“It is on December nights, with the thermometer at zero, that we most think of the sun.” Les Miserables
My deepest apologies for being so long away from the blog. It’s been a hectic month of November! My research is getting underway, but most importantly I had a visit from one of my best friends, which was somewhat last-minute. I was really beginning to miss home and friends and family right around my birthday in October, so this visit was perfectly timed. Though it was a rather busy week when she was here! How do you decide to fit 4 months of activities/life to show someone who is here for 8 days?!
Day 1: Her flight landed at 9am. I planned to leave Ramallah around 7, get to Jerusalem, take a bus or a shared taxi to the airport (I had been told that there was a direct Arab bus there), and be there to greet her as she walked into the airport. Calamity # 1: the Arab bus doesn’t end up leaving Ramallah until almost 7:45, waiting to fill up with people; there’s traffic at Qalandia; I don’t get to Jerusalem until 8:45. 8:45, people! Her plane lands in 30 minutes! I ask my bus driver if there’s a bus to the airport, he tells me no. I’m frantic now. I run to the main street and flag down a private taxi, who overcharges me to the extreme, but he could smell my desperation, I’m sure. I make it to the airport at 9:20, while checking on my blackberry that her plane landed 10 minutes early. I run to the guard standing outside the airport doors, who has to take down my passport number and run me through the metal detector before giving me directions to the arrivals terminal. I make it there, and almost start bawling as soon as I see her walk through the gate! We then took the train from the airport to Tel Aviv, though we got off at the wrong stop (all the announcements are in Hebrew!!!), and ended up walking for 2 hours just to find the beach (which I just kept thinking HAD to be close!). We finally get to the beach, eat some lunch at a beachside restaurant, my friend falls asleep in her chair while we’re waiting for the bill to pay (yeah, service isn’t a strong point), and we collapse on the beach. Then, two hours later we begin our transportation to Ramallah – cab to the bus station, bus to Jerusalem, cab to the Arab bus lot, bus to Ramallah, walk home. The trooper that my friend is, she drank a red bull and was able to come out for the Ramallah nightlife and enjoy that ridiculousness.
Day 2: we slept in and went to the Ramallah souq for the last one of the season, bought some jewelry and honey and walked around an art exhibit. Went to Jerusalem in the afternoon and walked around the Old City for a bit, before meeting up with a Palestinian friend who had gotten a permit to be in Jerusalem for the night, for dinner. Back to Ramallah that night.
Day 3: Bethlehem! My first time there also, so an adventure of course. A ridiculous ride in the service, we’re dropped off at this parking lot, I have no idea where to go to get to the Church of the Nativity, so we follow this group into the parking lot and into an elevator, assuming they know where they’re going. This really nice woman from the service takes pity on us and starts speaking to me in Arabic, and I was very happy to be able to have a full conversation with her – she declares that she’s Christian, “like us,” she grew up in Bethlehem but her husband and she now live in Ramallah, and she ended up walking us all the way to the Church, completely out of her way, and pointing out other sites to us on the way! The Church was ridiculous, full of tourists, and kind of hard to navigate. All the guards were very surprised that it was just two of us and not a part of any tour group, but that worked to our advantage when one guard allowed us to enter through the exit to see the spot of Jesus’ birth, instead of waiting for 2 hours in line with the tour groups!
After we wandered a bit, went to Shepherd’s Field, the place where the shepherds saw the Star of the Nativity, with very cool caves to explore and a beautiful chapel, and then we headed back to Jerusalem – after walking through the Bethlehem checkpoint. We met up with another friend and traveled to Haifa that night.
Day 4: we had planned to take the subway system up the mountain to get to the Bah’ai Gardens, but when we walked there in the morning, the guard told us the entire subway system was down (and we though the DC metro was bad??). So we took a cab, who of course dropped us off like halfway down the mountain from where we were supposed to be, so we walked the rest of the way up. The Bah’ai Gardens were just as beautiful as last time, and I’m glad I got to see them again, though the Dome was still under construction! Then we went to the beach, and then back to Ramallah that night.
Day 5: Jerusalem sightseeing day. We saw just about everything.
Day 6: Dead Sea. We spent the night before in Jerusalem at a friend’s in order to get an early early start to our Dead Sea trip, since my last experience with the Dead Sea was so miserable. So yes, we were at the beach at 9:15 in the morning. Of all the days to be overcast, the morning actually looked like it was going to rain! So we started off with putting the mud all over our bodies, waiting for it to dry, then washing it off. The weather finally starting heating up, and we were able to float for hours, there really is no way to describe how fun/crazy/weird it feels! We stayed until the mid-afternoon, got back to Jerusalem, hung out for a bit, then got back to Ramallah that night.
Day 7: we had an easy morning and went up to Nablus for the day, to eat and walk around, so she could see another West Bank city. Easy day, and some friends came over that night when we were back in Ramallah.
Day 8: the beginning of the end. We left Ramallah at 8am and made it to Nazareth at 1pm. A grueling day of travel, for a couple hours of sightseeing – though Nazareth is a beautiful city! We spent the night, and left the next morning for Tel Aviv-Jaffa.
Day 9: I also love Arabs. Our hostel owner in Nazareth had told us that it’s better to take the shared taxi to Tel Aviv, since it’s cheaper and faster, and he told us it would be easy to find them on this particular street. We walk over there and of course can’t find them, so we decide to grab a sandwich first. The owners of the sandwich store, Arabs, start talking to us about where we’re headed and when they find out that we couldn’t find the shared taxi, after our sandwiches are done, one of them walks us directly to the office and makes sure the drivers there know that we want to get to Tel Aviv! So we make it to Jaffa, walk around the Old City, through the markets, and start our walk along the beach to Tel Aviv. We end up getting sidetracked at a cafe on the way, and sit there for a couple hours, enjoying the sunset and the view.
We spend the night on the beach, and go to a cafe at 6am to eat breakfast and then I put her in a taxi to the airport.
A wonderful trip and it made me miss my friends back home so much! My friend took all the pictures, so I’ll post some as soon as I get them from her.
Also, a post on Thanksgiving-Palestine style soon to come! Happy belated Thanksgiving to everyone.