Hannah and Je together

Tuesday, 5 August 2014

Second Holy Land Trip – Thirty Second Day – First Day in Class

I left SunCity hotel at 5:10 in the morning for Central Bus Station in Tel Aviv.  There I got on a but to Jerusalem at 5:50.  Then I went to Damascus gate by the light railway in Jerusalem.  And this time also, I got help from a Jewish guy.  He was very caring and concerning about me, and try to give me as much tips as possible such as to buy bus ticket to travel cheaper in Jerusalem.

I got two school for this summer: Hebrew University in Israel and Bethlehem University in Palestine.  They both gave me instructions how to get there.  The Hebrew University emailed me with a map attached with has pin points on the map where I can get a bus and where we would gather and meet.  From Bethlehem University, I also got a text email just saying “Take Arab bus number 21 in Jerusalem to Bethlehem.  And walk to school or taxi if you like.”  But I don’t know where to get on the Arab bus.  I googled many times, and asked many people, but I failed to get an answer.  It took me more than three weeks to figure out what is Arab bus and where is the station.  And even in Bethlehem, quite many people do not know what and where is Bethlehem University, including a police officer.

Anyway, I got on the Arab bus 21 at Damascus gate.  I was the only passenger in the bus.  The bus from Bethlehem to Jerusalem was packed like sardine, but the bus from Jerusalem to Bethlehem was empty.

Bethlehem University

Bethlehem University

I went to the University directly by taxi.  And I learned some Arabic beginning with pronunciation.  McCormick travel group may remember this building.

There is another difference between Hebrew University and Bethlehem University, and it is about money.  Hebrew University has much flexibility.  I can pay in US dollar, Euro, or Israel Shekel.  They told me I can pay anytime or any day I want.  And I also can pay in cash, credit card, or cheque.  But Bethlehem university emphasized many time through several emails that the students MUST pay at the FIRST DAY in US Dollar ONLY and in CASH ONLY.

My room for one month

My room for one month

After the class, I met a gentleman from England who also stay at a family in Beit Sahour, the same town of my hosting family.  We were supposed to go to the Siraj centre.  So we shared a cab.  The teacher and staff at the University told us that it is about 15 shekel and do NOT pay more than 20.  We said that to the taxi driver.  He did not say anything at first, but be suddenly said that we need to pay 50 shekel because we are two people, so it must be double price.  We argued about the price, and he began to yelled at us.  We said that 20 is maximum we can pay.  Then the taxi driver dropped us on a street.  We thought we were at Siraj centre.  After we got off he asked again 5 more shekels from us which we did not give.  And we found out that we were not there.  We walked ten minutes to the centre.  I had another very bad experience with Palestinians.  I don’t really know why I keep having bad experiences with the Palestinians.

The centre called the hosting family, and they came to the centre to pick me up.  The family is Palestinian Christian.  They are very nice.  And the photo above is my room for one month.

Second Holy Land Trip – Thirty First Day – Back to Israel

So, I got on the bus at Cairo to Dahab.  And all my plan and schedule was with enough buffer, I thought.

Typical Muslim Lady

Typical Muslim Lady

I took a picture of Muslim lady who literally covers top to toe.  If I include her glasses in her covering, she covered almost all of herself.  It is not difficult to find such lady in Egypt, which is one of the most open country in Arab world.

Daewoo Bus

Daewoo Bus

This is the bus, and it is made by DAEWOO.  How many decades ago that company disappeared?

Even though I had more than enough buffer in my schedule going back, there was two big problems.  The first is from Egypt.  Even though McCormick travel group complained a lot about Israeli checkpoint, we need to admit that there is no checkpoint inside Israel territory or inside Palestine territory.  But in Egypt, there are so many checkpoints within Egyptian territory.  From Cairo to Dahab, dozens.  And from Dahab to Taba, also dozens.  I think I crossed almost 40 or 50 checkpoints from Cairo to Taba.  Half of them just stopped the bus, and check easily.  The other half checked the IDs and passports of all the passengers in the bus.  This delayed more than three hours than the schedule.  I thought I would be in Taba around 10am, but I was there at 2:30pm.

The other problem was at Israel border.  I understand the situation of war, but they checked me and many other passengers so badly.  They asked me tons of questions.

Officer: Why do you have soaps?
Je: Because I wash everyday.
Officer: What is this?
Je: It says shampoo.
Officer: Why do you have shampoos?
Je: You don’t know what the shampoo is for?
Officer: Why do you have music CD?
Je: Because I listen to music.

Then they opened my bag and suitcase, and checked every single item, even my unwashed underwear.  I warned them but they touched.  So I advised them to wash their hands before eat anything.  The Israeli border took slightly more than two hours for me.  But I met a guy from Texas who spent four hours.  This guy is actually quite annoying, and he made some racism joke to a Singapore American.

Israel side of the border

Israel side of the border

Israel side of the border is better in many ways.  First, people line up.  Yes, the exactly same people who made chaos in Egyptian side line up.  And there are many convenient facilities including water fountain (which is very precious in this hot weather), restroom, money exchange, and so on.

Anyway when I went to the central bus station in Eilat, it was about 5:10pm.  And the last bus to Jerusalem already left long time ago.  But I could not stay in Eilat.  If I depart Eilat tomorrow morning, I would be in Bethlehem in the afternoon around 3 or 4pm.  So I got on the bus to Tel Aviv.

SunCity Hotel, Tel Aviv

SunCity Hotel, Tel Aviv

When I was in Egypt, it was almost impossible to find a free WIFI.  Even the most expensive hotel in Luxor does not provide free WIFI.  The bad hotel in Cairo has free WIFI in the lobby (not in the room), but it is only ten minutes.  But in Israel it is much easier to find free WIFI.  And I realise even the inter-city bus (EGGED bus) has free WIFI!

I hit Tel Aviv at midnight.  And I went to a nearby hotel – SunCity hotel.  And the very first thing at the check-in was their instruction what to do when I hear siren because they have sirens and alarms minimum twice everyday anytime.  SunCity hotel is good one with nice staff who tries to help me as much as possible.  But the facility itself is quite old.  But I prefer this one rather than Le Meridien Hotel in Cairo where they have shiny facility with bad employees.

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