JOURNEY TO JORDON

His and Hers Prayer Room Queen Alia Airport Amman Jordan

JOURNEY FROM CHICAGO TO AMMAN VIA LONDON 4/25/08 Friday 11:45 PM At last I am at OHare, Chicago. Due to stormy weather in the Chicago area, my flight from Wichita, Kansas was late. FIRST MISSED FLIGHT I missed my direct flight from Chicago to Amman Jordan on Royal Jordanian Airlines by an hour. Tomorrow at 10 PM, I will be on the next flight to Amman if there is room on the plane. I have about 20 hours to enjoy myself in the airport. Since the delay is due to weather, the airline is not obligated to pay for a hotel room. So I will find a comfy place to sleep in the airport and relax. Flight delays are to be expected. 4/26 Saturday Napped in the airport. It is a good time to read my Middle East travel book at a table in the food court, where I can people watch, eat and read. This is great! In The Royal Jordanian  Standby Line It is 8 PM. I am in the standby line at the Royal Jordanian Airline counter with about a dozen others. Royal Jordanian doesn’t have any idea how many seats will be available on the next flight to Jordan. The flight leaves at 10 PM. Hope there is room on this flight for us. ALABAMA As I talk with others in line, I learn there are several traveling to Iraq, via Amman, Jordan. Two are employees of contractors in Iraq. One is a truck driver. A rather quiet, intense young man. Not too talkative. It is his first trip to Iraq. The other man, is very tall, a mid-60ish Alabaman, with blond hair, white western style shirt, blue jeans and cowboy boots. I will call him ‘Alabama.’ THE STARING MATCH Alabama, while waiting in line, is quite talkative. Very extroverted and opinionated. In the line next to us is a thirtyish black gentleman talking to an older distinguished looking man, who may be from India or Pakistan. Alabama is listening to their conversation. The man leaves, and the black gentleman comments to Alabama about the other person, something about the person being a Dr. Alabama responds with an edge in his voice, ‘Do you have a problem with that!’ The black man says a quick ‘no!’ Emotional electricity is in the air! Alabama exchanges a few more words with the black gentleman, and their eyes meet, locked in anger, each staring at the other person’s eyes . A test of wills. Both know the game. The first to look away is the loser. The black man realizes this is a no-win contest, and to relieve the tension, makes an apology, not to Alabama, but to a lady at the front of our line. The confrontation is over, and I feel embarrassed, for both of them. It has been a long time since I experienced a racially loaded confrontation. Court at The Royal Jordanian Ticket Counter An elderly Jordanian, in a wheel chair is holding ‘court’ next to the Royal Jordanian counter. I leave my place in line and position myself within hearing distance of the group and the person in the wheelchair. He is surrounded by several persons, discussing the ‘state of affairs’ regarding their chances of flying to Jordan in the near future! The Jordanian in the wheelchair, mentions to the Royal Jordanian employee behind the counter, that a family member works for Royal Jordanian, and suggests, because of his relative, he is entitled to special considerations. The employee stares blankly at him as if he does not exist. The Standby List Behind the counter, a Royal Jordanian employee, with an air of authority, is writing names on an informal standby list. I hand him my tickets and passport.  ‘You are third on the list’, he states matter-of-factly. SECOND MISSED FLIGHT – NO ROOM  – TEMPERS FLARE! It is 10 PM, departure time for Jordan . It is announced there are only 3 seats for standby. They have been assigned, but not to anyone in our group. The standby list has been ignored. There are no seats on the flight for any of us. As it sinks into our brains we have now missed two flights to Jordan, a feeling of hopelessness, frustration and anger descends on the group, like a dark, heavy cloud. A US Passport is Torn UP It is after 10:30 PM . We are tired and tempers are short. A teen, with a small group of friends is shouting obscenities and tearing up his US passport. The angry teen storms past his friends, out of the ticketing area. Several teens follow, trying to reason with him.  Emotions are intense. There are angry exchanges of words, one teen tries to order him to return. He hurls more obscenities into the air and exits the terminal, announcing he is going home. Alabama negotiates with Royal Jordanian Alabama is at the counter making his best plea for a hotel room paid for by Royal Jordanian. The supervisor is not sympathetic. ‘It isn’t our airlines fault that weather caused you to miss the flight,’ is his cold response. Alabama changes his approach, trying to shame the employee, by mentioning that I am traveling to Jordan to build Habitat for Humanity houses for needy Jordanians. ‘Doesn’t he deserve any special consideration?  Alabama asks. The employee ignores Alabama, without comment. The $150 Deal Finally Royal Jordanian announces they are re-ticketing standbys for a flight to Amman Jordan by way of London, for $150 fee. No credit cards accepted -hard cash only. I am last in line.  They offer me the same deal, but American Airlines must endorse my ticket over to Royal Jordanian, first. It is close to midnight. Royal Jordanian staff are leaving the counter. One employee, seems to be more helpful than the others. ‘Have American Airlines endorse the ticket over to Royal Jordanian and bring the ticket to me tonight, and I can re-ticket you,’ he offers. He then tells me how to find him at the Royal Jordanian office on the upper floor, since the ticket counter is now closed. MY AIRPORT BUDDY While in line, I am befriended by a young man (twentyish) who is now now my ‘airport buddy.’ It is midnight. The Re-Ticketing Process We must locate the American Airlines counter. Of course it is in another terminal. Off we go – hopping on and off the airport tram. It is late. We are sleep deprived. We are lost and traveling in circles on the airport tram! With the help of my new buddy, we find the American Airlines counter which is closed until 3 AM – yes 3 AM! LOST AND FOUND While we scurry around O’Hare on the airport tram, my airport buddy finds a cell phone on a tram seat – it is about 1:30 AM. Being very concerned about it being returned to its owner, he locates an airport employee, to place in the airport’s Lost and Found. THE ROYAL JORDANIAN CHANGE OF ADVICE We return to the Royal Jordanian terminal and locate the Royal Jordanian office. It is a small, unimpressive office. Inside two people are counting money. The person I talked to at the counter earlier, recognizes us. Then he tells me what he should have explained earlier – American Airlines can re-ticket me for the flight to Amman through London, WITHOUT endorsing my ticket over to Royal Jordanian! At the ticket counter, in the presence of his supervisor, his job is to to sell me a Royal Jordanian ticket for the $150 re-ticketing fee.  Now that he is no longer under the scrutiny of his superior, he is able to give me advice that is in my best interest, rather the company’s best interest. So my new airport buddy and I return  to the other terminal to wait for the American Airline counter to open. Three AM isn’t too many minutes away. 2:30 AM My goal is to be first in line, but first I must locate an ATM for more cash.  I expect to pay extra for the ticket, since Royal Jordanian required $150 CASH for the re-ticketing fee. I try to use the ATM and it rejects my card.  My mind is in a fog, due to the late hour and lack of sleep.  I realize, I attempting to use a credit card in the machine, instead of an ATM card! Mike gives me some common sense advice about not showing my cash in public.  ‘Always go into a restroom booth, when taking large amounts of cash out of your money belt’ he advises.’  Then shows me a wad of bills, ‘this is my ATM!’ American Airlines Counter At 3:00 AM the American Airlines staff are slowly readying the counter waiting area for customers, by setting up a portable ‘fence’ for the waiting line. They appear less than happy to be on duty at this hour in the morning. No Re-ticketing Fee !!! Finally at 3:30 AM they are ready to talk to me. I am re-ticketed for a Royal Jordanian flight to Amman through London, and American Airlines charged me NO re-ticketing fee!  Go figure! MOHAMMAD – MY GUARDIAN ANGEL !!! As we talk, I learn that my new airport buddy is a Jordanian.  ‘My name is Mohammad, but you can call me Mike,’ he states.  I think, ‘After 9/11, this is a good decision on his part.’ Mike is a citizen of Jordan and the US, having acquired US citizenship while a student in computer science at a N. Carolina University. He ponders whether he will be able to keep both his US and Jordanian passports. Mike is anxious to contact his family in Jordan. I offer my cell phone. He calls, speaking to them in Arabic, he tells them his flight is delayed. Mike can’t sleep, so he watches our luggage while I sleep. COVERT MARINE OPERATIONS IN IRAN In our conversations, our talk drifts to the war in Iraq, al Queda, Osama bin Laden and Islamic radicals.  He states his disapproval of Islamic radicals terrorists actions using Islamic Jihad as the rationale.  “Jihad (a holy war against the infidels) is only authorized by the proper authority, and only in certain situations, the radicals are misusing Jihad,’ he confides.  He is a little vague about when a Jihad is appropriate, but his clear message to me is that he is not a radical Muslim. Mike explains that while in college, he moonlighted as an interpreter for the Marines in Iran – yes Iran, not Iraq. According to Mike, the US Marines have a covert presence in Iran, and they summoned Mike four times to Iran to interrogate ‘persons of special interest to the US.’ I am very curious about his interrogation procedure.  ‘How do you interrogate people,’ I ask. ‘While in a room, I question the person, using various techniques to determine if he is telling the truth.’ is his short reply.  Although he seems willing to entertain my questions, I am not  getting any in-depth information from him.  His replies are very matter-of-fact. I don’t know what to make of his comment that he worked for the U.S. Marines’ covert operations as an interrogator/private contractor in Iran. I forgot to ask him if he interviewed in Persian (Farsi), or Arabic, since only about 2% speak Arabic in Iran.  I doubt he speaks Farsi.  Is he spinning a wild story to impress me?  Mike doesn’t strike me as dishonest, nor does he seem to have a need to impress me.  In fact, he impresses me as being very honest. US VS JORDANIAN LAW As Mike and I discuss the incident of the teen tearing up his US passport Mike states that, ‘In Jordan, such an act of disrespect against a government document means imprisonment.’ Several times Mike asks, ‘are you certain the US does not have a law regarding such behavior?’ MIKE’S OPINION ABOUT OUR MISSED FLIGHTS Mike is not at all sympathetic toward Royal Jordanian Airlines.  He says they have many flights that are not full, arriving in Amman.   He implies that Royal Jordanian Airlines just doesn’t care about providing good service to its customers, and could try harder to accommodate its passengers. JORDAN’S KING ABDULLAH II AND FORMER KING HUSSEIN King Abdullah’s government (the current government of Jordan) is not as repressive as his father’s (King Hussein’s) prior government, according to Mike. It is interesting to note that King Abdullah II was educated in the USA and England.  Born in 1962, he became King after his father’s death, in 1999.  He is a direct descendant of Muhammad, founder of lslam, who is  revered by Muslims as God’s last prophet. KING ABDULLAH II King Abdullah’s great grandfather, King Abdullah I, was assassinated in Jerusalem, after prayers on the Temple Mount.  A Palestinian extremist fired the shots. King Abdullah II’s father,  witnessed the assassination, and was saved when the assassin’s bullet was deflected off a metal pinned to his chest earlier that day, by his great grandfather. A year later, at age 16, King Abdullah II’s father, Prince Hussein, became King Hussein of Jordan. ————————————————————————– Now, back to the flight story.   Initially, I was due to arrive in Amman at 5:30 PM today (Saturday). I have a hotel room reserved in Amman for today (Saturday) and tomorrow (Sunday) – but won’t make it due to the flight delay.  I am glad I purchased flight delay insurance, which will help pay for some meals and missed  reservations. 4/27/08 Sunday Flight to London Our flight from Chicago leaves at 10 PM tonight and arrives in London tomorrow at 3 AM. Then at 5 PM I fly from London to Jordan. I am now on the flight to London. My Conversation With Alabama Alabama is sitting several rows ahead of me, on the row next to the exit door. He is at least 6 feet tall or taller, and needs the extra leg room the exit row seats provide. Although, I do not approve of his racist behavior at OHare, I want to find out more about his job in Iraq. I walk to his row and sit down next to him. Alabama Tells His Story From earlier conversations at the airport, I know Alabama’s background is in law enforcement, and he is on his way to Kirkuk, Iraq. He is an employee of a US contractor. I ask, ‘how long will you be in Iraq and what do you do?’ Alabama explains, ‘I have an obligation to complete the last 3 months of a two year contract. My assignment is to train Iraqi police recruits on crime scene investigation techniques.’ Alabama’s Pay and Bonus ‘I am paid $180,000/year, plus a $10,000 bonus for signing up plus an additional $10,000 when I complete my tour.’ ‘If I fail to complete the last 3 months, I forfeit $20,000 (the $10,000 initial sign up bonus, and the $10,000 completion of duty bonus).’ Iraqi High School Diplomas for $12 ‘It is difficult training Iraqi police recruits, since some can’t read and write.  Recruits are required to have a high school diploma, but for $12 anyone can obtain a high school diploma  in Bagdad, without attending school,’ Alabama laments. Iraqi Murder Investigations Alabama describes a typical crime scene investigation.  ‘After a murder, an Iraqi family’s priority is burial, as soon after death as possible, since they don’t embalm the body. Then a few days later the murder is reported to the police. The victim has been buried and the crime scene compromised.  This makes it very difficult to investigate the crime scene.’ M-4 Automatic Rifle Stocks Discarded by Iraqis Alabama continues, “The Iraqi’s take the stocks off the M-4 automatic rifles, because they want to look ‘cool.’ So there are piles of new M-4 stocks in Iraq.” The 2008 Presidential Elections Conversation turns to the elections. Alabama states matter-of-factly, ‘there will be riots if a black is elected president.’ The Conspiracy ‘Our nation is slowly being desensitized to mixed (white and black) relationships, by the advertising industry,’ according to Alabama’s world view. Alabama’s Home Arsenal Then his mood lightens as he describes his arsenal of automatic weapons and ammunition in his Alabama home. He is prepared for anything. Alabama is married. ‘I am doing it (working in Iraq) for the money,’ he repeats several times. He stares into the distance, as if a vision of his home and family is passing before him. Traveling Through Danger ‘How,’ I ask, ‘will you travel from Amman to Kirkuk?’ ‘Another employee and I will travel by Humvee, with no armor on the vehicle, or armed escort, from the Jordanian border to Kirkuk. We will have flak jackets and automatic weapons, driving as fast as possible,’ is his terse reply. Obviously he is not relishing the thought of the dangerous road trip to Kirkuk. ‘My hope is that we will not be ambushed or hit an IED buried in the road.’ He then recounts the statistics on the number of contractors killed in Iraq, that the news never reports.  ‘Only the military deaths are newsworthy to the press,’ he states. I know there is danger waiting ahead of him. Facing Terror Before I left the States, I read ‘Facing Terror,’ a true story, by Carrie McDonnall. The book describes survival after an ambush on the road to Kirkuk. Unfortunately she lost her husband, and two dear friends, also a missionary couple, in the ambush. I know Alabama is heading into a very dangerous region of Iraq. Don’t read the book without a box of Kleenex and a fistful of antidepressants. It is a sad and frightening book. Ask me for my copy, borrow one from your local library, or purchase it on the Internet  for $10 London 4/28/08 Monday We arrive on schedule in London at Heathrow Airport. It is 3 AM.   Alabama is at the tourist information desk, pricing hotel rooms. He plans to check into a hotel room no matter the cost. At $350/night – A hotel room is too pricey for me and not close to downtown London. I will stay in the airport. As Mike and I walk through the airport, we notice many others sleeping on the floor. We are searching for the Royal Jordanian counter. After exploring the airport several times, and asking directions, we finally find the Royal Jordanian ticket counter in a ‘hidden’ area.  It was not really hidden, but not in plain sight to us, because there was a stairway blocking our view. Sleeping At Heathrow Airport I roll out my sleeping bag, and fall asleep immediately while Mike watches over me. Mike hasn’t slept for 3 days, and I could tell. His short term memory was gone! He would ask me a question and a few minutes later ask me the same question. I slept until Mike awakens me – alerting me to the fact that Royal Jordanian staff are arriving at the counter. We have our tickets, so there is no reason to stay in this area which will soon be filling with customers. Next Stop Downtown London It is around 6 AM. I need some English money, so I can buy breakfast. Then I must figure out how to get to downtown London. I invite Mike to go with me, but he is not interested in leaving the airport. He is only interested in going home, not touring London. The bus ticket office is located right outside the airport. I am pleasantly surprised tickets are half price for me, since I am over 60! For only $16 round trip, I take the bus to downtown London! At London’s Victoria bus station, bus tours of downtown London are for sale. For about $40 I will take a several hour tour of downtown London, with a real live English tour guide. London EyeThe London Eye click image to enlarge Ivan the London Tourist! From the tour bus I see Buckingham Palace , Trafalgar Square, Westminster Abbey, Tower of London, Houses of Parliament/Big Ben. The bus ticket allows me to get off, tour each site, and re-board on the next bus, anytime during the next 24 hours. But I have a flight to Amman Jordan leaving at 3:10 PM, so I must return to Heathrow Airport.  At noon, before returning, I eat some chicken nuggets at the London Victoria Bus Station, home of the Angry Whopper! The Burger King sign – home of the ANGRY WHOPPER AND DOUBLE ANGRY WHOPPER! At the London airport, I meet Mike, and board the plane for Amman Jordan. He offers his assistance, if I should have any problems getting my Jordanian visa, or going through customs at the Jordan Airport. He expresses his anxiety about returning home. His parents have moved to a home outside of Amman, and he forgot to ask for directions to their home. He has been unable to contact them by phone, since his last call on my phone.  He tries to use my phone again, but hears only a busy signal. I do not see Mike again. …………………………………………………………….. After several days of flight delays and detours, my Middle Eastern adventure is about to begin. Thoughts are running through my mind about the first time I tried to journey to the Holy Land. My wife and I wanted to take a special trip to Israel to celebrate our 40th wedding anniversary. It was 2006 and Hezbollah paramilitary force in Lebanon attacked Israel. Based on advice from our travel agent, earlier in the year we changed our plans, and took a Mediterranean cruise instead. …………………………………………………………… Amman to Jerusalem Tuesday April 29, 2008 Arrival at Queen Alia Airport – Amman Jordan It is a few minutes before midnight. I am at Queen Alia Airport, Amman, Jordan. I purchase a multi-entry visa, since I plan to travel to Israel and return. The Jordanian customs line is moving along smoothly. In the line next to me, is the teen who tore up his US Passport. He calmly explains to authorities that he does not have his passport and is in the process of replacing it. They smile and pass him through. After exiting immigration, I realize I am a stranger in a strange land! amman-jordan-airportAMMAN AIRPORT(click photo to enlarge) It is after midnight. I am three days behind my planned travel schedule. I am tired, confused, and on my own. I must decide what to do next. The choices seem to be , 1)Attempt to get to my hotel in down town Amman, or 2) stay at the airport until I can catch a bus to the Israeli border. If I go to my hotel, I will be arriving in the middle of the night with no guarantee of a room, since my reservations were the prior two days. I decide to catch a bus to the Abdali bus station in Amman where buses and taxis will be leaving for the border. Looking around the airport, I spot the opening to a hallway. Above the entrance I see the following sign: His and Hers Prayer Room Queen Alia Airport Amman Jordan These are the signs in the Airport for those who need to pray. Maybe I need to pray! I enter the hallway, and to my right and left are empty carpeted rooms. Not too much demand at this time of night! The Queen Ali Airport has two terminals, with a street separating them. They are identical in appearance, except one is marked terminal 1, the other terminal 2. One is for arrivals, the other for departures. Simple enough, right? Wrong!  Since they are identical, after walking back and forth between them, searching for the bus to downtown, eventually I become confused, which terminal I am in. Outside the airport terminal, The air is pleasant temperature. Several taxi drivers offer their services. ‘Where is the bus stop for the Abdali bus terminal,’ I ask. The reply is always, ‘No Abdali bus!’ I walk back and forth between the two terminals, in search of the bus stop, and ticket counter. Finally one helpful Jordanian, indicates I should cross the street to the departure terminal to catch the bus. This I do, but still can’t find the bus. Then another helpful Jordanian escorts me across the street and asks for a tip. I give him a Jordanian Dinar, then discover I am at arrivals terminal. I am going in circles!  It is like a bad dream! Outside the arrivals terminal is a sign on pillar, with the bus schedule. It indicates there is a 3AM and 7 AM bus to the Abdali bus station. Sleeping at the Airport – Again! I lay out my bed role find a quiet secluded spot in the airport, lay down and sleep until 3 AM.                                                                    INSIDE THE AMMAN AIRPORT  – above is the inside of the terminal – below is the cafe menu – multiply prices by  1.4 to convert to US Dollars. (click photos to enlarge)

