Evolution of Dispossession

Evolution of Dispossession
How to Steal a Country?

Wednesday, December 05, 2007

Innocents Abroad, with a French Twist

My mom recently took a trip to Jerusalem with her husband and his siblings. Pierre's daughter Marie-Claire works for the EU (formerly for the UN) on Palestinian elections, and Pascal, Marie-Claire's significant other works for the UN on the same issue. They live in Jerusalem. The entourage got to see parts of the occupied territories with a UN host.

I asked my mom to detail their trip, and this is what she came up with. Enjoy !

Innocents Abroad III (with a French Twist)

Our trip plans were all set, months in advance, for our vacation with the family to Jerusalem. We purchased our train tickets from the South straight to Charles DeGaulle airport. We had our e-tickets in hand two months before. Well laid plans...On the 13th of November, the French unions for transportation, i.e., those for the SNCF, the TGV, RATP, etc., began their general strike. We were to depart on the 19th. We rushed to the local train station to see when the strike would end and
to exchange some tickets in the interim period which would be useless because of the strike. The workers at the station assured us that the strike would be finished by the 19th. I told my husband, "Don't trust them. We have to drive to Paris before because if they continue to strike on the 19th, we won't have time to get to the airport by car." We contacted the woman who had agreed to feed our cats and asked if she could begin two days before. She could. We were absolutely correct in not
trusting these French transportation workers. They continued to strike well into the week plus that we were in Israel.

We set out for Paris with our new foundling cat, Saba II, who could not be assimilated with our other two Yemeni cats. Our friend and former "femme de menage" told me that she would love to have her. She lives in Paris. One hour after our departure, Saba had an "accident" in the car. We stopped at a rest area to clean the mess from her cage. Thirty minutes later, she had another "accident". Again, we stopped to clean up the smelly mess. All the while, she was crying. I finally
released her from her cage and put the litter box on the back seat. She was a
little better, but with her newly found freedom, she tried to help us drive the car on the auto route because the view is certainly better from the front windshield than from the back of the car. Ten hours after leaving and after being lost trying to find our friend's house in the suburbs of Paris, we arrived. Our friends kindly let us spend the night with them. Saba spent the night hiding behind their furnace in the basement.

On Sunday, we drove to my husband's matchbox flat in Paris. His sister and her husband were to meet us there to spend the night for our trip the following day. We had planned to park the car at my husband's daughter's apartment, but when we tried in the afternoon to reserve a taxi to the airport for the next day, none of the companies were answering their phones. We changed our plans again and decided to drive to the airport and park the car there. We calculated that it could not take more than four hours to get there. It took longer, but by now we were prepared.

My husband had a meeting in the East of Paris. Usually, it takes 20 minutes by car to go there from his apartment. It took two hours. (We four had all agreed that it would be better not to separate because maybe we would never get back together again.) We waited until he had finished his meeting two hours later and started for the airport. We arrived at the airport three hours before the departure time. All was well.

We were only thirty minutes late on take-off, a minor problem for our pilot, it seems, because we arrived in Tel Aviv 20 minutes early. Aboard the flight were all six of us "pilgrims", the other two had met us at the airport where they had flown for the connecting flight.

We were met at Ben Gurion Airport by Pascal, Marie-Claire's significant other. We barely managed to stuff our luggage and seven of us into his Toyota by holding the smaller bags on our laps. Off we went from Tel Aviv, destination, the Mount of Olives to Augustus Victoria religious guest house where we deposited four of the family. My husband and I continued on to Pascal's house in the Palestinian section of Jerusalem. We had a glimpse of Jerusalem, the Dome of the Rock (or as Mark Twain called it: the Mosque of Omar), and the walls of the city. It was 1:30 a.m. by then.

The highway system from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem is nice. We were checked by the police at only one spot, a street leading to the Palestinian section of Jerusalem. Pascal asked, "Are we having any problems in the area tonight?" The policeman replied, "Yes, all over."

