Middle East Day 5 – Palestine
28th October 2017
Today did not go as planned. We were planning to go to Palestine. The old man wussed out of independent travel, so we booked a tour to Jericho and Bethlehem which departed at 7.30 am. I set my iPhone alarm for 6.30 am, giving us ample time to get up and make it to the meeting point, although it meant leaving the hotel before breakfast.
Physically, East Jerusalem (where we were staying) has been part of Israel since The Six-Day War of 1967, although this was declared illegal by the UN. A fact: Israel and Palestine both put their clocks back an hour in October – Palestine on a Saturday and Israel on a Sunday. So for one day only, there is a time difference of an hour. Today was that day. When we walked through the hotel lobby, breakfast was in full swing. It was 8 am. My iPhone either had rubbish GPS or was recognising the UN General Assembly Resolution of 1980. Either way, we had missed our tour.
We managed to get a later tour, this wasn’t going to Jericho, which we had wanted to see, instead it was going to Jerusalem (which we had already spent 3 days) but at least we got to visit Bethlehem.
First we went to Qaser El-Yahud, site on the River Jordan where Jesus was baptised. It was very polluted. I braved putting a finger into the water, whilst wondering where the nearest bathroom was. Minutes later a bus load of Russians had arrived and immersed themselves in the river. Hard core these Russians.
Next stop, a service station at a Kibbutz which can boast two claims to fame; (1) the lowest place on earth and (2) the most expensive coca cola on earth.
On to The Dead Sea. Initially it sounded like fun – water so salty you can float in it. But once the guide had explained that if you got water in your mouth, you could be poisoned and if you got it in your eyes, you could go blind, it was sounding less appealing. A fact I hadn’t considered before: Floating in the Dead Sea is easy, but getting yourself upright again is less so. Especially when any sort of splashing can cause blindness/death.
Time for a ludicrously expensive beer while one of our fellow travellers, who had stood on broken glass on the beach, was patched up. While we were sitting there, ‘Wonderwall’ started playing in the bar. We were listening to Oasis in an Oasis – LOL.
On to Bethlehem. Being Bristolian, I was particularly keen to see the Banksy works on the Wall, but this was an Israeli tour, so stopping wasn’t an option. I had to make do with taking photos through the bus window as we sped past.
A fact our guide had neglected to tell us; The Church of the Nativity was undergoing extensive renovations. There wasn’t much to see unless you were an avid fan of scaffolding.
And so we left again. Apparently we were running short of time, although minutes later we stopped for an hour at a souvenir shop. The tour company was called Fun Times – the old man remained unconvinced. Despite the lengthy stop, we managed to depart minus two group members. After fighting through the evening traffic for half an hour, the driver got a phone call asking him to return to the shop and collect his remaining passengers. The day had not been a complete success.