Multiply Menu Prices by 1.4 to convert to US Dollars At 3 AM, I awake- and there is no bus. So I return to my spot on the floor and sleep until 6:30 AM.  There is a bus, but the driver indicates I can ride it only with a ‘transfer.’ Finally I locate a person in a car rental office, with good enough English, that we can communicate. No Abdali He explains that the Abdali bus terminal had been replaced 3 months ago.  It is no longer a working bus terminal! That is why everyone kept telling me, ‘No Abdali   Bus!’ ABDALI BUS TERMINAL  Demolition In Progress -> It is almost 7 AM, and I am outside again. A bus is waiting for passengers. The Bus to Downtown Amman The bus driver exits the bus. ‘Is this bus going to downtown Amman? is my hopeful question? ‘Where I do I buy a ticket?’ Amman Jordan\'s Queen Alia Airport  Tourist Police He motions to come inside the airport terminal with him. The Argument Between Bus Drivers Before he enters the terminal, another bus driver approaches him on the sidewalk. A very heated argument ensues. A small crowd gathers. One man attempts to stand between them like a referee at a boxing match. He has a hand on each man’s shoulders, keeping them physically separated. A Tourist Policeman in a helmet with a silver spike on top, is aware of the argument but looks the other way.  These two aren’t tourists, so are not his concern. Tourist Police

Tourist Policeman (click photo to enlarge)

Tourist Policeman (click photo to enlarge)

Walking toward the bus I see a person open the side cargo bay, put in his suitcase, close the cargo bay door, then enter the bus. All writing on the bus is Arabic, so I don’t know if it is a bus to Amman. Another person exits the bus, and indicates by gestures and Arabic, that I put my luggage into the cargo bay and board the bus, which I do.   It is almost 7 AM, and time for the bus to leave. In a few minutes, the man who confronted the bus driver enters the bus, sits in the bus driver’s seat and starts the engine. I realize it must be the 7 AM shift change, and he is the replacement driver. In a few more moments, a person walks down the aisle and takes my Jordanian coins for a ticket, less than a dollar. I had changed US Dollars for Jordanian Dinars when I processed though Jordanian immigration. A money exchange  booth was open, so travelers could change their foreign currency for dinars, in order to pay for their visas ($10 for single entry and $15 for multiple entry visas). On the road to Amman Finally I am on my way to Amman. The landscape looks very arid. The highway is modern. People are standing and walking along the highway. The women are covered from head to toe in head coverings and long dresses. The men are wearing shirts and jeans. Some have Arab head coverings.  We are traveling north to Amman about 20 miles away.  The bus stops to pick up and drop off riders on the way.