The following day, we went to pick up our rental. It was $100 per day. The prices by lots of vendors and providers of services are posted in dollars. The euro is gaining momentum, though. After having lunch, we went to Abu Gosh Monastery, where there are French Dominican monks and where they sell a lemon liqueur that is 47% alcohol. A Sister there is from our area of France and was present at the baptism of my husband's grandchildren at the same monastery. These Dominicans are there to
represent their religion to Israelis, mostly, and wandering pilgrims such as ourselves. There were two tour buses when we arrived. These buses contained African-American Christians from Atlanta. (A couple of them refused to descend the stairs. They were tired; it was their last day in the country. I talked with them. One of them will most probably visit France next year due to my description of the country.) There was a guide who read passages from the Bible at this stop. Everyone was reading along with him from their Bibles. I heard only a vague reference to the problems of the country while he was speaking. Religion is religion, politics are politics, and business is business.

After stopping at another religious site, Latrun, a Lebanese/Latin congregation, which sells wine (instead of liqueur), we were out of daylight and had to start thinking about dinner. A couple of us decided that we probably could only allow four hours a day between meals for tourism, 36 hours tops for our stay, but one must also subtract driving time and time for being lost from those 36 hours.

The following morning we are off for the Dead Sea. There was absolutely no traffic on the highway. The route was nice, consequently. There are barren mountains parallel to the Dead Sea. We saw almost no one living in the area. I suppose it's because life just cannot be sustained in any form at this location. Across the Dead Sea are other barren mountains, which are in Jordan. We were told that on these same
mountains across from us in Jordan, Moses died on Mount Nebo showing the Promised Land to his people, but not being allowed to enter it because he committed the great sin of breaking the stone tablets of the Ten Commandments in anger when he saw the Israelites worshiping Baal.

We found a spot where we could go to the Dead Sea. We had to pay to enter the resort. We changed into our swimming attire. I didn't bring a suit, so I went along as the photographer/guardian of bags and purses. A tractor with open cars attached took us down a muddy path to the sea. Four of the five others jumped in immediately. It was cold, of course. November isn't cold, but it isn't warm, either. The fifth, having broken his leg months before, had to sidle into the sea from a crude rope system that cordons off areas not fit for swimming. No one actually swam, though. One floats on the Dead Sea. There is no way that one could drown there. Swimming is difficult, as well, because of one's buoyancy. After leaving the sea, the minerals and salt immediately cake up on one's skin; therefore, the next stop on the tractor, the mud baths. There is a crude concrete vat filled with slimy, mushy, black mud to accomplish this. Four of the six began slapping on the mud. Thirty or forty other mud turtles were in various stages of administering the mud, drying the mud, and showering off the mud. Everyone leaves young. Photo op time... This same mud is sold in our little village 20 times more expensive.

At this point, lunch-time. We decided on Jericho. On the way there, there was an Israeli checkpoint. Out come the passports. No problems for us there. Two hundred yards later, there was a Palestinian checkpoint, we all decided, mostly to simulate the appearance of a little dignity. No problems for us there, either. They were happy to direct us to a nice restaurant, especially since my husband speaks Arabic.
There must be a small difference between his Arabic and theirs, though, because we had to stop four more times to ask directions to the same restaurant. We finally settled on another restaurant that looked okay to everyone since we couldn't find that obscure, wonderful one. We had three grilled chickens and lots of Palestinian side-dishes with baskets of pita bread. More often than not, the bread comes free with anything you order; the pickles, tomatoes, and sauces, too. I usually ate all
of the pickles because they weren't "French" pickles. (Good French pickles are tiny; those of Palestinians are rather large and too salty for French tastes.)

With lunch finished, we decided that we had better skip the archaeological excavations of Jericho, as the Dead Sea excursion had taken so much of our time, and go directly to Omayyad Palace archaeological site on the outskirts of Jericho. The site dates from the 8th century. We were told that this castle complex was built as an "entertainment" and leisure escape for this Calif from Damascus. We saw a wonderful mosaic of the Tree of Life amongst the ruins, which was very refined and well preserved in a building. The ruins are impressive, as well, and apparently Mrs. Bush went there to inaugurate the financing of the excavations. I vaguely heard that the monies were suspended with the election of Hamas by the Palestinians. One can buy reproductions of parts of the mosaic, but none from our party coughed up the money for one of these reproductions. We did buy some postcards.

