I feel a little like Simon Peter having denied our Lord over the last three days. Ladies and gentleman, I’ve taken a day to get my thoughts together here in the holy land before writing about my experience thus far.

My first day in Israel / Jerusalem was LOOONG. I arrived at Tel Aviv Airport at around 4:30am and was unable to find a suitable SIM card but was able to use my Verizon plan for only $10/day I decided I would go for a bit on that route before I find a local card. Well, I still haven’t found a card and I’m into phone charges for $30 at this point and it frustrates me.

Then I am picked up by a taxi which takes me to a car park outside of Tel Aviv where I am to meet my ride. Well at first there are no busses… then there are 20 busses.. nobody seems to know who I am or where I am supposed to be. Frustration rising. Finally I ask enough people to find the minibus for me to be on.

Then we finally get to Jerusalem and I have to change busses and FINALLY I’m on my tour. With Yahouda our guide. Did I mention this was supposed to be a Christian tour titled “Walking in the footsteps of Jesus”. Well I’m a little frustrated that such a tour would be led with a Jewish tour guide but I keep my mind open (or try to) given that the JC was a Jew after all. Well I’m a bit disappointed as the stories begin to all come from a non-Christian perspective but informative none the less.

We start on the Mount of Olives at the site of the ascention, which is actually a Mosque built on top of this holy site. Then onto the church of the holy Word dedicated to our lords prayer. It’s about 85 degrees and it is about now that I have some gastric distress and I’m exhausted from no sleep. So I’m getting a bit grumpy but I’m trying to remember that this is the path that Jesus took while on his way to his condemnation and death and I offer it up. For the first time I wonder if this is worth it.

Well, let me sum up the next four hours. Our tour guide does a reasonably good job of keeping the perspective Christian, but alas, I am struggling with everything surrounding this holy journey. Walking the Via Delorosa (The way of agnoy) you are elbowed, pushed, yelled at, nearly run over by cars and scooters and cajoled to try and buy every manner of trinket and chachtke known to man. I have completely lost sight of what I am seeing and why I am here, doubting my journey for the second time.

Finally reaching the end of the tour at the church of the Holy Sepulchre I am able to visit the stone on which Jesus’s body was anointed after being taken off the cross and worship at the spot he was crucified. All while being deafend by the cacophony of conversation and arguing about who was in line first going on all around me. Finally I reach the tomb of Jesus, get in line and am 20 people away from entering the holy tomb and I am forced out of line by our tour guide because people are waiting. The thoughts that go through my head in this the most holy of locations are decidedly against everything that Jesus has taught us. That make three times in the one day I have completely lost the sight of Jesus.

But I did see some amazing sights and in hindsight now I can appreciate them better. Mostly because I was able to go back again today and see them with fresh and rested eyes. (although I have to admit to being frustrated by a repeat of the tour from yesterday)

Here are the pictures from the day.

I’d like to say the day got better from there but sadly no. The tour bus was to drop me off at my hotel but instead drop me off about 6 blocks away from where I am supposed to be and point and tell me .. it’s that way. I stop to buy a SIM card on my way and am told that they don’t have anything that would be cost effective for me. Then I get to my hotel (of course I walked into the wrong one first… Hotel Sami vs Hotel Shani). You know what’s coming right. Oh they oversold the situation and shuffled me off to another hotel.

Arriving at the new hotel (directions were again helpful.. a point.. that way around the corner… Not exactly!) The floors have food on them, the lobby furniture is dirty, there is dirt on the walls and that gastric distress…. yeah it’s in full bloom. So I run to the head. Needless to say I saw cleaner facilities in Africa on safari. I cannot see me staying here at this point.

So I try to contact my tour operator. Oh did I mention I have no idea who that is. Yes, I bought through http://www.tourradar.com, but is operated by Click Tour yet the actual tours are done by BeinHarim Tours. So I try the reverse order. Bein Harim tells me it’s not their problem. Click Tours is useless telling me that’s what I booked. BTW, I didn’t book a smelly dirty hotel. But I cannot convince them to help me find a new place to stay so I check in and head up to my room. Along the way I find what appears to be blood on the walls of the elevator, and peeling stained walls in my room and a bed that is 6″ too short for my body which sags so badly by the time morning rolls around I can hardly stand.