EVEREST RESORT AMMAN JORDAN

Coming into Amman, I see no slums, but do see a large resort called ‘Everest’ on a hill on the outskirts  Amman.                                                    Everest Resort —–> The New Bus Station Arriving at the new bus terminal, I see it is a bus parking lot on the edge of Amman. Taxis are parked like vultures waiting for their unsuspecting prey, or passengers. Mohammad the Taxi Driver I depart the bus. The bus driver retrieves my luggage suitcase from the cargo bay of the bus.  Immediately, a taxi driver eagerly offers his services. I indicate I am traveling to the Jordanian border. He offers a fare of 30 Dinars, about $35.00. After some haggling, and the driver consulting with another driver, he agrees to my offer of 20 Dinars, about $28 for the trip. I enter  the taxi’s front seat. Jordanian Hospitality in a Taxi He offers me a hot cup of sweet tea. I hadn’t eaten since the flight to Amman, yesterday afternoon, so the tea is very welcome. Is mee Ivan, is mak? I quickly look at my Arabic phrase book, and say, ‘is mee Ivan, is mak?’ Translated, ‘my name is Ivan, what’s yours?’ THE OTHER MOHAMMAD ‘Mohammad,’ is the reply. As we travel through the streets and city traffic, he asks the usual questions, with a heavy Arabic accent, ‘Is this your first trip to Amman? Where are you from? Do you like Amman? We leave the city limits and he turns on the radio. Arabic music blares. Then an Arabic call in talk show begins, very loud. Mohammad is intent on driving and listening to the radio.  We are headed west toward the border Israeli border. The countryside is very hilly and desolate. There are crude shelters on the side of the hills. Click photo to enlarge –  ROAD SIDE SCENES.

JORDAN COUNTRYSIDE (click to enlarge photo to see shelters)

JORDAN COUNTRYSIDE (Click Photo to Enlarge – to see shelters)

They appear to be makeshift structures, made out of boards. Possibly sheep and goat herders live in them. Mohammad is talking about the Dead Sea, and offers to take me on a side trip. I decline, since I want to get to Jerusalem, and will visit the Dead Sea later. Mohammad is now speaking in his broken English about taxi fares not being enough to cover expenses. It is difficult to understand him, but I get the feeling he is laying the ground work for more money. He stops at a gas station and says he needs money for gas. Jordanian Gas Station I hand him the 20 Dinars, our agreed on taxi fare. He accepts the cash, puts some gas in the taxi, then shows me 5 Dinars change left from my 20. He demands 15 more Dinars. DUMPED IN AN ARAB VILLAGE As he drives out of the gas station, he continues his demands for more Dinars, while talking to Allah.  As our taxi enters the small town’s intersection, he turns right onto the main street. He waives at a taxi sitting across the street, as if they are expecting each other. The other taxi makes a u-turn and pulls in front of our vehicle. Mohammad opens the trunk and drops my suitcase onto the street and at the same time informs me the other taxi is taking me the rest of the way to the border! ‘You agreed to take me to the border for 20 dinars,’ I protest. I realize , I do not have a strong negotiating position. I feel trapped, helpless, and victimized. I look around and see no tourist police, to ask for assistance. Mohammad is determined to dump me. ONWARD TOWARD THE ISRAELI BORDER I enter the other taxi and away we go.  According to Mohammad, the driver will take me to the border for 5 Dinars. This taxi driver speaks no English, so I tell myself I have to trust that he is an honest village taxi driver, and not interested in kidnapping me for a ransom. To my relief, we arrive at the border crossing, called the King Hussein Bridge in Jordan, and the Allenby Bridge in Israel, I exit the taxi, pay the driver. JORDANIAN CUSTOMS OFFICE There is a Jordanian customs terminal, where luggage and visas are checked. the main purpose of the terminal seems to be the collecting the Jordanian exit fee, which I had paid when I purchased my plane ticket to Jordan. They waive me through, telling me I have nothing to pay. A Jordanian Express Transit (JET) bus is waiting outside, to carry me to the Israeli side of the border for a small fare. The bus stops at 3 check points, a short distance from each other, and each time our passports are checked.

JORDANIAN BORDER GUARD TOWER KING HUSSEIN BRIDGE  (click photos to enlarge)

BORDER GUARD TOWER  (click photo to enlarge)

ISRAELI BORDER We arrive at the Israeli check point. All luggage is unloaded and x-rayed. Inside there are lines at the money exchange booth. Our passports are checked. We enter another room with lines for questioning by Israeli immigration. The Israeli female immigration employee questions the purpose of my trip, where I am staying, asks if I am traveling alone, whether I have friends or relatives in Israel, and if I will be traveling to Gaza or the West Bank. After clearing immigration, I pick up my suit case, and change Dollars for Shekels. ONWARD TO JERUSALEM Outside the building, are minivans waiting to taxi us to Jerusalem. they don’t leave until they are full. They hold 10 passengers, each paying about $7.00.  The first taxi is almost full except for one seat. A couple wants on, so I offer my seat, so they can travel together. Then I wait for the next taxi to fill. I wait 30 – 45 minutes, and we are on our way.   In a few minutes we are traveling on a road south of Jericho, which we can be seen from the road. Then the road climbs the hills leading into Jerusalem. The driver seems to imagine he is a race car driver, as we careen on the curves. JERUSALEM – AT LAST! Jerusalem’s elevation is 2,577 feet above sea-level, 13 miles west of the Dead Sea, 32 miles east of the Mediterranean Sea, and about 80 miles south of the Sea of Galilee. The city is almost surrounded by small mountains. We arrive at the eastern edge of Jerusalem, passing through the Arab part of the city. It is run down and not too prosperous. A little farther down the road on our left is a huge wall, on the right Arab school children play on the sidewalk. We are on the north side of the Old City of Jerusalem near the Damascus gate entrance.Palestinian Neighborhood - East Jerusalem into the old walled city of Jerusalem!  http://www.flickr.com/photos/exothermic/1166605739/ The bus driver announces the stop, and then pulls over to the curb for me to exit. At last, I have arrived at my destination, the Old City.   http://www.preceptsagemont.org/images/walledcity.jpg For an internet tour of Jerusalem and a summary of its history go to http://www.jewishvirtuallibrary.org/jsource/vie/Jerusalem.html jerusalem-bread-vendor-in-arab-section Arab Street Vendor across the street from the Old City (click to enlarge photo) ENTERING THE ANCIENT CITY OF JERUSALEM I cross the street, and head toward the Damascus Gate, which I know is a block or two west. Entering the ancient gate, I find myself on a long narrow Arab souk (market) street, full of merchants and their shops. This is the Muslim quarter of the Old City of Jerusalem. I follow the street called Souk Khan El-Zeit, heading in a southerly direction.  My hostel is in this direction on the opposite side of the city. The street ends in a ‘T’ and I head right (west), and exit the walled city. LOST IN THE OLD CITY I am a lost tourist. I know I must find the Jaffa Gate and King David street. A man approaches and asks, ‘can I help you?’ ‘I am  looking for the Citadel Youth Hostel.’ ‘I know it, I will walk with you to the hostel.’ ‘How much will this cost?’ I ask and he replies, ‘nothing.’ What a nice guy! I think sarcastically, since I am very skeptical.   But I am lost and need direction, so I decide to accept his offer to lead the way. JOSEPH TO THE RESCUE He introduces himself as ‘Joseph,’ and calmly states he respects all religions and believes in one God. We walk through the narrow winding streets of the Armenian Quarter, and shortly, we are standing in front of the entrance to the Citadel Youth Hostel. THE CITADEL YOUTH HOSTEL

CITADEL ENTRANCE click photo to enlarge

CITADEL ENTRANCE click photo to enlarge ->

I had reservations for Monday through Thursday night. Or so I thought. Joseph offers to wait outside, while I check in. He indicates he will make me an offer to be my guide, when I return. Entering the hostel, I find myself at the reception desk/computer room/lounge area. The man at the desk, asks my name. ‘I have reservations.’ NO ROOM AT THE INN? ‘Since you did not show up the night before, I am not obligated to honor your request for reservations Citadel Youth Hostel Front Desk (Click Photo to Enlarge) DORM (click photo to enlarge) ‘This bed is yours.’ There are at least 16 beds in the room, some are bunk beds.  Although this is a youth hostel, there is no age limit, but most of the guests are college age, travelers of  the world. I pay for the bed, only about $11/night. A real deal! I put my suitcase on the bed and head out to the street where Joseph is patiently waiting. I had reviewed a tour brochure, while checking in at the hostel, so I had an idea of the cost of tours. ………………… The Citadel (CLICK PHOTO TO ENLARGE) Some may think I stay in youth hostels because I want to save money – The cost is only  $12/night for a dorm room . That’s true, I not only save money, I enjoy meeting people from all over the world who love to travel. They are easy to talk with, and share experiences. Jamil,  the hostel manager, calls me ‘the other Ivan’ ( referring to a 1950’s or 60’s wrestler with the name of Ivan). The Citadel youth Hostel is a 700 years old cave-like building, with uncut stone walls,  two upper floors with small rooms and a roof to sleep on. Each floor has its own dingy shower and toilet. The bathrooms are not attractive, and there is a kitchen for guests to use, but no dining room. The Citadel offers free internet, and a TV lounge, where guests share their adventures,  and travel tips. I love this place! JOSEPH’S OFFER Joseph offers to show me around Jerusalem for 2 1/2 hours for 150 shekels, about $50. He will show me the ‘Wailing Wall,’ a synagogue, Mary’s Tomb, the Upper Room, and the Mount of Olives. Since I arrived a day later than planned, I decide to accept his offer, since I reason, with his help I can see more of the city in less time, than I could on my own. SEPHARDIC SYNAGOGUES We walk to a Sephardic Synagogue in the Old City, which is actually four synagogues, connected by door ways. The Sephardic Jews were Jews who were expelled from Spain in 1492, and Portugal in 1497. The buildings all date back to the 1500s, 1600s and 1700s. The names of the synagogues are the Ben Zaki, Prophet Elijah, Istanbuli and Central. http://www.sephardiccouncil.org/tour.html

Sepahardic Synagogue

Sephardic Synagogue

The Ben Zaki Synagogue once held a reception for Austrian Emperor Franz Joseph, in 1870. This is the synagogue where the Chief Sephardic Rabbis are given their official robes and title. The Prophet Elijah Synagogue, is so named, based on an ancient tradition.  An interesting story that goes like this. The Sephardic Jewish community, at first was so small, it didn’t have enough men to make a minyan ( A minyan is a Jewish requirement to have a minimum of ten men for a prayer service) . According to tradition, on the Day of Atonement (Yom Kippur) at the beginning of the prayer service there were nine men, and then an old man suddenly appeared to make the tenth. And then at the end, he disappeared. Then the worshipers realized they had been visited by the Prophet Elijah, and named the synagogue accordingly. The Istanbuli Synagogue, is so named since it was built by immigrants from Istanbul, Turkey. And finally the Central Synagogue is in the middle, and was formerly the Ben Zaki Synagogue’s women’s section. This is where the Chief Rabbi ( Hahambashi ) of Palestine was installed. Joseph and I approach the ruins of the Tiferet Yisarel Synagogue.  The history of this Hasidic Synagogue is very interesting.  For its history go to: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Tiferes_Yisrael_Synagogue

Tiferet Synagogue Ruins

Tiferet Synagogue Ruins

‘What is the meaning of tiferet?'(see http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Tiferet ), I ask Joseph. His reply, ‘fringes,’ (that hang down from the four cornered Jewish garments). I know that fringes are tzizits, not tiferet so I ask him again, vaguely recalling that the term is used in Kabbalah. Joseph has a blank look on his face, and repeats that tiferet are fringes. ………………………………… To learn about tzizit go to: http://www.israeltoday.co.il/Portals/0/062006jewlexzizit.jpg For an explanation of tiferet go to: http://www.inner.org/sefirot/seftifer.htm ……………………………………… Near the ruins of the old synagogue is a scenic overlook of the Mt of Olives, on which Jesus will return.  The wailing wall can also be seen from here.