After leaving this palace, we proceeded North along the Jordan River to Tiberiade (in French), on the shores of Lake Tiberius, known in Jesus' time as the Sea of Galilee. We stayed at the YMCA on the shores of the lake. After settling in our rooms, we went to find "St. Peter's fish" for dinner. It's a very nice fish anyway that it can be served. Our restaurant gave us all of the side-dishes free and it was still an
expensive place to eat. Tiberius Lake was where Jesus recruited some of his disciples and especially Peter. They couldn't catch any fish and Jesus told them to cast their nets on the other side of the boat. Later he told them he would make them "fishers of men". I think that Tiberius Lake is more apt a name than Sea of Galilee. It's definitely not a "sea".

The YMCA was clean, with nice gardens. Their free breakfast was wonderful. It's not a "continental" one. Some had omelets, some had other types of eggs, and all had their "continental" breakfast, too. By this time, we had all decided that we had better tank up on food in the morning when it's free and eke out on the other meals when we had to pay. (Some of us were so occupied with aunts and such the day before
leaving on the trip that we had no time to access an automatic teller for free withdrawals in France. In Israel they charge three euros plus 2% of anything one withdraws in cash. Consequently, we were all trying not to use their machines. Some of us were having conniption fits about maybe our lack of money. Some brought dollars, which seemed to have dissipated fairly quickly; some brought British pounds, also gone quickly because one of the two persons with those frequently bought things the others didn't; and we had euros, gone just as quickly,but with nothing to show for them but a full stomach.)

After we checked out of the YMCA, we went to Capernaum, where the ruins of St. Peter's house are. In fact, there are ruins there from several epochs and the entire town is just a site of ruins, except for the modern church built over Peter's house with glass floors to view the ruins. There were two eras of ruins of synagogues, one of which was the one in which Jesus taught. It is a must to see for anyone who travels to the country. There were about 20 tour buses there when we arrived. Various groups had leaders reading from the Old and New Testaments. Unfortunately, we couldn't tarry there because there was a rain storm. Nearby is the Mount of Blessings, where Jesus said, "Blessed are the poor in spirit, blessed are the meek, etc." Jesus also fed thousands with a few loaves and fishes.

If I had to choose an area to live in Israel, I would definitely choose somewhere between Tiberius and St. Jean d'Acre, (Akko), The people can actually grow something other than palm trees there.

Our Arabic speaker had no problem with directions to Ahziv, our next destination.
On the way to Ahziv, we found a McDonald's...lunch. (About eight euros a person for a menu, plus ice-cream and coffee.) We decided to go find our resting place for the night, a place where one has to bring his own towels and sheets. (I had been dreading this experience for a week before we left France.) We found it on the shore of the Mediterranean Sea. The view of the sea was nice. The rooms were about $67 per couple. Ours had the smell of sewer inside, so we asked to be changed to one where a worker had been varnishing a door. I preferred the smell of varnish to the
smell of feces. Dogs and cats had been allowed to wander in and out of the rooms and we have all been itching since. No one has been able to produce a flea, so now we are of the opinion that we contracted either impetigo or scabies. The centerpiece of the attraction there was the private museum of the owners. They have collected thousands of stone relics, pottery (even a neolithic pot), pillars, wheels, etc. We saw two different wedding groups there who were having their photos taken in the museum. Over the door of the entrance, there are many, many different types of
horse-shoes/donkey-shoes. The owners were Israelis. Someday, we all hoped, the site would be restored and become a nice place to spend the night. We took comfort in our gins and tonics and appetizers. The proprietors demanded payment before we spent the
night and I am of the opinion they are aware that no one wants to pay afterwards.

