would guide me all about Cairo for a week.  And of course I trusted her.  We talked through the Facebook messenger, and she also gave me her cellphone number so that I can call her once I got to Cairo.  At that time, I had no idea to visit Luxor.  But two days before my departure, Shirly Ben Dor Evian, the supervisor of my area and squares, strongly suggested me to see Luxor.  So I booked a day trip to Luxor from Cairo for the first day.  Because Dina Jacob, the friend of Remon in Cairo, told me that she would be flexible, so I thought I would see her from the second day.

I went to Cairo from Israel’s Taba border by two buses.  First night I messaged Dina Jacob with Facebook messenger, but my messages did not go through.  And I realised that she blocked me on Facebook!  So I called her by the number she gave me, and nobody answered.  I felt like I was lost in the space, but soon I realised that I had a day of buffer or cushion because the first day was already booked for Luxor trip.  For that night and next day, I googled crazy, called many places crazy.  So I successfully managed all of my days in Egypt – some I used travel agency and some I travelled by myself.

If I did not booked Luxor trip in advance, I would have spoiled and wasted most days in Egypt.  I have no idea what is wrong with Dina Jacob, but I did not complain to Remon.  Knowing everything, God let my supervisor suggest me Luxor, I believe.  Thanks be to God, and also I personally thank Shirly, my area supervisor and the mother of two beautiful girls.

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.

Thursday, 7 August 2014

Second Holy Land Trip – Thirty Fourth Day – Palestinian Christian’s Baptism

After class, my hosting family asked me if I was interested in watching baptism.  Of course I was.  So I went to their church with the hosting family.

Palestinian Christian Church in Beit Sahour

Palestinian Christian Church in Beit Sahour

This is the 300 years old building.  They said that they built this church upon their old church, and still they use the older church now.  There are a couple of doors leading to downstairs or underground.

Baby Baptismal Tub

Baby Baptismal Tub

This is the baptismal tub for babies.  Baptism is processed by at least two priests.  One priest fill the tub with water and bless the water with prayers and continuously cutting the water in cross shape with his hand.  The other priest is next to him with the parents of the baby.  He blesses the baby with prayers and the Bible, and the put the olive oil on the baby in cross shape.  Now the baby is dressed in normal baby suit.

Baby Baptism

Baby Baptism

The other priest pours out the olive oil in the tub.  And the parents prepare the baby naked and also the priest put on a towel around his waist.  Before he puts the baby in the water, he lifts the baby high so that everybody can see it.  Then he puts the baby completely into the water three times.  And everybody in the church shouts for joy and makes loud happy noise.  And the priest put some special mixed oil onto the baby in cross shape.  Now, of course the baby is naked.

Procession of the Baby

Procession of the Baby

Then the priests go up to the pupil, and the baby is dressed in white (wedding) dress no matter the baby is boy or girl.  And the whole family processes to the front.

Merry Go Round?

Merry Go Round?

Then the baby’s family stands one side of the table, and the priests opposite side.  They go around the table and blesses the baby.  One of the priests shakes the incense case continually.  They do it for a while.

Bow to the Bible

Bow to the Bible

Then another priest come with the open Bible, and touches the baby’s head.  At this time, the whole family must bow down their heads.  And through all the ceremony, the people in the pew remain standing if possible.  And the baby gets the very first communion.

Then the family recess to the outside, and they stand in a row.  Then the whole crowd follow them and greet them with happy congratulation.  The baby baptism is not part of the Sunday service, but separate ceremony, and it is much like wedding.

There were about 80 people in the church, so I asked my hosting family if they are the congregation of this church.  And I was told that this is family event, so only the close relatives/kins came.

Christmas Year Round

Christmas Year Round

In Bethlehem and Beit Sahour, we have Christmas year round.

Fresh Figs

Fresh Figs

I had dried figs in Canada couple of times, but I’ve never had fresh figs before.  Fig is kind of unique fruit.  For apple, we do not eat the core part where there are seeds.  For orange, we do not eat the peel.  But for the fig, we eat everything, literally everything.  And it is very sweet.  If you eat two, you may feel happy.  I understand why Jesus was looking for fig tree when He was hungry.  And this is home-grown figs.

Wednesday, 6 August 2014

Second Holy Land Trip – Thirty Third Day – Rocket from Hamas

This is my first morning in the house in Beit Sahour, neighbouring city of Bethlehem.  I was having breakfast with the hosting family when the house shook and heard the huge explosion sound.