View looking east from the Jewish Quarter

View looking east from the Jewish Quarter click photos to enlarge

JOSEPH AND THE BLIND MAN Joseph comments that if I see a blind man ( a friend of his) please give him a shekel. And sure enough, a blind man comes walking by and I offer him a shekel. THE TOUR IS ABOUT TO END – SOUVENIR AND LUNCH TIME Joseph is a welcome companion and pleasant tour guide, although we had not visited Mary’s tomb or the Upper Room (supposed Last Supper location), the 2 ½ hour tour is about over. ‘There is one last stop, a souvenir shop managed by a friend of mine, would like to look?’ asks Joseph. I am not too interested, but did find a small souvenir plate, which I purchased. It had been the day before since I had eaten.  and Joseph, invites me to dine with him at an out door restaurant in the Old City. We agree to share a large Tuna salad ( my treat, since I paid for both of us, a total of 100 shekels with tip – about $30). It is huge. More than either of us can eat. I had not eaten anything substantial since the flight, it is past time to eat. JOSEPH’S BACKGROUND Joseph talks about himself, his family, with whom he didn’t get along, and his former job as a language instructor at the university. Joseph reminisces about his background, his family problems, and reveals he is a recovering alcoholic. According to Joseph he has lived in the US and has applied several time to immigrate to the US, but was turned down for a Permanent Resident Card, due to having served prison time, related to his alcohol and family problems. His brother, on the other hand, was allowed to immigrate to the US, and has a Permanent Resident Card. He expressed bitterness toward the US Immigration authorities, and felt he had been treated unfairly. Joseph confesses ‘I am not a licensed tour guide,’ but the government doesn’t bother me since I am self employed.’ All tour guides in Israel must be licensed, to be employed by a tour agency. He admits he is a Muslim, and states ‘I have a very open mind, and am very accepting of others.’ Our discussion turns to Palestinian and Jewish relations. ‘Our leaders are the biggest problem, both Palestinian and Israeli.’ He continues to discuss the politics of Israel and based on his comments, it is obvious to me that he has some bias against the Israelis and some sympathy toward the Palestinians, but not the extremists, such as Hamas, who are ‘very dangerous and violent’ in his opinion. JOSEPH’S SECOND OFFER Towards the end of the day, Joseph offers his services for a second day. ‘I would like to accompany you on a trip, tomorrow to the Sea of Galilee.’ ‘Rent a car. You will pay for my meals and time (300 shekels worth or about $90 ).’ His plan seemed to be worth exploring, so we walk outside the walled city to an area near the King David Hotel, which had several car rental agencies. We checked rates at  Avis, Hertz and Budget.  Budget has the best rates, at about $78 for 24 hours including insurance and unlimited miles. I reserve a car but give no credit card or cash deposit, so have no commitment. The plan is that we meet me at 8 AM and then travel by rental care to the Sea of Galilee area. ‘I will accompany you. Why take a group tour, with set schedules, everyone doing the same thing, ‘ he rationalizes, ‘we will set our own agenda and pace. I will not be explaining any history or background information of the area. I will be your companion and we will just enjoy the trip. ‘ As we return to the Old City, along the way, Joseph excuses himself.  He indicates he has the urge to relieve himself, out of sight, in some bushes along the side walk. I am slightly paranoid, I guess, but I am not sure what he was doing in those bushes. Since he admitted to an alcohol problem, he may have a drug habit and needs to medicate himself out of my sight.  Or maybe he really had to relieve himself. Or he may have been calling a friend, since, a few minutes later, we meet another of his ‘down and out’ friends.  Joseph asks me to give him a shekel to help during a difficult time. As we continued our walk toward the Jaffa gate on the west side of the Old City wall, I am having second thoughts about the next day. I CHANGE MY MIND At the hostel, Joseph asks for 150 Shekels ($50) for his services for the day, and a 50 shekel ($15) tip or about $65.00 total, ‘If you are happy with my services’. I respond, ‘but we did not see Mary’s Tomb, or the Upper Room, so I am a little disappointed, but I do not want any hard feelings, so I will pay what you ask.’ And then I add, ‘I am not interested in your offer to accompany me tomorrow for 300 shekels ($90,) plus meals, plus car rental (another $78).’ ‘A licensed tour guide on a group tour costs only $82. For that fee, I don’t have to drive and the guide will tell me the history of the historical sights around the Sea of Galilee.’ Joseph had disappointment written on his face, but didn’t argue. ‘Did you give the car rental agency any down payment or credit card?’ He inquired with sincerity in his voice.  He seemed truly concerned, that I was not obligated for a rental car. I assure him all is well, since I had gave neither cash nor a credit card. Joseph  offered an Islamic blessing for me and my family, as we said our good-byes.  Looking over his shoulder as he walked away on St Mark’s street… he repeated his question again, ‘are you sure the rental agency doesn’t have your credit card number?’ ‘They don’t have my credit card number, I am sure,’ I replied. It was the last time I would see my Muslim friend and guide. I entered the hostel, and immediately I sign up for the Sea of Galilee tour. The tour leaves from several major Jerusalem hotels at 5:45 AM. THE SHOWER AND LOST BILLFOLD I climb the ancient stone steps to the second floor showers, and proceed to hang my clothes and a traveler’s billfold (a wallet which hangs on a cord around my neck), containing my cash and passport on a hook protruding from the wall. The shower stall has no place to sit or lay anything, such as shoes, watch or billfold, except for the toilet (without a lid over the seat) and the wall hook.  The floor of the shower  is flat so the water spreads all over the floor, rather than sloped toward the drain.  A squeegee, with a long handle is a gentle reminder that unless one likes standing in a pool of dirty shower water, it needs to be used to push the water towards the drain. After the shower, I return to the main floor dorm area, to relax, and visit with the other guests, in the TV area.   A little later in the evening, the desk clerk hands me my billfold, with all the cash and my passport still in it.  Someone found it in the shower and turned it in.  Yes there are honest travelers in this hostel!! 4/30/08 Wednesday  THE SEARCH FOR THE KING DAVID HOTEL I awaken early, since I want to get to the King David Hotel where I will meet the tour group. Yesterday, while shopping for a rental car, Joseph pointed to the King David Hotel, nearby, so I am fairly confident I can find it. I estimate it is only about a 15 minute walk. JERUSALEM BY MOON LIGHT I exit the Old City though the Jaffa Gate.  The wall of the Old City is on my left.  The early morning sky  boasts a crescent moon hovering over the old city wall like a jewel lying on dark blue velvet.  The wall appears to golden in the moonlight. As I walk down the hill, I am overwhelmed by the beauty of it all.  I stop, pull my camera from its carrying case on my belt and take several photos. JAFFA GATE – OLD CITY WALL OF JERSULAEM LOST IN NEW JERUSALEM After walking about 30 minutes, I realize I am lost. The streets are deserted. No taxis, no pedestrians. Just me alone in Jerusalem. Then I spot a young man walking ahead of me. ‘Sir, excuse me sir,’ I shout, hoping he understands English. “Where can I find the King David Hotel?’ KIDNAPPED OR RESCUED? Immediately he hails a passing car, which stops abruptly. He enters the front and motions for me to get into the back seat. My mind races, here I am, lost in Jerusalem, in a car with two strangers, and at their mercy. Is this a taxi? Or a private car? Or am I being kidnapped by some extremist crazy?’ These thoughts are flying through my mind. If this is a taxi, I am probably going to be a victim again of an unscrupulous taxi driver who will charge a huge fare, since I had not agreed on fare when I entered the car.  If I am being kidnapped – I don’t have time to finish the thought…. The car stops, the young man jumps out, and opens my car door . ‘How much do I owe you?’ I ask the driver. ‘Nothing,’ is the reply. I don’t believe my ears! but I am relieved, and little uncomfortable that he doesn’t ask for any payment. On the street, I question the young man, who hurries toward a door in the side of the building. ‘I work here, at the King David Hotel, and the front entrance is just around the corner.’ I will show you.’ He walks to the corner of the building and points. I am in shock! The car must have been a King David Hotel taxi. THE KING DAVID HOTEL Entering the hotel, I explain to the reception desk employee, ‘I am here for a tour.’ ‘Please wait in the lobby.   That is where the tour groups meet,’ she replies confidently. It is almost 5:45 AM, so I am right on time, thanks to two helpful Israelis. While I wait I explore the lobby, and admire the hallway. In the floor of the hallway, are signatures and dates of world famous persons who stayed at the King David. It is very impressive. Click photo to enlarge.

Danny Kay's Signature in Lobby of King David Hotel

Danny Kay’s Signature in Lobby Floor King David Hotel – click to enlarge

See http://www.globalhotelindex.com/jpg/1703297.jpg and http://bonya.files.wordpress.com/2007/10/p1010069.JPG NO TOUR GROUP No sign of a tour group. I return to the desk clerk and ask, ‘should I be concerned that no one from the tour agency has arrived?’ She phones the tour agency and then instructs me, ‘stand outside the hotel, not in the lobby.’ I exit the hotel, and in a few minutes, a mini-bus arrives.  There is only Hebrew writing on the side of the bus- no English. The driver has been waiting in front of the hotel on the street and I was waiting inside for an hour. THE TOUR GROUP – TWO GEORGIANS AND ONE PERUVIAN Inside the mini-van are three passengers. Two young female students (attending school in London) from the country of Georgia, dressed from Georgian Students head to toe in black dresses and head coverings (they looked like nuns),  and Carlos from Peru. Our tour bus heads out of Jerusalem for Tel Aviv, where we will meet the rest of the tour group. The three are interesting companions. The students have never heard of Machu Pichu, Peru, and of course Carlos thought that was really odd. Carlos is in the agricultural business, and works for a company with offices in Peru and the US. He is really interested in the trees in Israel, especially those he recognizes, that are also grown in Peru. About 8:30 AM we are heading north of Tel Aviv. The bus driver stops the bus in a median of the four lane highway, exits the bus, puts his cell phone to his ear, and stands next to the van. POST TRAUMATIC STRESS SYNDROME I am still experiencing flashbacks to Mohammad the Jordanian taxi driver, dumping me in the village three miles from the border, and demanding more money. A little ‘Post Traumatic Stress Syndrome’ I guess! So to relieve my tension, I joke, ‘this is where he throws our luggage onto the highway and demands 50 shekels each!’ The other three already heard my Mohammad The Jordanian Taxi Driver story, and laugh nervously at my attempt to be funny. ONWARD TO THE SEA OF GALILEE After a few minutes, a tourist bus stops, and we join the tour group from Tel Aviv – with a real licensed Jewish tour guide. The tour bus takes us to the sights of Jesus’ life and ministry – Meggido, the site of the future battle of Armageddon, NAZARETH – JESUS BOYHOOD HOME Jesus started his ministry in his home town of Nazareth, but was not accepted as the Jewish Messiah.  He then moved to Capernaum.  In Nazareth, There is the church of St. Joseph which we visited.  It is filled with mosaics from around the world.

Nazareth -Mary and Joseph's Mikvah

Mikvah (Jewish Bath for Purification) in Mary and Joseph’s Home – click to enlarge

St Joseph's Church

St Joseph’s Church

Click photos to enlarge CAPERNAUM His home for about twenty months of His three year ministry,  also Peter’s home, and the Synagogue built by the Centurion  (see Luke 7:1-5) who asked Jesus to heal his servant). It is interesting that the Centurion (a non-Jew) who was a Roman soldier, built this synagogue long before the request  to heal his servant.  The synagogue is right next to Peter’s home, where Jesus healed Peter’s mother-in-law (see Mark 1:29-34). This resulted in the whole city coming to his door. Capernaum Synagogue Click photo to enlarge.  Site of Jesus’ Synagogue Built on top of the black basalt foundation is a ‘newer’ synagogue, built after the time of Jesus.  It is constructed of white limestone.  The Francicans in 1864 decided to buy the property from Bedouin owners, to prevent the stones from being carted away for other construction.  It must have been a big rock pile, when they intervened.  Over the years they began putting the stones back together, like a giant jigsaw puzzle. SEA OF GALILEE

SEA OF GALILEE
Jesus spent three years of His ministry on and around this lake. Some of his disciples were fishermen. It was their source of food and escape from the crowds seeking physical healing.