The next day: Saint Jean d'Acre, a wonderful town with Crusader Cathedrals, wonderfully restored. The brochure for it is called "5000 Years of History".
The historic part consists of a walled city with ancient Hellenistic and Roman remnants, the Crusade and Ottoman sections, mosques, and the underground Crusader city. We walked through tunnels underneath the city, sometimes having to bend over to walk. There is a nice port and a colorful souk. Lots of countries/empires have contributed to the history of the city: the Canaanites, the Jews, the Greeks, the Romans, the Byzantines, the Crusaders, the Mamelukes, the Turks, and the British. There were areas which had been covered and were excavated from many meters beneath other structures; the courtyard and Knights' Hall of the Crusader area had been filled in with dirt to make a garden for an important Arab. It was nicely preserved when it was excavated last century, consequently.

We started back to Jerusalem, making a detour through Tel Aviv, where we were too late to meet Pascal along the seashore, near the French Embassy. Three of us stayed in a cafe having hot chocolate while the other three went to call Pascal. We saw thousands and thousands of geese, we think (because ducks migrate in a "V" pattern and those birds weren't as organized--sort of "V's", but with loops, as if there were several leaders), flying parallel to the coastline. There were three different groups of them. We watched them for about 15 minutes flying over. We decided that they were headed for Africa. Tel Aviv is huge and modern. We had a devilish time getting out of it and finding the auto route back to Jerusalem.

We went immediately to Jerusalem to Pascal's house for a pizza dinner and he afterwards guided us to our resting place for the remainder of the time, through Lions' Gate, to the former Hospital of Austria, now a guest house, in the Old City. We were thrilled to have a proper room.

Bright and early after a wonderful buffet breakfast, we set out for Bethlehem, the birthplace of Jesus. Bethlehem is very near Jerusalem. We had our first glimpse of the "Wall". There is a checkpoint before one enters the city. Leading to the checkpoint is the tall, concrete barrier being erected by the Israelis. On top of the wall are barbed wire coils. The Israeli side of the wall is free of graffiti. The other side of the wall is covered with graffiti. The anger of the Palestinians is reflected in the graffiti. As we couldn't stop to take photos, we didn't record much of this graffiti.

La ville de Bethlehem was abuzz with activity...tres vivante. The streets were literally swamped with people going to the market. We went to the place where Jesus was supposed to have been born. Two adjoining churches have been erected to cover the spot. The birthplace is one level below the ground floor. There is a small cavity where the floor is covered with glass, sort of like a fireplace. Marie-Claire's children made this spot their resting place, to the chagrin of other pilgrims. A monk kept coming and going reciting either, "one, two, three" and the next time, "four, five, six". He made several rounds while we were there. None of knew what this meant in a religious context of things.

It was now lunch time. We went to a local cafe/restaurant, called "L'ail de Beit Jala. The owner barbeques chicken halves outside the restaurant on a homemade barbeque made of a barrel. We ordered four whole chickens, eight halves. They were wonderful with everything else served with them (and cheap). After eating, a young man who had been wounded, we thought, by a rocket (he had a scar on his head) attached himself to us. We tried to give him money, but he didn't want money. The locals kept telling him to go away in Arabic, but he was persistent. He kept saying, "One, two, three" (just like the monk) and pointed at several houses/buildings as he was talking. Another resident made the "crazy" sign and pointed at him. Another said in English, "Watch him closely." He followed us to our vehicles and helped us into them by opening the doors for the children. We learned, also, that Bethlehem has the highest percentage of people with doctorates in the country and that most of those who studied abroad in either Europe or the U.S. came back home again. As there aren't many professional positions for these educated people, they drive taxis, have shops, etc. to survive...a terrible waste of brain power, we thought.

When we went back through the checkpoint again, we were asked for our passports. Going into Bethlehem, we had been merely waved through. It took a couple of minutes to round them all up and finally get the automatic back seat door of our Chevrolet rented vehicle open. In English I finally said, "I'm coming with all of them". She didn't bother, at that point, to even look at them. She waved us through.

