We had a lovely time. I particularly remember the Friday we (my American friend and I) had struggled through the crowds at Damascus Gate, just before a riot had broken out,(Somebody had been killed.) in order to reach the Arab bus station, to catch a bus into Jericho, which is in the West Bank. It was pleasantly warm and very pretty in Jericho. I remember some spectacular fruit stalls. I bought these lovely Jaffa oranges.
Somewhere out there, are some fantastic shots of the fruit stalls and also likely one or two of me, as my friend had been a very keen photographer. who had had an awful lot of very professional camera equipment.
We then hired a couple of bikes and headed up to the monastery. I had sat in the sun with the bikes. whilst my friend had finished the climb. I was soon joined by Palestinian children begging for money. I shared my oranges with them.
It is a lovely memory.
I have just been surprised to learn (from the video) that the monastery is the Monastery of the Temptation, where Jesus is supposed to have been tempted. I had not known that at the time. I had just wanted to visit Jericho.
Eilat is supposed to have some of the best snorkelling in the world off its shores. So even though I had never done it before I decided to have a go at snorkelling. I did not know quite what I was supposed to do.
Still I tried. What I saw was amazing. I was surrounded by coral reef and large, beautiful multi-coloured fish. It was absolutely breath-taking, (in more ways than one), as I was so absorbed, that when both my mask and snorkel had filled with water, I didn’t notice and then suddenly realised that I couldn’t breathe. I also cut my legs rather badly on the coral.
The weather was awful. It was incredibly cold and wet. We were very nervous entering the old city of Jerusalem.We had been warned how dangerous the Old City could be. Men stood around in dark corners. One had called out, “You want to peel my banana.”(subtle)
Jerusalem can get extremely cold in Winter.
We spent many happy hours exploring the market. Bargaining was fun and I soon found myself with a new jumper and two new pairs of trousers.
I had eventually got to know and love the Old City, as I had lived in Jerusalem for several months. I would often head down there on a Friday afternoon. On at least one occasion I was interrupted trying to buy food by a rabbi, insisting that the stall close. This is no problem in Jerusalem because as fast as one area closes another one opens. One of the benefits of being in a place central to three major world religions. I had developed a real love of felafel in Jerusalem. Felafel are always on sale somewhere.
We all headed off to see the Gaza Strip. We were warned not to step on the dirt road alongside the barbed wire fence, as it was regularly checked for footprints to check for possible incursions.. On the way we had stopped to look at a dusty, old Byzantine mosaic. We threw water over it from our water bottles to try to view the pattern. The water did bring parts of it to life.
An army vehicle changed direction and headed straight for us. We were scared but some had stood their ground. To our surprise the soldiers had posed for pictures. We were warned not to go up too close to the fence. We had seen the faces of children as they had called through the fence.