Present day fishermen go about their trade, probably in much the same way as in Jesus time, 2000 years ago. At about sun down, they go down to the shore and enter their boats, rowing silently across the lake, listening for a possible whirlwind that might be developing in one of the gorges, which connect the mountains to the lake.

Their fear is to be caught out on the lake at night by a surprise storm, which are sudden and can create six foot waves.

See Mark 4:35ff when Jesus and his disciples were caught in such a storm.

When they reach the far shore on the eastern side, they know where to find the swarms of fish that can be caught at night. The ‘sweet spot’ for fishing has 20 mineral springs that boil up in the lake during the night. These springs are a fish magnet. The water’s depth is 700 feet. Two boats, with a weighted net between them, drag for fish gathering beneath the two boats. Smaller nets are used to take the fish from the larger nets. After the threat of storms is past, about 2:00 AM they row back toward the western shore.

After day break, springs on the western shore, about a mile south of Capernaum, become active again attracting fish and fishermen, who use a cast-net method to fish. Rather than dragging a net between two boats, they wade out into the water after throwing the net, and push it down with their feet, to tangle the fish in the net, and then pull the fish harvest from the lake.

This is very likely the location mentioned in Mark 1:16-17 where as ‘Jesus walked beside the Sea of Galilee, he saw Simon and his brother Andrew casting a net into the lake, for they were fishermen. “Come, follow me,” Jesus said, “and I will make you fishers of men.”

A tour of Galilee isn’t complete without a fish dinner.As you can see in the photo, the chef didn’t have time to take off the head or fins! —> JORDAN RIVER BAPTISMAL SITE After leaving the northern shore of the Sea of Galilee, we stop  at a baptismal site on the west bank of the Jordan River.  This is not a historical site, but does commemorate Jesus’ baptism and is set up to accommodate  believers who wish to be baptized in the Jordan river. The site of Jesus’ baptism is on the Jordan side of the river.  I will visit that site next month. Feeding of the 5000 at Tabgah – Church of the Multiplication of the Loaves and the Fishes. Note the rock under the table in the upper right of this photo – it may be the rock where Jesus blessed the loaves and fishes before feeding the crowd. This location is thought to  be where He appeared to His disciples after His resurrection from the dead. The church’s mosaic floor tiles are restored, but some original tiles remain from an ancient church, possibility dating back more than a thousand years. Our last stop is at a diamond factory in Tiberius, where they cut and polish diamonds, and of course, sell jewelry to rich, very rich tourists.  It is a good place to use the rest room, and wonder who can afford the expensive jewelry on display! OUR BUS DRIVER IS LOST IN JERUSALEM We arrive after dark in Jerusalem.  The bus driver was confused, and lost.  How hard can it be to find the Old City of Jerusalem, I wonder.  But others in the van were staying  fancy hotels, and the driver has no idea of their location.  He calls several times on his cell phone asking for directions, but remains lost. Finally several of us exit the bus, several blocks from the Old City, and walk back to our lodging. 5/01/08 Yesterday was a good day.  Tomorrow I hope to be on a bus heading for the Jordanian border, at 7 AM. In preparation for tomorrow’s return trip to Amman, Jordan, early in the morning at 7 AM I walk north of the Old City in search for the Arab bus station.  After some searching, I locate a bus station in a parking lot across from the Damascus gate. The buses are all labeled in Arabic, except for the Bethlehem bus. I locate the ‘boss man,’ I know he is the boss man, because ‘BOSS MAN’ is written on the back of his shirt in large ENGLISH letters. Boss Man is helpful and directs me to another bus station, for ‘border buses,’ a half a block away.  after giving me a two minute lesson on how to ask for the bus in Arabic. I walk to the ‘border bus’ station, again a parking lot, and a man at the far end waives to me.  He is standing in the doorway of the ticket office.  He tells me ‘the buses leave starting at 7 AM every half hour for the border and the fare is 30 shekels – $10 US.’

jerusalem-palestinan-mini-bus

jerusalem-palestinan-mini-bus

THE DAMASCUS GATEnside-the-damascus-gate-facing-north-in-the-old-city-of-jerusalem Since I have accomplished my objective of locating the bus station for tomorrow’s journey to Jordan, I return to the Old City by way of the Damascus Gate (northern entrance to the Holy City).  I walk east and exit the Old City at St. Stephen’s Gate.  A cemetery is located on either side of the sidewalk with a view of the Mount of Olives in the distance.  Turning around, I re-enter through St. Stephen’s gate, on a Shaar Ha-Arayot street, which becomes the Via Dolorosa. THE TEMPLE MOUNT ENTRANCE I walk to the second street on my left, King Faisal Street, which should lead into the Temple Mount, my next objective for the day. The entrance to the Temple Mount is blocked by two black Israeli soldiers, with Uzis (machine guns) sitting at a table.  They don’t speak English, but are able to communicate enough to let me know I have to enter through the Jewish Quarter.  I am in the Muslim Quarter, thus only Muslims are allowed to enter through this entrance. The Temple Mount is the location of Solomon’s temple, which was destroyed in 70 AD, except for some foundation stones, known as the ‘Western Wall,’ or ‘Wailing Wall.’ TWO MOSQUES Today there are two mosques on this site, one with a gold dome (Dome of the Rock), the other with a lead dome (Al Aqsa Mosque). The Muslims believe Mohammad rose to heaven on this site.

temple-mount-wall-of-old-jerusalem-dome-of-al-aqsa-mosque-in-background

temple mount – lead dome of Al Aqsa mosque in background

ABRAHAM, ISAAC AND ISHMAEL, According to Hebrew scriptures (Genesis 22) the temple mount (Mount Moriah) is also the site where God asked Abraham to sacrifice his son Isaac, and provided a ram as a substitute offering.  Muslims disagree and believe Ishmael, was to be sacrificed, although their bible, the Koran does not name Ishmael as the son to be sacrificed. WAILING WALL/WESTERN WALL Down below the temple mount is the court yard, with the Western Wall of the temple as the focus. Entering the section right of the Western Wall, I soon realize I am the only man in the area. I am in the women’s section!  There is a women’s section and a men’s section of the wall.

Western Wall

Western Wall

Temple Mount

Temple Mount

BAR MITZPHAS There are numerous Bar Mitzphas in process. The Bar Mitzpha is a Jewish coming of age ritual for Jewish boys. ORNATE TORAHS A large cave-like room to the left of the wall contains large cabinets each contains very large ornate Torahs.  A Jewish boy enters the room, reverently removes a Torah from a cabinet, surrounded by friends and relatives videotaping the event.

Two Domes

TWO DOMES! Interactive Map of Jerusalem (The Old City)  http://www.atlastours.net/holyland/jerusalem.html Al-Aqsa Mosque (Lead Dome Mosque)  http://www.atlastours.net/holyland/al_aqsa_mosque.html Photo of the Dome of the Rock:  http://z.about.com/d/atheism/1/0/j/E/JeruDomeRock03-l.jpg History and Description of the Dome ofRock: http://www.atlastours.net/holyland/dome_of_the_rock.html Video of the Inside the Dome of the Rock on the temple Mount: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=HFw–v6l_pw http://www.atlastours.net/holyland/dome_of_the_rock.html SHAWARMA After the visit to the Temple Mount, I return to Damascus street in the Old City.   My mouth is watering for a shawarma (roast beef) sandwich at an Arab restaurant. I locate a restaurant, in the Arab souk (market) and order.  The meat is skewered with layers of meat  sliced off and placed on pita bread.  It is delicious!    It is about noon, and the streets are rapidly filling with tourists from buses arriving by the hour. The Arab section market ‘s in the old city are called souks, in which the narrow streets are filled with shops and people. Early in the AM, I walked the streets and they are empty except for a group of Philippino pilgrims following a man carrying a cross and singing hymns – and a motorized street sweeper. GOLGOTHA AND THE EMPTY TOMB – FULL OF TOURISTS! After dinner it is time to find Golgotha and the empty tomb.

Church of the Holy Sepulchre

Church of the Holy Sepulchre – click to enlarge

The church has a chapel on the main floor,with a lot of paintings on the walls. Note the skull at the base of the ladder.  According to tradition, Jesus was buried on top of Adams grave, thus the skull of Adam awaits Him.  Click each photo to enlarge. Golgatha and Slab of Unction C This photo (below) is a view of the crack in the rock of Golgotha through a window in the church’s wall.  The crack may have been due to the earthquake occurring at the moment of Messiah’s death.  Click photos to enlarge. The top floor of the church, according to tradition is the site of Golgotha, Messiah’s crucifixion site.  In the top floor chapel is an altar and a rock displayed through a window behind the altar.  The rock is the top of Golgotha. The church has three floors below ground, all with small chapels, but the main focus is the chapel one floor down which according to tradition, contains the empty burial tomb of the Messiah. See photo below.  Click photo to enlarge. The line of tourists completely circles the tiny room containing the tomb, at least seven persons across, five at a time are allowed to enter. DELAY ENTERING THE TOMB After waiting in line for an hour, a 2 o’clock service starts, with organ music, a choir, black robed clerics walking in and out swinging incense sensors. The line stops. Everything is on hold for the tourists. I can’t see much, due to the crowd. After half an hour, the service ends. Tourists are allowed people to enter.   Several push in front of me (which annoys me) – not a very Christian thing to do- I think – but the first shall be last in His kingdom, so I guess they are giving me a blessing! Inside the little room is a marble slab, covering a tomb below. The group of four I am with all are kneeling and kissing the slab. I respect their feelings and devotion, but I feel nothing.  I guess I have seen too many Easter movies on TV and was hoping to see a cave with a round rock in beside it. I am glad I stayed in line, it gave me time to read my guide book, and if I would have exited the line, I would have always wondered whether there was a cave opening in that little room with a round rock for its door. LOWER LEVELS OF THE CHURCH – A PLACE TO BE ALONE WITH MY MAKER I continue to explore the church and enter a chapel on the next floor below. This is a good place to have a little talk with God. I sit on the stone steps leading down to an underground chapel, and while meditating on the significance of this holy place, I ask Him to bless my family and friends. There is nothing historical in that dark little chapel to see, just an altar, some steps on which to pray, and a time to be alone with the Almighty, in a place that is Holy and special, away from all the commercialism, a few steps outside the doors of the church. In the afternoon, I leave the Old City and head west. A CHICKEN SANDWICH IN NEW JERUSALEM I explore a shopping district in the new city, find a McDonalds and order a chicken sandwich, for 12.5 shekels around $4.00. Then I return on foot to the Hostel. RETURN JOURNEY TO AMMAN JORDAN May 2 Friday Early in the morning I pack my suit case and back pack, and head out to bus terminal on the north side of the old city.  I am glad I scouted out the location, earlier.  It is an easy walk.  I arrive at the bus terminal, in a parking lot behind the Golden Walls Hotel. The bus driver waves me into a small office at the far end of the parking lot.  Several are wearing suits.  The women are wearing dark dresses with their heads covered.  Arabic is spoken. The men nod their heads at me in a friendly manner.  We are waiting for ten passengers to arrive, then we will leave for the border. It is around 7:00 AM and after a few minutes, we are invited to enter the bus.  I climb into the back. Two ladies sit in front of me.  One has a very loud rattley cough.  Not good, since we will be in a closed van for only thirty minutes to less than hour.  I have heard that cough before.  It sounds serious. Anyway there is not much I can do, unless I want to walk.  The men are well dressed in suits and greet me.  The designer label is still on the sleeve of one gentleman’s suit.  Evidently that is a matter of pride.  If it is a good brand, why not advertise! Although dressed in suits, the men have a poor look about them.  Kind of shabby/well-dressed. ISRAELI CHECKPOINTS In a short time we arrive at the first Israeli check point near Jericho.  the bus stops, the driver exits and visits with other drivers who are waiting for permission from the Israeli’s to proceed.  I see no reason for the delay, other than someone needs to give us permission to continue to the border. israeli-check-point-near-jordans-border-east-of-jericho ISRAELI CHECK POINT EAST OF JERICHO APPROACHING THE BORDER WITH JORDAN Finally all the drivers enter their vehicles and we continue toward the Allenby Bridge Border Crossing.Sheepherder's Shacks <—Click photo to enlarge. Above photo shows shepherd’s shelters in the desert between Jerusalem and the Jordanian Border. JORDANIAN REFUGEES

After the 1948 war with the Arabs nearly 1.7 million left Israel and became refugees in Jordan.  After 1991 Gulf War due to Saddam’s persecution of the Shiite Muslims, over 1 million Iraqis came into Jordan and again because of the uncontrolled violence during and after the U.S. lead invasion of  Iraq in 2003, another  700,000 Iraquis fled into Jordan.

