Thursday, 26 March 2015

"Right, we are going to the Church Of the Holy Sepulchre first", announced the guide the moment we got to Jerusalem.
I thought to myself that I really would rather see a Jewish quarter first, but hey...I wasn't in charge.
The complex was huge and, as an important religious site, shared by several Christian churches (Orthodox, Armenian and Catholic).
After all, Jesus was said to be buried there.
Once inside I first noticed the eerie atmosphere...each denomination was singing their own songs and doing their own rituals. At the same time! It could have been cacophonic, but it was actually rather soothing.
In one corner, the devotees of the Armenian church were prostrating themselves on the marble stone, touching it with objects and falling into a trance like state.
"What are they doing?", I asked the guide.
"This is where Jesus laid.", he said.
I thought I better touch the stone just in case and prostrated myself right across the marble slab. I rubbed my clothing onto it for good measure too. You know...just in case I follow the wrong denomination and Armenians are the righteous followers.
We then proceeded to wait in the queue with other Catholics in front of a giant square stone inside the church.
Once we got inside this smallest of the spaces, there was a glass encasing with a rock under it.
"What's this?"; I asked the guide.
"This is where Jesus was buried.", he said.
"I thought he was buried under that marble slab...", I started.
"Well...", he shrugged.
I thought to myself I better touch the rock inside the glass encasing inside the square stone inside the church too. Just in case. Gotta cover all bases when it comes to afterlife. I don't wanna ruin my chances with Lord Jesus.
I went around the church touching this and rubbing that for what seems like an eternity.

Eventually, it was time for a visit to  the Bazaar and, finally, a Jewish quarter.
It was Shabbat and it was unusually busy as the devotees were preparing themselves for prayers at the Western Wall. The atmosphere was electric. People were singing, dancing and being very joyous.
The guide told us we can go all the way to the wall and to write our prayers and wishes on the paper and stick it inside the crevices in the wall.
"Aha...", I thought: "I have a whole list of things to wish for!!!".
I begun scribbling furiously. 
I tried to insert my wish list into the crevice in the wall, but, alas, there was no space. Every single surface, crevice, nook and cranny were covered in colourful papers. I tried again. No luck. Then I got one of the chairs dotted around, dragged it to the wall, stood on it and stuck my wish list high up. 
"Closer to God"; I thought. 
And with that, our visit to this holy city was over.
"I guess I'm gonna be in God's good books now.", I thought to myself and rubbed my hands with glee.

Monday, 23 March 2015

Israel-The Land Of Milk And Honey IV

I was bleary eyed and guzzling my second coffee cup already. It was early. And I and a handful of other wedding guests were on our way to Jerusalem. 
Our guide finally arrived and announced: "Hello everyone. Today we'll be going to Jerusalem and (dramatic pause) WEST BANK!"
My mind raced: "West Bank???? WEST BANK???? Bloody Nora, but that's a war zone. It's the place I see on the news, not the place I visit. Will they be taking us to Hebron to throw some stones???? Aaaaaaarghhh! This is not what I signed up for. "
The guide then continued as if he could read everyone's panicked expressions: "We'll be going to Betlehem. The place where your LORD JESUS was born. It's quite safe."
"Well, if you say so, bruv."; I thought.
We were bundled onto the bus and taken across barren landscape. In the distance I could see the wall dividing Israel from Palestinian territories. It was huge. 
We arrived at the checkpoint. At that point we left our Israeli driver and guide and were taken over by their Palestinian counterparts.
"We're not allowed in.", explained the Israeli guide. 
And just like that, we were in West Bank. 
Betlehem was bustling with morning shoppers and kids going to school.
I wanted to have a look around, but we were immediately taken to church complex and told not to wander around. 
Palestinian guide gathered us around little corner of the church and proudly announced: "And this, my friends, is where your LORD JESUS was born."
As if on cue, millions of cameras flashed. After all, it's not every day you get to see baby Jesus' birth place. 
Truth be told, I was more interested to see what's outside and how people lived in this, very newsworthy place, but the tour was all about Jesus. At least, the older members of the tour party were interested.
"Imagine!!!"; they exclaimed: "We are standing in the same place were Jesus stood!!! I think I'm going to cry!"
I took some tissues out at the ready, but the promised tears from the elders were not coming. 
There was just enough time for  a few more camera clicks and then we headed to Jerusalem...

Monday, 9 March 2015

My hair was looking frightful so I decided to pay a visit to a hair salon. 
I found one that looked presentable and entered. 
"Yeah....I need my hair done."
"No problem.", said the hairdresser and quoted an outrageous price even by London standards.
I was already in the salon and there was no going back so I agreed.  I'm easily swayed like that.

The hairdresser begun faffing with my barnet and making small talk: "Where are you from?"
"Ah, Korea...very nice."; I was baffled, but he continued completely unfazed: "You don't have the eyes, eh...?"
'No, I don't have "the eyes" because I'm not from Korea'; I thought to myself, but I didn't want to spoil his excitement about possibly his first "Korean" customer so I kept quiet. Besides, he did my hair justice and I needed good hair for tomorrow's visit to Jerusalem. I couldn't very well go to an ancient city overlooked by Gods of all Abrahamic religions with shitty hair. That's just not done.

Wednesday, 4 March 2015

It was the day of the wedding. 
I was as nervous as if it was my own wedding day so I went for a leisurely walk along the beach to calm the nerves. I then returned to my hotel, shovelled the make up on and headed to the venue.
"They better do the chair dance. It's the sole reason of my travel to Israel."; I thought to myself.

Once in the venue, I swiftly found the chair with my name on it and sat my ass down.
"Ah, no...once the bride enters, you stand up and whoop and holla.", said the random Jewish geezer to me. 
"You wha..?? This is not a hip-hop video."; I looked at him incredulously.
I decided he must be drunk and  continued to sit down. 
The bride entered....the rabbi began to sing an upbeat, contagious song...and the entire room started swaying, whooping, hollering, clapping, dancing and clambering to get a better look at the bride.
The bride was dancing too.
This was already way better than the boring Catholic ceremonies where everyone is dead serious, tears are shed and the priest tends to go on for at least an hour til everyone falls asleep.
"Dayyum...I wish I had a Jewish wedding ceremony."; I thought to myself, completely ignoring the fact that I am not Jewish.
The rabbi sang a few more upbeat songs, the groom stepped on a glass, happy couple were officially married, the chic venue was swiftly transformed into what can only be described as a nightclub and then the real party begun.
To complete the effect, the guests were even given glowsticks and other raving gear.
I furiously waved my glowstick around. The Israelis knew how to party and I wasn't going to be outdone. 
"I'll show them some London style.", I thought and threw some grandad dancing shapes on the dancefloor.

I didn't have my DSLR at the wedding venue, but if you're curious to see photos from the wedding as well as other photos from Israel, check out my INSTAGRAM (and scroll down a bit ;) ).


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