After escaping back through the wall to the route to Jerusalem, we pilgrims, including the unbelievers in the group, decided that we have been blessed to not have
been born where Jesus was. France, England/Wales, and even Louisiana are cleaner, greener places to have been born. (We pilgrims hail from those three locales.)
There were comments such as:

"The Palestinians are trapped behind that "wall"." (If one lives in Bethlehem, one cannot go to Jerusalem unless one has a valid (the validity decided by Israeli
officials, of course) doctor's order. They can't visit their families on the other side of the wall in Jerusalem. Decidedly, their families rom Jerusalem have no problem visiting them, though, because with Jerusalem citizenship, they can
go almost anywhere in the country with their Jerusalem license plates. However, if their families live in other parts, it's almost impossible to see them.

"They're not just trapped behind that wall; they are like monkeys in a cage."

"They don't seem to be doing as poorly as about 95% of Yemenis."

What is even more amazing about this is that the Yemenis, even in their extreme state of poverty overwhelmingly support the Palestinian cause. I am really torn about my reaction to this. Do they not know that their plight is worse? Their life expectancy is certainly worse. Maybe it's just a case of solidarity, but
as one prominent person in Yemen once told me..."We don't like the Palestinians; we just dislike Israelis more."

"We didn't see many beggar-women." (--my acid-test of poverty because of the lack of safety nets for women in the Middle East and Arab Asia)

Back at the hotel after a traffic jam, the day for tourism has finished. It's now 5:00 p.m. and dark. We agreed to meet in one of our three rooms for our gin and tonic, our stolen boiled eggs from breakfast, some oranges we bought, some pita bread left from lunch, and some hummus. We agreed to see the Holy Sepulcher the following morning.

The Holy Sepulcher is an amazing structure . It is located at the end of the "Via Dolerosa". One can view processions of different denominations from around the world on their pilgrimage up, up this street (one begins below and has to mount to arrive at the Holy Sepulcher), which was the path Christ took toward his crucifixion. I am of the opinion now that the most devout Christians in the world are the Korean ones. Not one day passed that we didn't see a procession of them. Of course, I probably lumped all of the French, Italians, and other Westerners into the same category, but the Koreans were fantastic. After arriving in the courtyard, the first object one sees is where Jesus was placed after the Crucifixion. It is a big flat, rectangular rock. Inside the church is a magnificent mosaic composed of minuscule tiles. I don't think that one can improve upon Mark Twain's description upon arriving in Jerusalem during his travels, 1867-1868:

"One naturally goes first to the Holy Sepulchre. It is right in the city, near the western gate; it and the place of the Crucifixion, and, in fact, every other place intimately connected with that tremendous event, are ingeniously massed together and covered by one roof---the dome of the Church of the Holy Sepulchre. Entering the building,....before you is a marble slab, which covers the Stone of Unction, whereon the Savior's body was laid to prepare it for burial. It was found necessary to conceal the real stone in this way in order to save it from destruction. Pilgrims were too much given to chipping off pieces of it to carry home. ....

"Entering the great Rotunda, we stand before the most sacred locality in Christendom -- the grave of Jesus. It is in the center of the church, and immediately under the great dome It is enclosed in a sort of little temple of yellow and white stone, of fanciful design."

(We present-day pilgrims had a monk allowing on a specified number of people in at a time. Perhaps too many had tried to squeeze in before and some were smothered, we reasoned.)

"Within the little temple is a portion of the very stone which was rolled away from the door of the Sepulchre, and on which the angel was sitting when Mary came thither "at early dawn". Stooping low, we enter the vault---the Sepulchre itself. It is only about six feet by seven, and the stone couch on which the dead Saviour lay extends from end to end of the apartment and occupies half of its width. It is covered with a marble slab which has been much worn by the lips of pilgrims. This
slab serves as an altar now. Over it hang some fifty gold and silver lamps, which are kept always burning, and the place is otherwise scandalized by trumpery gewgaws and tawdry ornamentation.