This is a huge number of refugees for a country of less than 6 million.  Jordan has limited resources –  no oil, an inadequate water supply, and limited employment opportunities.  Much of the land is desert. By contrast, The United States has welcomed a mere 466 Iraqi  refugees from the start of the war in 2003 through  September 2006.  The U.S Administration set a goal of admitting 12,000 Iraqui refugees from October 2007 through September 2008 and are on target to meet that goal.  But this goal is far lower than other countries.  Sweden, for example, has taken in 40,000 Iraqi refugees since 2003. Most Jordanians survive on less than $5000 per year.  Refugees compete for scarce jobs and resources, thus become the target of much resentment from the people of Jordan. JORDANIAN RESOURCES In the desert there is an abundance of Potash and Phosphate, which is mined and sold to other countries to make fertilizer.  This is one of the main sources of hard cash for Jordan, in addition to tourism and financial aid from other governments. JORDANIAN TOURISM For tourists, especially those interested in Jewish history, Jordan has a wealth of locations of interest. For an excellent travel 43 minute video, hosted by King Abdullah, himself, go to http://video.stumbleupon.com/#p=w6mpuwuf5z AMMAN JORDAN The capital of Jordan, Amman, is significant in the life of King David.  As you may recall, in 2 Samuel 11, David’s army was attacking Amman. David recalled Bathsheeba’s husband, Uriah the Hittite, from the battle, in hopes that he would have a conjugal visit, and thus cover up her pregnancy with David’s child. Being a good soldier, Uriah refused, since good soldiers, in those days, did not have sexual relations before battle.  So David ordered him into the front lines of battle, thus assuring Bathsheeba would become a widow, and David’s next wife. I arrive  in Amman as planned and the taxi drives directly to my hotel, named the ‘Canary.’   As you can see by the photo, I was prepared.  At the Israeli/Jordan border, I changed from the Jerusalem mini-van taxi to an Amman taxi. But before I got in the taxi, I took photos of his license tag, car door with his company’s name and phone number, and the driver’s vehicle sticker Information on the taxi’s windshield. I also asked the tourist police to interview him, and was assured he was an honest driver. It is interesting, that while waiting at the border, I was approached by a taxi driver, who, after a few minutes waiting for more passengers, was led away by  the border authorities.  I never found out why, but assume he was not legal. If you read the small print below the driver’s photo on the Vehicle Information sticker it lists the passenger’s Bill of Rights, and who to call with a complaint.  (click photo to enlarge and read it)

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-MUSLIM RELIGION

Jordan is moderate Arab country, at peace with Israel, and friends of the United States.  Islam is the religion of 95% of Jordanians, who are almost all Sunni Muslim.

One is constantly reminded this is a Muslim country.  You can’t escape the ‘call to prayer’ which blares from loud speakers at a mosque near you, Starting at 5:00 AM.

Muezzin Call To Prayer From A Mosque In Downtown Amman Jordan CALL TO PRAYER – THE ADHAN The adhan is the call announcing ritual prayer time for the faithful. Five times a day the adhan is broadcast from the mosque by the muezzin, the title of the person whose voice you hear on the video. The adhan is in five parts: 1)  an affirmation of the supremacy of Allah (God). 2) profession of faith- Unity of Allah (God) – there is no other deity but Allah (God) – Muhammad is Allah’s (God’s) Messenger 3) call to the Prayer 4) Call to success — our eternal home in Paradise — which also implies our return to the Creator. Each line is repeated for emphasis. The words of the adhan are as follows: Allah is the Greatest, Allah is the Greatest.  Allahu Akbar, Allahu Akbar. Allah is the Greatest, Allah is the Greatest.  Allahu Akbar, Allahu Akbar. I bear witness that there is none worthy of worship but Allah. Ash-hadu alla ilaha illa-llah. I bear witness that there is none worthy of worship but Allah.  Ash-hadu anna Muhammadar-Rasulullah. I bear witness that Muhammad is the Messenger of Allah.  Ash-hadu anna Muhammadar-Rasulullah. I bear witness that Muhammad is the Messenger of Allah.  Ash-hadu anna Muhammadar-Rasulullah. Hasten to the Prayer, hasten to the Prayer.  Hayya ‘ala-s-Salah, hayya ‘ala-s-Salah. Hasten to real success, hasten to real success.  Hayya ‘ala-l-falah, hayya ‘ala-l-falah. Allah is the Greatest, Allah is the Greatest.  Allahu Akbar, Allahu Akbar. There is none worthy of worship but Allah.  La ilaha illa-llah.

Prior to Islam, the residents of this part of the world worshipped several gods and goddesses.

HONOR KILLING – PART OF THE CULTURE

The following newspaper article from the Jordan Times May 13, 2008.  It tells the chilling story of an ‘Honor Killing.’  Click article to enlarge-

In Jordan, there are about 20 ‘Honor Killings,’ a year.  This is not a prevalent cultural practice, and is not condoned by the Muslim religion. THE JORDAN TIMES – TUESDAY MAY 13, 2008 CRIMINAL COURT University student sentenced to 10-year prison term for murdering his sister By Rana Hussein! AMMAN — The Criminal Court on Monday sentenced a 23-year-old man to a 10-year prison term for murdering his older sister for reasons related to family honour in October 2006. The tribunal first handed M. A. the death penalty for shooting and stabbing his 33-year-old divorced sibling H. R, a mother of a 13-year-old child, in a tanker parking lot in Madaba on October 24. But the court immediately reduced the university student’s sentence to 10 years in prison because the victim’s father dropped charges against his son. Court papers said the victim, who had been married for 10 years, was divorced almost two months before the incident, after her husband complained to her family that she was unfaithful. The victim returned to live with her family and a few weeks before the incident, the defendant plotted to kill her to cleanse his family’s honour, claiming that he heard several people saying his sibling was involved in “illegitimate affairs”. On the day before the incident, the defendant said he rented a car, got hold of an unlicensed gun and a switchblade and drove around Mad-aba looking for a deserted area to kill his sister, the court said, quoting the defendant’s confessions in front of the police and the criminal prosecutor. “The suspect decided that the parking lot was the best location, so he got out of the car and fired two rounds from his gun to ensure it worked, then went home,” court papers said. The following day, the first day of the Bid holiday, the defendant told his sister he wanted to take her to their grandfather’s house. On the way, he parked in the parking lot and without uttering a word, drew his gun and fired four rounds at his sister’s chest and stomach, according to the court. “The defendant then pulled his sister out of the car, stabbed her 14 times in the chest with the switchblade, stomped on her face, and covered her body with a blanket,” the 21-page verdict said. He then called the police from his mobile, informing them that he killed his sister to cleanse his family’s honour and proceeded to give them his address, the court added. The victim’s 39-year-old husband, a truck driver, told the court he decided to divorce his wife because he was suspicious of her behaviour as she had two surgeries without informing him and would often leave the house without his permission. The husband also said his neighbours had told him that his wife was receiving men at home after he left for work, the court added. During court hearings, the defendant pleaded not guilty to the premeditated murder charges, informing the court that he did not plot to kill his sister and that the murder happened in the “spur of the moment”. “I had no idea why my sister was divorced. I was just giving her a ride when I received a call from a private number and the caller told me that I am not a man because my sister, who was sitting next to me, was a prostitute and had slept with all the men in our neighbourhood,” he told the court. The defendant claimed that he asked his sister about what he had just heard and she reportedly replied: “I am a prostitute and I am free to sleep with whomever I want… it is none of your business.” The defendant said he became enraged so he shot his sister with a gun he usually carries, court papers said. He also told the court that he was unable to recall anything after the shooting, including stabbing his sister, calling the police and confessing to premeditated murder. Instead, according to the court, the defendant claimed that he had a wild imagination often invented stories. He also told the court he once saw his sister in a car with a man, but he did not do anything “because he did not want to start any problems.” The court rejected the defendant’s claims that he killed his sister in a moment of rage as it was obvious from his statements in front of the authorities and in court that he had plotted to murder her. His lawyer had asked the court to consider the murder a fit of fury as stipulated in Article 98 of the Penal Code, which would reduce his premeditated murder charges to a misdemeanour. The verdict, handed down by judges Mohammad Ibrahim, Rizeq Abul Fool and Azzam Obeidat, will automatically be reviewed by the Cassation Court within the next 30 days. THE CANARY DESK CLERK

The taxi dropped me off in front of the Canary Hotel.  the desk clerk greets me and I inform him I have reservations.  He checks his reservation book and finds nothing.

I then mention Habitat for Humanity.  Many more from my group will be here tomorrow, I add. He still doesn’t have a clue what I am talking about. Then I pull out my reservations.  I also point out I had reservations for earlier in the week, and due to delays, was unable to keep  them.  So I owe him for those reserve days too. He hands me a room key, and offers to fix me breakfast, at no charge.  I am very grateful, since I had not eaten since the day before, and it was almost noon.  He went to the hotel kitchen and fixed me some scrambled eggs, toast, butter and jelly, and a cup of coffee.  What a treat! After going to my room and relaxing for a few minutes, I am ready for a walk down town.  I ask  the desk clerk to write ‘Citadel’ in Arabic on a piece of paper, and give me a hotel business card, in case I need to show a taxi driver.  Then I walk out the door, past the Abdali market, and down the hill toward down town.

Abdali Market Amman Jordan

Abdali Market Amman Jordan

Inside the Abdali Street Market

Inside the Abdali Street Market

Amman’s historical sites are close to downtown, at the bottom of four hills, or jabals. So I decide to walk to The Citadel, which towers over Amman on top of Jabal al-Qala’a.  From my hotel it is probably a 45 minute walk, if one knows the route. LOST IN AMMAN JORDAN It is downhill all the way to downtown Amman.  I miss seeing a very steep flight of stairs leading up  to the Citadel,  decide I am lost and need to take a taxi.

