Well, you’ve made it to the final segment of the Israel/Palestine series. If you haven’t yet spent enough time reading nonsense, you can get the rest of the installments here: 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, and 6. However, if you feel that you have wasted far too much time on this already, please click on the small “X” at the top-right corner of your screen.
We spent one final night in Nazareth and headed to Mark and Andrea’s flat in Zababida, located in the northern part of the West Bank. In the morning, we met up with our quiet, but friendly taxi driver and drove up the hill one final time to collect Andrea at her flat.
We headed south from Nazareth and into the hill country. It is a far more deserted drive than what a map would lead you to believe. I can understand why people may not want to call this area home anymore, as this is also the first moment I saw signs warning of land mines along the road. As the road wound its way up over the mountain, the driver slowed his pace down a bit as he navigated the ridge. We started our descent, and about halfway down the hill, he jabbed the brakes and got a panicked look in his eyes. Then I heard it: the pop-pop-pop of automatic rifle fire. I looked out the window to my right and could see several Israeli military vehicles parked in the valley below. The driver muttered something to Andrea and, with a look of sheepish relief, started driving again. Read more
We headed out through the gate of the Augusta Victoria hospital and onto Martin Buber Street; I was awestruck by what was upon me. I could look down across the valley and see—just a few thousand yards away—the Dome of the Rock. I checked my handy pocket map and, to my amazement, it showed that we were standing on the summit of the Mount of Olives. The Old City was standing firm, as it had for the last couple years or so, its ancient fortress wall protecting it from any intruders. Any intruders but us, I hoped.
We walked the steep hill into the Kidron Valley and stopped at the Garden of Gethsemane for a little break. (Walking downhill is hard.) I looked around the property and was impressed at the relatively small footprint that the garden had, yet it was certainly a peaceful place. with birds chirping and the breeze whistling through the cedars. Orange and purple flowers littered the landscape and conifers shaded and cooled the rocky soil. (Anyone with any sense of beauty would have immediately known the floral varieties on display. I know them simply as “flowers.”) There were several olive trees in a grove in one section of the garden. They were twisted and knurled, almost square in their dimensions. The trunks were fat and thick; their limbs were tightly woven into themselves, like a tugboat’s hopelessly knotted mooring line. The leaves were delicate, a light drab green that was the definition of “olive.” Mark called the attendant over and asked (in his broken Arabic) how old they were. The man thought for a bit and replied, “Maybe three thousand?” Suddenly, I felt a bit less significant to the world. These very trees were older than Jesus. Read more
The three of us were crammed into the van with five other passengers as we left Ben Gurion Airport in Tel Aviv and headed out into the flat lands of Israel. The scene was strangely like traveling through California’s Central Valley with the 4-lane concrete motorway straight and smooth. On either side of the highway were vast fields of produce; cucumbers, melons, and tomatoes extending all the way to the foothills in the distance. The soil was naturally arid, irrigation bringing abundant life; without it, the floor of the plain would revert to the brown barrenness that it had been for centuries prior. In another 45 minutes we would reach Jerusalem, but first we would have to climb some 700 meters in elevation.
As we ascended into the hillsides, the cooler climate of the higher elevation allowed conifers to grow with surprising success, considering the lack of rainfall; a few at first, followed by stands, then small forests. Weaving through the trees, we turned off at an interchange and headed around a traffic circle. Suddenly, we were transported into tan-colored, endless suburbs.
Our driver seemed to know where he was going: a right, followed by two lefts. Two more rights and another half-dozen or so lefts and we reached the first stop: a nondescript concrete block of flats. The driver confirmed with Passenger #1 that this was The Place without ever needing to extinguish his cigarette. He finally ended his phone conversation in time to help pull Passenger #1’s luggage out of the back doors. Back in the driver’s seat, he slotted the Sprinter into first gear, checked his mirrors, took a drag on his smoke, and dialed his fourth call as we pulled into the street.