All sects of Christian (except Protestants) have chapels under the roof of the Holty Sepulchre, and each must keep to itself and not venture upon another's ground. It has been proven conclusively that they cannot worship together around the grave of the Savior of the World in peace."

end of quote

Since that time, however, in another area of Jerusalem, a British archaeologist had reason to believe that the actual burial place of Jesus was in a different area: outside the walls of Jerusalem. It seems that Joseph of Arimathea, a rich vintner, had his tombs in this place. There are grottoes, one of which has the shape of a skull, and this maybe was the tomb for three days of Jesus. The Anglicans built a church here, so I suspect that about all sects of Christians have now covered all
possibilities of burial places.

We saw Ste. Anne's church (she was the mother of Mary). At this place was where the lame man was trying to get into the healing pool and everyone by-passed him before the boiling waters stopped churning. Jesus told him to take up his mat and walk. The the ruins are still there of the baths and the deepest pool still has water in it. We saw Mary's birthplace, as well.

Afternoon: time to turn in the rental and catch a bus for Ramallah.

We caught the bus near the rental agency for the vehicle. We were to alight from the bus at the first checkpoint, two or three kilometers from Ramallah, and walk inside, but the bus driver kept going until we reached Ramallah. He charged us an extra two shekels because he didn't let us out where we asked. We had to busy ourselves with trying to contact my husband's daughter who was waiting for us at the first
checkpoint. She had forgotten that going into Ramallah is no problem; it's the
getting out of it that's a problem.

Ramallah is the seat of the Palestinian Authority. It also houses a newly created burial/shrine for Arafat. His tomb is inside the complex, where he was imprisoned by the Israelis until he died. The gates are all guarded and we were not allowed in, except through the one to his tomb. We tried them all...His tomb isn't a fanciful one. It was guarded by two uniformed Palestinians. There was one wreath on it. The grandchildren got a little too close and another very well-dressed Palestinian asked us to control our children and pointed to a line that we shouldn't cross.

Lunch in Ramallah was at a very nice restaurant where Kofi Annan and Ted Turner had lunch to celebrate Ted's gift to the United Nations of a billion dollars. Apparently, the Saudis tried to give money directly to the Palestinians and the U.S. and Israeli banks blocked the gift. I would like to think that Ted's gift to the U.N. was his way of thwarting these two national entities who seem to want to starve out the Palestinians. (After reading in the UK Guardian, I discovered that it's true. Ted did give $1 billion to the U.N. and chastised the Israelis.)

We intended to leave after lunch, but were told that we were now imprisoned in Ramallah. The checkpoint had closed as soon as we went through it. Someone said that there probably had been a bomb threat since the Annapolis meeting was that same day. We walked around and some shopped. Later, we heard that the checkpoint had reopened, but the line was three kilometers long with vehicles waiting to get out. Even if we walked there to go through the checkpoint, the buses would be filled with
other people who had been waiting all day to get through the checkpoint when it reopened. A nice Palestinian family invited us to their house for tea. The wife had had to walk three hours to get home and she was very angry. She left her car on the other side of the checkpoint in Jerusalem. She is a journalist. She said that when others heard that there had been a bomb, they asked? "Did they get any?"

Other Palestinians have semi-accepted their plight. Some say, "We won't have our country back in our lifetime, but we probably will in our children's lifetime. We won't see it, though." Some have decided not to stay angry all of the time.

We visited the Wailing Wall. I had assumed that this wall was the remnant of Solomon's Temple, (Mark Twain thought so) but the travel brochures stated that the wall is actually from the Temple of Herod the Great. I can understand wailing over Solomon's temple since he was the son of David, but as Herod was only one-half Jewish, I'm a little confused about the attraction. I'm sure they are venerating the last temple before the Romans destroyed it in 70 A.D., not the man who built it.