STEPS, STEPS AND MORE STEPS

STEPS, STEPS AND MORE STEPS

An empty taxi approaches, I waive and it to stops.  I enter the front seat and point to my paper with the Arabic word for ‘Citadel’ written on it.  He nods and drives away.  We are on our way to the Citadel, or are we? TAXI DRIVER DOES NOT UNDERSTAND WHERE I WANT TO GO He stops, and with  limited English, makes clear he has no idea where I want to go.  I repeat ‘Citadel’ several times, each time a little louder, in case he had a hearing loss! He has a blank look on his face, then I remember I have a map in my guide book.  I pull out my guide book and open it to the map of Amman. al-Qala’a, al-Qala’a! Pointing to the Citadel on the map, I am surprised when he excitedly exclaims,’al-Qala’a, al-Qala’a!’ I reflect a second, what does that mean? I ask myself, then realize that the map shows the location as ‘al-Qala’a,’ the Arabic word for ‘high place.’  ‘Yes,’ I reply just as excitedly, ‘al-Qala’a!’ He drives past the Roman Amphitheater turns left on a steep winding road to the Citadel.  He asks for more than the agreed on fare, and I briefly protest, then pay him. I later learned that one should never negotiate taxi fares in Amman, always go by the meter, and be sure it is turned back to the minimum starting fare.  Taxi fares are very cheap in Amman, if the meter is used. I now only have enough money to pay my admission.  I will walk back to the hotel.  It is a down hill for the steepest part of the way. THE CITADEL AND KING DAVID Let me tell you about the Citadel. What is the Biblical Significance of the Citadel? The Citadel is the site of ancient city of Rabbath-Ammon.  This fortress was attacked by David’s army. As you may recall, David impregnated Bathsheeba, the wife of Uriah the Hittite, while he was in battle at Amman.  David plotted to cover his sin, by summoning Uriah from battle, so that Uriah might have a conjugal visit.  But Uriah was a good soldier, and in those days, a good soldier abstained from sex prior to battle, so he refused to sleep with his wife. David then got him drunk and sent Uriah home to his wife, but he did not go, sleeping in David’s doorway instead. Then David gave him a note to deliver to general Joab, “Place Uriah in the front line of the fiercest battle and withdraw from him, so that he may be struck down and die.”   Uriah dies in combat and David marries  Uriah’s widow, Bathsheeba.  2 Samuel 11 tells this story. Though none of the ruins dates back to the time of David, they do date back to the 8th century. One such structure is known as al-Qasr “the Palace.” Its exact function is not known, but it includes a stone gateway, an audience hall and four vaulted chambers. A colonnaded street runs through the palace complex. To the north and northeast are the palace grounds. Near to al-Qasr lie remains of a small church.  Corinthian columns mark the site, dating to the sixth or seventh century AD. Not far to south of the church is a temple also known as the Great Temple of Amman. Possibly it was a temple for Roman god Hercules, built in the second century during the reign of the emperor Marcus Aurelius (161-180 CE). The small Jordan Archeology  Museum houses a  collection of artifacts dating  from prehistoric times to the 15th century. The DEAD SEA SCROLLS exhibit,   an idol of the goddess of fruits and fertility, Artagatas, Statues dating back 6000 to 8000 BC.  The earliest know statues of civilization. and Gold jewelry May 3 Saturday Today I will explore downtown Amman and in the evening I will meet the Habitat for Humanity Global Village Team. Again, I head downtown on foot, carefully observing landmarks, so I can find my way back to the hotel.  Yesterday I realized how easy it was to walk downtown, but finding my way back was confusing because of the forks in the road, which I had not noticed. DOWNTOWN AMMAN JORDAN STREET SCENE AMMAN DRESS SHOP PHOTOGRAPHER WITH OLD BOX CAMERA NOTE THE DRESS PRICE ON THE RIGHT IS 0,000  (5.0 JORDANIAN DINARS) WHICH IS $7 US, THE ARABIC 5 IS A ZERO!  THE ARABIC ZERO IS A DIAMOND SHAPE.  THE DRESS PRICE ON THE LEFT IS ARABIC FOR 3,000  (3.5 JORDANIAN DINARS) OR ABOUT $5 US.

Saturday evening we met in front of the Canary Hotel, met our team leader, and teammates.  Tomorrow we travel to Habaka, Jordan.

HABAKA, JORDAN May 4  Sunday Amman to Habaka, Jordan -After breakfast, at 9am we meet for orientation.  The team leaders, brief us on the expectations and living conditions.  Water is a major concern,  we are warned to limit our water usage, especially showers.  ‘If it starts to feel good, then you have been in the shower too long.’  We will be sleeping on the floor, preparing our own meals.  We must ask before taking photos. Bathroom facilities will be a ‘squatter!’  What is a ‘squatter?’ SQUATTER We board our bus about 11:00 AM and travel to our  ‘Habitat Guest House’ in our build community of Habaka, Jordan  36 miles north of Amman. HABAKA JORDAN LOOKING EAST

HABAKA JORDN LOOKING SOUTHEAST FROM GUEST HOUSE

HABAKA JORDAN LOOKING SOUTHWEST FROM GUEST HOUSE

We drop off our luggage, and check out the bath rooms. There is no ‘squatter.’  There is a conventional stool, tub and shower. There are three bedrooms, a bathroom and kitchen on the main floor, and a shower and two rooms on the lower floor.  The men have one and the women share two. At the orientation we are seated in a room and introduced to the people with whom we will be working, the contractors.  A sweet tea drink is passed around, all drinking out of the same small cup.  This is an Arab custom to welcome their guests. I declined, since I have an a viral respiratory infection, and believed I am in the infectious stage.  No doubt I have been infected by the woman on the bus from Jerusalem to Amman. UPPER RESPIRATORY INFECTION I am running a fever, and my cough is deep and productive.  I am sick.  Prior to leaving Amman, I was asked if I wanted to see a Dr., but there was little time before we left, and I felt cough must run its course, since it is a virus. After orientation, we are driven to the work site, where we form a line and pass 30 lb concrete blocks from a pile to the building site. Monday, Tuesday and a Wednesday morning, I stayed in the guest house drinking liquids and resting.  Someone was required to stay back with me each day.  This was standard policy. Our Team Leader made me chicken soup, the first day.  I tried to drink fluids, and eat oranges.  I was shown our first aid kit, which contained a syringe, bandaids and pain relievers.  No cold medicine.  Since I was a former US Army medic, I was confident that fluids, Ibuprofen and rest were needed for my recovery. I borrowed the book, ‘Blood Brothers,’ by Elias Chacour, from a team mate, to read while recuperating. Read this book if you have a desire to understand the Israeli-Palestinian conflict from the view point of a Palestinian Christian who watched the destruction of his home town by the Israeli Defense Forces on Christmas Day, 1952. Borrow it from your local library, or purchase it on the internet for less than $6.00.  It is a controversial book, and some question it’s accuracy.  Read it and draw your own conclusions. Tuesday evening we  eat at a Shawarma restaurant in Irbid, Jordan.

IRBID JORDAN SHAWARMA RESTAURANT

IRBID JORDAN SHAWARMA RESTAURANT

Community introductions – this photo shows the contractors and laborers, along with the future home houseowners Adil & Lubna to their left.  He is in Jordan’s military. – see Habaka, Jordan  map at http://www.maplandia.com/jordan/irbid/habaka/ May 6 Tuesday – Habaka, Jordan –  Work Camp – May 7 Wednesday – Habaka, Jordan – Work Camp On Wednesday my Team Leader urges me to go to the work site.  I am reluctant.  I know, I need to drink a lot of fluids, and fear I will not drink as much as I should on the worksite, nor have easy access to a toilet.  Drinking lots of fluids means a lot of trips to the bathroom.  The available toilet is in the future home owners parent’s home, not within walking distance, of the work site. IVAN TYING REBAR

DINING WITH OUR NEW ARAB FRIENDS – LARGE PLATTERS OF CHICKEN AND RICE

The young boy (see above photo) in the white traditional Arab head covering, entertained us while we ate.  He recited poetry from memory, and played a musical instrument.

The following photo is Lubna, the lady, who along with her husband,Adil, will be the future homeowners.  Note her white gloves, head covering and long dress.  She sat beside us and her children, on the dirt, twisting wire ties for  rebar for her new home.

May 8 Thursday – Habaka, Jordan to Amman, Jordan -AM build HABAKA JORDAN HOME OWNER CEREMONY – for Adil & Lubna’s home

HABAKA JORDAN HOME OWNER CEREMONY

-Dedication Service ……………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………….. TURKISH BATH HOUSE EXPERIENCE Our visit to a Turkish Bath House in Amman Jordan. We enter the Turkish bath house and are seated , to wait our turn.  Before  entering the bath area, we are ushered into a changing room, where there are small booths  in which we change from street clothes to bathing suits.  Then we enter a dimly lit room, with high humidity.  We shower, and wait our turn for the next step in the process.  A man invites us, one at a  time onto a table.  He then scrubs me with a rough scrubber, all over.  We then enter a small steam room, which has two levels.  It is very crowded and the upper level is extremely hot. After exiting this room, we enter a hot tub, and then are greeted by a masseuse.  The masseuse, rubs, pounds, taps, and massages our muscles, for about 15 minutes.  We  exit to the clothes changing room and return to our street clothes, feeling very clean and relaxed! Click the following Turkish Bath photo to enlarge.

May 9 Friday Tour Day  -Overnight in Amman – Canary Hotel

Transport to the baptism site of Jesus by John the baptizer on the east bank of the Jordan River in Jordan JOHN THE BAPTIZER’S SPRING – see John 1:28 BETHANY BEYOND THE JORDAN – BAPTISM SITE OF JESUS This location is north of Jericho, on the Jordan side of the Jordan River.  It is the site of ancient church built on baptism site of Jesus – see John 1:28.  The Jordan River has over the centuries, changed course, and now flows a several hundred yards to the west.   This site is an archeological dig, which has unearthed the foundation and floor of the ancient church. MONK’S CAVES – ELIJAH’S AND JOHN’S WILDERNESS To the east of the Jordan River baptism site, are caves.  John the baptizer lived in the wilderness, and may have lived in these caves.   Elijah the prophet also roamed in this wilderness, and saw the chariot of fire and was taken to heaven in a whirlwind in this wilderness area.  See 2 Kings 2:11. -Transport to Dead Sea -Lunch – swim in Dead Sea THE DEAD SEA The Dead Sea is 45 miles/75 kilometers long and from 4 to 10 miles (6 to 16 kilometers) wide. Historically fed by the Jordan River, but no longer due to demands on water from the Sea of Galilee, no water is being released. The Dead Sea has no outlet. It is so salty, nothing can live in it, neither plants nor animals.  There are 350 grams of salt per kilogram of water, as compared to 40 grams in the oceans. The Dead Sea is “the lowest point on earth,” lying 1200 feet/400 meters below sea level. The Dead Sea’s minerals are valuable natural resource for agricultural and industrial use, as well as treatment of some medical conditions such as psoriasis. May 9 MOUNT NEBO – WHERE MOSES LOOKED INTO THE PROMISED LAND Mosaics of St. George Church in Madaba -Transport to Dead Sea -Lunch and swim in Dead Sea THE DEAD SEA The Dead Sea is 45 miles/75 kilometers long and from 4 to 10 miles (6 to 16 kilometers) wide. Historically fed by the Jordan River, but no longer due to demands on water from the Sea of Galilee, no water is being released. The Dead Sea has no outlet. It is so salty, nothing can live in it, neither plants nor animals.  There are 350 grams of salt per kilogram of water, as compared to 40 grams in the oceans. The Dead Sea is “the lowest point on earth,” lying 1200 feet/400 meters below sea level. The Dead Sea’s minerals are valuable natural resource for agricultural and industrial use, as well as treatment of some medical conditions such as psoriasis. THE SALT SEA EXPERIENCE Upon arrival, our group put on their bathing suits, and plunged into the water.  I am not a water lover, having failed two summers of swimming lessons, but I had no trouble floating on my back. BOBBING LIKE A CORK After bobbing like a cork, I crawled out onto the beach.  The shore had many smooth stones and salt crystal lying on the beach, which I began to gather as souvenirs.  I was a kid again, playing in the rocks, inspecting each pebble, looking for a treasure to bring home. After the ‘swim’ or in my case the ‘float,’ I walked back to the bathhouse to change into my clothes.  Assuming there would be a place to shower off the salt encrusting my body.  No showers, they were all on the beach.  I didn’t want to walk back, so put on my clothes and walked to the resort where we would meet for a buffet lunch.  The shower would wait until we reached our hotel. May 10 Saturday -Overnight in Petra at the Petra Palace (3 star) Petra Palace Hotel Wadi Musa  Ph. 079 526 789  e-mail ppwmw@go.com.jo Tour Day in Petra the Nabatean City – for an 8 minute video of Petra and Wadi Rum go to: ( http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=J3x8d9kvPTA ) -Breakfast -Transport to Petra in early am -Guided tour Petra -Lunch inside Petra 1.  On the road to Petra we see a lot of desert, a few shepherds and their flocks, and a few towns, 2.   and lot of desert, a few shepherds, their flocks, and a few towns. 3.  and a lot of desert, a few shepherds, their flocks, and a few towns. 4. and a lot of desert, a few shepherds, their flocks, and a few towns. 5.  and a lot of desert, a few shepherds, their flocks, and a few towns. 6.  and a lot of desert, a few shepherds, their flocks, and a few towns. 7.  and a lot of desert, a few shepherds, their flocks, and a few towns. 8.  and a lot of desert, a few shepherds, their flocks, and a few towns. 9.  and a lot of desert, a few shepherds, their flocks, and a few towns.