Building Attacked by a rocket

Building Attacked by a rocket

Everybody was very surprised and stunned, and we went out of the house.  All the neighbours also came out.  We saw black smoke was rising up from the downtown of Beit Sahour.  Because of the lady in this house went to downtown earlier, the host family and I went to the spot right away.  She was not there.  She was safe in other place.  And thank God that no one was killed.

Broken Building Pieces

Broken Building Pieces

There were lots of people and they were a bit angry, and about to be outrageous.  People were asking each other where the rockets are from – Israel or Hamas.  The Palestinian authority took the remain of the rockets, and later I was told from the Palestinian police officer that the rocket is Arabic, and most probably from Hamas.  Then everybody became calm, and they were not angry any longer.  People kept quiet about it, and no one was talking about it.  I saw a Palestinian guy who writes online about the Palestinian life and Israeli oppression on them.  He took a lot of photos, and after he heard that it is from Hamas, he deleted the photos on the street.

It is cease-fire from today which Israel announced one-way.  And I guess Hamas does not want toe cease-fire even though more than 1,800 people of their own were killed.

Palestinian authority officially said it is Arabic rocket, and all the news say the same thing.  And I found that some people began to say that the rocket is Israeli in the evening.  Personally it does not make sense to me because Israel wants to finish the war with Gaza, and why would they want another brand new war with West Bank?  And there is no terrorist organisation in West Bank such as Hamas, consequently Israel has no excuse making war in West Bank.

Last night, I talked with some Palestinians.  They said many Palestinians were killed by Israeli attack, but only a few were killed in Israel.  And also they said it is OK for Gazans to fire rocket because it is not powerful and home-made.  I think that does not make sense as well.  It is not OK for both sides to attack each other no matter how weak the weapons are.  I do not know the owner of the building where it got rocket, but if possible I want to talk to him to ask if it is really OK to get rocket because the rocket is weak and did not kill any.

Friday, 1 August 2014

Second Holy Land Trip – Twenty Ninth Day – First day in Cairo

View from the Hotel Room

View from the Hotel Room

This is the view from my room in Le Meridien Hotel.  This is a five-star hotel.  The building and facility are very nice but the management and customer service is so bad.  I would never use this hotel again.

Today, I had some problem because I did not know the time change.  During the Ramadan and the feast after it, Egypt change the time one hour earlier so that they can eat one hour earlier.  Now, the Ramadan and the following feast is over, so Egypt came back to its normal time.  Everything could have been messed up.

Ramses II

Ramses II

In the morning I went to the Mit Rahina Museum which was the temple originally for the god of textile and craftsman.  He is also believed to created the universe because he is craftsgod.  There is a huge statue of Rameses II.  Ramses II is the most powerful Pharaoh and everywhere the archaeologists dig in Egypt, people say that they find the name of Ramses II.

First Stone Building in the world

First Stone Building in the world

This is the first stone building in the world.  And the first means no experience, so they also built some useless or unnecessary supporting wall for the columns.

First Pyramid

First Pyramid

This is the first pyramid in Egypt, and also in the world.

Pharaoh's Court

Pharaoh’s Court

This is the Pharaoh’s court.  The platform in the front is where Pharaoh sits, and the wall on both sides has the governors’ seats.  Pharaoh promoted, punished, or executed the governors in this place.

No Egyptian Cats but dogs

No Egyptian Cats but dogs

Egypt has image of cat more than pyramids to me.  But for three days in Egypt, I have not seen any cat yet but a lot of dogs – Taba, Sharm, Cairo, and Luxor.  It is really hot here in Egypt, and Luxor was 47C or 117F yesterday, that is why all the dogs are looking for shades.  It was probably National geographic, if my memory serves me right, that they examined the cat’s DNA and concluded that the all cats in the world are descendents of originally five female cats in Egypt.  And Genographic project also found by the same technology of comparing and examining DNA that all living human race in the whole world are descendents of one female, namely mitochondria Eve.

Titi Pyramid

Titi Pyramid Entrance

This is the Pyramid of Pharaoh Titi, the longest lived ruler in Egypt history, and the last Pharaoh of the first or ancient kingdom.

Longest Reigned Pharaoh with Humblest Tomb

Longest Reigned Pharaoh with Humblest Tomb

During his reign, the Pharaoh lost its power and got weaker, so his Pyramid is quite small and even inside is very humble.

Servant's Tomb is more Glorious

Servant’s Tomb is more Glorious

But one of his high officials who had the real power, made his tomb so glorious and bigger than the Titi.  The photograph was forbidden inside so I could not take any picture, but it was literally so beautiful and every picture or wall carving was very good in detail.

Traditional Carpet Making

Traditional Carpet Making

I was told that there are five industries that still survived in the traditional method.  Carpet making is one of them.