I missed the visit to the Dome of the Rock. I expect to receive photos of it soon. It is certainly the most outstanding sight from afar with it's golden dome. My husband and I walked around the Valley of Jehoshaphat, five or six kilometers, to visit the tomb of Mary. The hills of the valley opposite Jerusalem are covered with tombs. At the site of Mary's tomb, we descended 47 (or was it 57?) steps to view her tomb. The tomb is very ornate, but the building is very simple.

Our trip was finished. Our shopping was done. We reserved a taxi the day before our departure.

We walked to the bottom of the street from our Austrian Guest House to Lions' Gate on the day of our departure to catch our taxi since we thought he couldn't squeeze his taxi up the street to our hotel. We arrived two and half hours early at the airport. There was no immediate check-in with the airline company. We had to go through security first...all luggage. There were tags on the "good" bags and the bags without tags had to be viewed by security people in the center of the room. My sister-in-law and I were the chosen ones with bags minus security tags. My sister-in-law is 72 years old and has six grandchildren. There were four lanes with lines of five or six people in each line. We waited. Finally, it was my turn. They opened my one untagged bag and looked at a ceramic bottle that I had bought. They asked if I had any makeup or liquids and I told them that I intended to check everything, so it should be all right, even with the makeup.
They said, "You can go."

My sister-in-law, the 72-year-old woman with a bun was another matter. She had bought oodles of hand blown glass bottles and vases made in Hebron and had packed them carefully between her underwear and clothing in the piece of luggage without the tag. Out came all of her treasures along with her clothing. She had spent about an hour packing it all before we left the hotel. Officials waved magic wands over everything, even the seams and hems of her clothing. At this point, we were getting worried because we were the last people waiting to check in for our Air France flight. Finally, the two women officials occupying themselves with her began helping her re-pack everything. One brought her passport to the check-in line and made sure she had a seat on the plane, while the other continued the repacking process. All in all, my sister-in-law required an entire hour of security, or two man-hours of security because there were two taking care of her.
She had said on her way to the airport that she would be very happy to come back with my husband anytime he wanted if she were free from obligations to do so. After the ordeal of the airport, and even in front of all of the security people, she said, "I'm never coming back to this place!"

I still haven't sorted all of my impressions into neat little bundles of thoughts, yet. I expected Israel to be just as it is; with the topography of a smaller Yemen, with smaller mountains, having many historic buildings. I was surprised that the vehicles in the entire country are basically new. One doesn't see ancient Toyotas put together with rubber-bands that one sees in Yemen. The roads are better than we have in Drome. The system of roads and tunnels which the Israelis are building to by-pass the Palestinians and connect the illegal settlements to Jerusalem and Tel Aviv is impressive, as well. The "settlements" built by wealthy New Yorkers and Israelis are modern condominium complexes; these have been condemned by the United Nations to be destroyed since the land they are on was stolen from Palestinians. I heard that one can rent a condo in those settlements very cheaply and that half are unoccupied. I heard that the habitation taxes for
a small house in the Palestinian part of Jerusalem (habitation tax is paid by renters) is $7000 per year. I'm horrified that the owners of the small shops in the Palestinian section of Jerusalem, those who sell food and tourist trinkets, are being shoved out by exorbitant property taxes. I was horrified to hear while we were there that 400 or so young Jewish elementary school/middle school students ran rampaging through the streets with the Palestinian vendors wrecking their shops. I was happy to hear that Israeli policemen tried to stop them although it had been too late because the vendors had shuttered and closed their shops with the first wave of those little monsters.

If there is a world capitol of religion, it is certainly Jerusalem. How can it be that a place with such icons of the past should make such a mockery of what those icons stand for?



Liberal White Boy said...

Anoter day in Palestine. Thank your mother for the post.

MOM said...

Thank you, Liberal White Boy, for reading it.


scottie said...

Nice record of your trip, Mom.

Thanks for sharing it with us. I notice how French you have become ; describe more the food you ate than you places you visited !


just kidding

email me some pictures please

MOM said...

That's why I added the "French Twist", to show how French people travel...the 47% alcohol we bought at the monastery was important and the food we ate even more so.