A December 1993 trip
to Jerusalem by Whirlwind
Quote: A Jerusalem Itinerary of places and customs
Hotel | "Franciscaines de Marie"
Member Rating 3 out of 5 on September 26, 2000
Franciscaines de Marie (Franciscan Sister of Mary)
Nablus Road 9
972 (0) 2 627 68 76
My bus unloaded at a jewelry shop called "7 Gates" where basically high trinket prices prevailed. As I approached the entrance to the shop, an Arab street merchant stepped in front of me and held before my line of sight a wonderfully enameled bracelet.
"Fifty shekels," he declared.
I put up my hand to wave him off, and, to my dismay, he placed the object in my fingers. The bus chaperone telegraphed me a disapproving look as he and my fellow bus acquaintances disappeared within the storefront sanctuary leaving
me to my own resources.
I felt uncomfortable holding something that wasn’t mine and that I had no interest in anyway, so I plied the only strategy that made sense under the circumstances--I tried to give the thing back. In attempting such, I was astonished by a sudden street shopper’s epiphany: the more stern one’s attempts are to give back the merchandise, the lower the price goes.
"What will you pay?" the vendor interrogated.
"Five dollars?" I responded.
His eyebrows narrowed. "But these are hand painted with much detail. I cannot sell them for so little," he replied.
I looked the bracelet over, then offered it back once more, "I’m in a hurry."
"In Jerusalem you could not get this for fifty shekels," he insisted.
"I’m not in Jerusalem," I replied, beginning to turn away, still offering him his jewelry back. His price went into a free fall.
"You are doing me wrong, my friend," he lamented. Then bending close to me, he added in a soft voice, "You must tell no one of our agreement--I do this only for you."
Despite all of my efforts to avoid such an arrangement, it was suddenly occurring to me I’d just purchased the bracelet. "Well, I’ll buy two for eight dollars," I said.
He jumped back. His eyes doubled in size. "You said five dollars. That’s what you said! Why do you do this to me?" he asked. His fingers pulled up my visor. "Why do you hide under that shade? I cannot see who you are."
"Okay," I said, "Four dollars and two shekels for both." (A shekel was about 30 cents.)
"You do me wrong. Why do you do me this wrong?" he questioned.
"It’s all I have with me," I said.
"All right, but you are a mean person," he replied.
I took all of my loose change from my pocket, which he quickly gathered up and slipped into his own pocket--a little more than four shekels total. Then I emptied my wallet of my remaining eight dollars. He grimaced.
"Nine dollars," I said, "It’s all I have--really."
"Let me see your pocket..., he demanded, "...in your billfold...the other part..."
I offered him back the bracelet when he found nothing, but he instead gave me a second bracelet and went his way. Minutes later, he jumped into his car and followed our mini-bus to Manger Square.
Member Rating 2 out of 5 on September 28, 2000
Manger Square And Vicinity
Having left the Syrian border shortly after breakfast, our mini-bus was heading down along the eastern shore of the Sea of Gallilee on territory once part and parcel of the Hashemite Kingdom of Jordan. Wild flowers sprinkled color sparingly across craggy hillsides. Thinly distributed strands of tall, brown grass, without even a smattering of green underneath, hinted of autumn and little recent rain.
With the Sea to our north, the bus angled west before finally pulling up along the vivid greens of a freshly trimmed palm orchard. The place was Yardenit, a traditional baptismal site for Christians in the Holy Land. The occasion was a ten minute rest stop.
The twelve other passengers unloaded and quickly fled to the nearest oasis of
refreshment --an outside café--for eventual immersal in caffeine. I hesitated, and then walked instead into the orchard. Occasional clumps of green grass took hold at varying intervals beneath meticulous rows of vigorous palms. The latter, with their four foot trunks and widely spread domes of foliage, took on an overall look of roundness, despite the sharp, angular shapes of their individual fronds.
Walking back towards the bus, I was approached by a woman I had never seen
before. Her short stature and dark complexion suggested that she was an Israeli.
'Are you Mr. Gust?' she said.
How did she know who I was? I fumbled for my passport and other contents of
my wallet with the notion that she was about to return something I may have dropped unnoticed, but everything seemed to be in place.
'Yes,' I said.
'I’m from Guatemala.'
'Guatemala!!?' I couldn’t help raising my voice. I hadn’t been in Guatemala since the early June coup of El Presidente Jorge Serrano. I glanced down at my money belt. Sure, it was stitched together in traditional Mayan Cakchiquel patterns, but who in Israel would know this? And there was something so familiar about the woman’s accent--the way she stressed her syllables. She certainly was from Guatemala.
'I’m from Guatemala,' she said, 'and you were my daughter’s teacher at the
American School the year before last.'
She led me back to the café where I was reunited with my former student. Her brother took a photo of me with his mom and sister on either side with the Jordan River as a backdrop. I would send a copy of that picture down for the
family to have.
A bit more than a year later, I would return to Guatemala to teach again at the American School and one day while there I chanced upon the boy who had snapped the photo.
'Hello Senior,' he said. 'You remember me--we met in Israel.'
'Ah yes--you’re the one who snapped the picture of me and your sister,' I
'She still has your photo,' he said.
So did I.
But there are other holy sites in Israel outside of Jerusalem to consider. Here are two...
Nazareth is the site of the Annunciation with a modern post-World War II temple built over it. Inside one finds traces of Byzantine mosaic and even what is considered to be the original residence of Mary. Most impressive is a large, open temple area dominated by thirty foot murals of Mary enveloping the main sanctuary, donated by a dozen or more countries.
On a tall hill overlooking the Sea of Galilee an important city to the Jewish religion, Sefat, is found. Here over the centuries, prominent theological thought was echoed by devout theologians about the coming of the Messiah.