Papyrus Factory

Papyrus Factory

Then I went to a papyrus factory.  Papyrus was worshipped because of two things.  The first one is its flower is looks like a sun is emitting its power and light.  The second one is that its stem looks like pyramid.  The worker in the factory showed and explained me how to make Papyrus paper (actually the word paper itself came out of papyrus).

Chicken Chicken!

Chicken Chicken!

And I had lunch at a very nice restaurant where the chicken is specialised.  Not like in American or Canada, water is not free in Egypt.  I experienced that in Luxor hotel, Cairo restaurant, and even in a restaurant at Haifa, Israel.  Because of yesterday’s experience, I brought my own water bottle today – saving money!

Climbing a Pyramid

Climbing a Pyramid

Then I went to the great pyramids in Giza.  As I knew already, the pyramids surface is like a steps.  But I was told that they are originally very smooth but during the Islam reign, the rulers took the nice stones on the surface to build mosques.

Picking a Pyramid

Picking a Pyramid

On the top parts of the centre pyramid, you can see the original surface of the pyramids.

Labourers' Village

Labourers’ Village

This is the village and cemetery of the workers.  Traditionally we believed that the pyramids were built by the forced labour of the slaves.  Couple of years ago, I watched NHN documentary about this, and an archaeologist found this worker’s village, and he also found some writing, which is task manager’s journal.  It has the recordings such as the names of the worker, and how many days he worked, And in case he did not work, what was the reason.  Some of the reasons are he got hurt, he is in medication, and his son has wedding party, or he has his father’s funeral.  Which slave can drop t he daily labour and work to attend his son’s wedding?  Pyramids were built by the freemen, and it may work as the national project to boom the economy as America did – mass construction of roads, dams, and other infrastructure.

Sphynx

Sphinx

Who can skip this Sphinx in Egypt?

Horse Station

Horse Station

There are so many horses in Egypt and even they have horse stations in most tourist attractions.

When I came back to Hotel, the cardkey to my room did not work.  I tried, and other hotel staff tried, but it did not work.  So I went down to the reception and asked them.  A guy checked with computer and told me that I already checked out this morning.  What the heck!  I explained him that my reservation is until Sunday morning.  Then other guy checked the computer and told me that 3090 is not my room.  Well, I slept there until this morning, and I did not check out.  And third guy checked the computer and told me that my room is 3045.  I said to him in a little bit loud voice, “how can you change my room without telling me anything at all?”  Then I began to worry about my stuff.  Finally I went up to my original room and thankfully all my stuff was there.  Then I got the new cardkey, and reconfirmed my room.

I was so mad, and I wanted to complain to the manager.  So I went down to the reception with the reception guy who came up to the room with me.  He asked me to wait five minutes.  So I did.  After fifteen minutes, he came to me and the manager is busy, and he would call to my room if I go up and rest.  He also said it would take ten minutes.  Now, five hours passed, but no call.  It was very obvious that all the hotel staffs are trying their best to protect their manager from me.  Le Meridien Hotel in Giza Cairo – do not use this one because customer service is very bad.  Today I also saw an Arabic speaking guy was yelling in the reception, and a middle-aged lady also was very mad.

Pyramids and Moon

Pyramids and Moon

I also went to the night-light show of the pyramids.

I had some chance to talk with Egyptians about current Israel-Gaza situation.  In my assumption, Egyptians would support Gaza, so I usually began my conversation by blaming Israel about the cruelty.  But to my surprise, most of them did not like Hamas at all.  I cannot transcribe all the conversations and dialogues, so I will just summarise them.

  • Hamas is not even a (true) Muslim
  • Hamas should stop making rockets and tunnels and use that money on the Gazans.
  • Hamas is a branch of Muslim Brotherhood and we had bad experience with them in Egypt.
  • Hamas also killed many Palestinians in Gaza.
  • Hamas refused to form one government with the West Bank, this is same as riot or coup.
  • Hamas must dismiss themselves and Gaza must make one government with the West Bank.
  • Using violence is wrong and it is not Islamic.
  • Hamas must follow the example of West Bank which is the resistance without violence.
  • Gazans are dumb that is why they cannot say no to Hamas.  Egyptians did revolution three years ago, and we are walking toward true democracy.
  • Hamas should not fire rockets to Israeli civilians.  To military base is ok.  Killing unarmed people is not Islamic

And I also asked people if they identify themselves also as Africans because Egypt is in Africa.  Such as most Koreans, Japanese, and Chinese identify themselves as Asians at the same time with their identity of being Koreans, Japanese, and Chinese.  And all people whom I asked said “We are Egyptian.  We are not African at all.”

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