So friends, today I get to Palestine to visit the Church of the Nativity and this is a better experience until the end of the tour where I give everything I have left in cash to our tour guid as a tip and he gets nasty with me for not tiping more. My apologies my friend, I gave you my last sheckle, literally. I don’t feel sorry for it.

Now what do I have for perspective at this point. Well, a holy site is a holy site indeed but it is merely a physical place. I believe more strongly now than ever that Jesus would be apalled at what is being called worship here the same way he threw the money lender’s out of the temple. I feel guilty for not having a higher sense of spiritual awakening while being here. But I also feel closer to God knowing that my ability to worship is not diminished by physical proximity to a place or thing.

So tomorrow I head to the dead sea for a bit of relaxation and then on to Tel Aviv to chill on the beach at a hostel (yes I am staying at a hostel, I’m sure that will generate stories). So more to come.

I had a lovely dinner again tonight with a new friend met on the trip, James. From California and a financial due diligence professional with a great sense of humor even in the face of our own insignificant credit card debacle at dinner.

I feel this has been a downer of an entry but I needed to write it out. I will be back to cheer and beer in no time at all. As a matter of fact I’m having a 10% Hebrew beer right now and it is helping greatly.

8 Replies to “You Will Deny Me Three Times Before The Cock Crows”

  1. I appreciate the honesty Bill. You saw what it is. You walked where He supposedly walked. You prayed where He supposedly prayed. He listened as He always listens. He probably laughed a little too because this was one hell of a couple of days. I hope you put that booking company and pictures on facebook and wherever you can post it, so that others do not suffer. We have all read about such things happening to unsuspecting tourists, but I have not known anyone personally to whom it has happened. Now I do. You SURVIVED that terrible room. Let us hope it is only upward from here on. Actually, it was interesting to witness the terrain of the area. Dry desert, tight streets, I could picture Jesus in the Garden of Gethsemane. Yes, everyone wants to see this place, hence so many tourists. I don’t know if there is an “off” season here. The beer at the end of your pictures looked most welcoming. I hope your room was much better, of course that would not take much!!! I am guessing at this point a “group tour” looks good. Sometimes you win and sometimes you lose. It is what it is. That what saints are mode of.

  2. Thanks for sharing your experience, Bill. I don’t understand why you were taken out of line for the tomb of Jesus? Anyway, sounds like the mixture of frustration, hot weather and tummy troubles didn’t help, but it honestly doesn’t sound like a place I’d have the patience to visit. I love that I can “visit” it through your photos. Those pictures will keep the best of the memories with you, and hopefully you can just forget the rest.

  3. Bill,
    Good to see after 20 years you are still carrying your own cross everywhere with you…..”gastric distress”

  4. Hope you enjoy the Dead Sea. I just watched a PBS Nova show on the Dead Sea and the troubles it is experiencing (disappearing, sink holes) and a project to send the brine from a Jordanian desalinization plant to it. Very interesting geology and history.

  5. Sorry it wasn’t what you hoped, but it is still incredibly exciting I’m sure to just be there. I love your analogy of Jesus in the temple with the money lenders. As my mother has said forever, “The devil is everywhere…” I guess in the Holy Land too! Hope the diving at the end of the trip is the real R&R you are looking for on this adventure! Love the stories, sorry the adventure is a bit off track right now.

  6. Everything has a purpose P. I’m sure you will see what the purpose of this experience is when you return to A2 and have had a chance to reflect on the trip as a whole. I do have to say that this is one trip I do not envy you.

  7. That hotel situation sounds awful. Make sure you give the tour company who screwed you a bad review on TripAdvisor!

    Also: “my ability to worship is not diminished by physical proximity to a place or thing.” —- Love that. Amen! God is anywhere and everywhere. <3