View from front of the bus on the Road to Petra

As we travel farther south, a mountain range is on our right.  Note the striations in the rock. As we travel farther south, a mountain range is on our right.

PETRA

Petra is located adjacent to the town of Wadi Mousa in southern Jordan. It is 150 miles/260 kilometers from Amman via the Desert Highway and 170 miles/280 kilometers via the King’s Highway. The journey is all arid land with bedouin towns scattered in the desert. Petra was the Nabatean Arab capital during pre Roman times.  They were excellent craftsmen, carving temples, tombs and elaborate buildings out of colorful sandstone rock. For seven centuries, Petra’s existence was a guarded secret by the local Bedouins and Arab tradesmen until in 1812, when Swiss explorer Johann Ludwig Burckhardt after mastering Arabic and the Koran, dressed as a Muslm,  gained the confidence of locals, who led him to the “lost city” in the Wadi Mousa mountains. The Nabateans grew rich by levying taxes on travelers to ensure safe passage through their lands. Petra was easily defensible  and as a result allowed the Nabateans to grow wealthy, controlling the  commercial crossroads between the Arabian, Assyrian, Egyptian, Greek and Roman cultures. The city may have had 20,000-30,000 people residents at its peak. By the time of the seventh century AD, Petra had slipped into obscurity. It was forgotten until Burckhardt rediscovered it for the outside world in 1812. Entering the path into Petra we first see the mysterious DJIN BLOCKS, there are 40 of these carved from solid sandstone rock in Petra.  No one knows their purpose.

It is a rush, walking the winding path, a 1 1/4 miles two 600 feet/200 meter walls of pinkish red sandstone.

We meet some tired tourists with sore feet who are returning from their Petra adventure on donkeys.

Faint ancient reliefs of camels carved into the colorful sandstone walls of Al-Siq can be seen as I walk along the path towards al-Khazneh.

The ancients were skilled in devising a water channel to divert life sustaining water in this desert.  Below is a photo of a water channel carved into the canyon wall.

Samir, our faithful guide, explained that there are flash floods in the desert.  

In fact he was with a tour group, when a flash flood came roaring through Petra without

warning.  They were able to save their lives by climbing high on the rocks to escape.

In 1963, according to a time.com article, a flash flood trapped 26 French tourists,

and only two survived.  The article continues to describe how the ancient Nabateans,

were experts in hydraulic engineering, and built a dam to divert the flash flood waters into cisterns.

The path narrows  and the Siq suddenly opens upon the most impressive of Petra’s tombs al-Khazneh (Arabic for “The Treasury”). One of the most elegant remains of ancient times.

Al-Khazneh is carved into the sandstone mountain, standing over 120 feet/40 meters high. Although it served as a royal tomb, the Treasury’s name is derived from the legend that treasure is hidden inside an the urn above the entrance, filled with ancient treasures of the pharaohs.  Periodically, the Bedouins fired guns at it hoping the urn would burst open and release its treasure.  Proof of this can be seen in the bullet holes which are clearly visible on the urn.

Camel rides are an attraction, and Sanaa can’t resist a Bedouin’s offer to ride his camel.

And Ivan poses in front of al-Khazneh.

Treasury doorway, facade and colorful sandstone interior.

In front of al-Khazneh, is an excavation, of another tomb buried beneath the ground.

Looking down through the wire I can see a doorway into a tomb, which at one time was ground level, but over hundreds of years of flash floods roaring through the Siq, rock and debris gradual buried this tomb.

Following the tourists’ path that leads through the ancient city, number of and tombs increases, becoming a virtual graveyard in rock arching around an 8000-seat Amphitheater.

The amphitheater faces numerous tombs on the opposite canyon wall – the STREET OF FACADES. Above is the theater carved into the sandstone rock.  Below is the Street of Facades, the Silk Tomb and Urn Tomb. Close up of the beautiful Silk tomb. Camels and riders ride through the Street of Facades.

The colorful sandstone is fascinating.  What a beautiful scene on the Street of Facades!

Three more camels gallop through searching for tourists with sore feet, needing a ride.

The Urn Tomb – Street of the Facades.

After strolling through the Street of the Facades, several of us climb a steep path up the mountain to view the LION BICLINIUM TOMB.

As we climb the steep path, we arrive at al-Dayr (The Monastery) seen in the photo below.

There is a hollow sandstone rock across from al-Dayr.  It is large enough for several persons to climb inside, and has several openings, one is large enough for an entrance and from the other opening   one can view al-Dayr.

Ivan inside the sandstone rock across from al-Dayr.

The following photo is a composite showing the view of al-Dayr from the inside of the rock cave.

The following photo is of Carol and Sanaa entering al-Dayr.   There is a large step into the doorway!

The above photo shows Carol helping Sanaa enter al-Dayr.  This gives a perspective of the size of the doorway.

Below is a photo of al-Dayr.

The climb is steeper and higher than I anticipated. 

Looking down on the trail below.

May 11 Sunday

Tour day Wadi Rum -Breakfast -Transport to Wadi Rum early am -Guided jeep tour and lunch -Transport to Amman -Overnight in Amman – Canary Hotel May 12 Monday -Overnight in Amman – Canary Hotel -Breakfast – sight seeing in Amman and Jerash And Sanaa, Ivan and Kat and others, finally arrive at the top for a wonderful view.

It was a wonderful view for us, but not such a wonderful view in ancient times for those victims who were to be the sacrifice.

High Place of Sacrifice Overlook View. The next morning, after a good night’s sleep, we returned to Petra for one last climb to the High Place of Sacrifice.  Yesterday we climbed to the top of the mountain where we could view the High Place of Sacrifice. The following photo is the steps leading to the High Place of Sacrifice.

This is a steep climb, I have blister’s on my feet, which makes it very uncomfortable to say the least!

Below is a close up of the ‘gift shop’ which can also be seen in the above photo.

And Aaron’s tomb on the adjacent mountain top is shown in the next photo.

Photo below – Obelisks at the High Place of Sacrifice.

Scenic view from the High Place of Sacrifice, looking down on THE COLONNADED STREET OF PETRA. WADI RUM, JORDAN At noon we leave Petra and travel to Wadi Rum, which is south of Petra, not far from the Eilat and Aqaba, where the borders of Egypt, Israel, Saudi Arabia and Jordan nearly converge. The Arabs, used this valley in 1917 to stage the ‘Arab Revolt’ against the Ottoman Turks.  For more information about this revolt go to Wikipedia.com and search ‘Arab Revolt,’ and read the book, ‘Seven Pillars of Wisdom,’ by T.E. Lawrence (Lawrence of Arabia) who played a minor role in assisting the Arabs.

Our first stop is the Wadi Rum Visitor’s Center.

Above are the prices for various services and activities.  One JD = $1.40 U.S.

The bus driver parks and we get into jeeps for a desert tour.

Our Jeep trip into the desert.

We are in two Jeeps, I am in the rear Jeep.

We arrive at our first destination, a Bedouin tent.

We are welcomed with tea.

We are invited into the tent and offered a small cup of hot sweet tea.  It seems odd to be drinking hot tea in the hot desert.

Inside the tent.

Our guide Samir leads us over to a rock with drawings on it.

Then another Jeep ride into the desert and a hike across the sand.

Our destination is a large rock, with a cleft.  Samir has something to show us.

There in the cleft of the rock, is a pool of water!  A pool of water in the middle of the desert!

Evidently we are not the first to discover this place.  There are writings on the walls!

And petroglyphs – and foot prints in stone!!! After this adventure in the Jordanian desert, it is time to dine.  The Wadi Rum Rest House is our next stop.

The road north out of Wadi Rum.

Sign to Amman. JERASH JORDAN We arrived in Amman and the following day I traveled to Jerash to see the Roman ruins. First we asked for the bus to Jerash and were advised to board this bus. After waiting for 30 minutes, we were asked to board this bus. The following photos are self-explanatory. THE OVAL PLAZA JERASH JORDAN THE NYPHAEUM IS AN ANCIENT FOUNTAIN, COMMONLY BUILT IN ROMAN CITIES. The Roman theater is remarkable.  It has perfect acoustics!  A person can stand on the stage and whisper and be heard anywhere in the theater. After touring the ruins, we are treated to a gladiator show. And the chariots rush in to the stadium. And the cast of Roman soldiers, gladiators and charioteers. May 13 Tuesday – Return Home May 13 Tuesday – overnight in Wichita May 14 Return to Hutchinson Ks

17 Responses to “JOURNEY TO JORDON”

  1. Carol Hicks Says:

    This was wonderful. almost could picture me being there. was worth te wait to see them. amazing. sure glad that u are able to do all these things. take care & may God Bless

  2. I really enjoyed this Ivan and appreciate all the detail you put into describing your trip.

  3. Albert Says:

    RE: Journey to Jordan’ blog – Excellent presentation, Good job Ivan, we have almost seen Jordon through your eyes. Please tell if you have any other trip presentation like this.

  4. RE: Journey to Jordan’ blog – It was a fantastic story. I was supposed to be working and it just captured my attention.
    I wanted to mention that the drinking of hot tea in the desert, especially with some mint leaves, increases the temperature of the body and makes the environmental temperature, by comparison, seem more tolerable. So it actually has the effect of cooling down the drinker.
    TE Lawrence didn’t start the rebellion or direct it, he was just a liason officer for the British.
    Ishmael wasn’t the ancestor of Muslims, but of Arabs.

    Otherwise, a great account of Jordan. The food there is great as well and you’ve now managed to make me hungry🙂

  5. RE: Journey to Jordan’ blog – Tewfiq – Thanks for the comments – I updated the blog, based on your comments. I also thank you for the following comments you sent me in an e-mail:

    With regards to the Palestinian shepherds you’ve mentioned at the beginning of the article and which you’ve photographed when heading for the Jordanian border.

    There is actually a huge ongoing conflict (one of the many in the area) about Palestinians shepherds that live in caves and are being evicted illegally by unauthorized Israeli settlers in the West Bank. As it appears, the Palestinian shepherds, which form one of the communities with the longest continuity in the area are being forcefully evicted from their centuries-old homes.

    you may find this interesting:
    http://afp.google.com/article/ALeqM5hFpmO6Uelq2JGgJnwkSkufGOILcQ (an article by AFP on the problems the Palestinian cave-dwellers have been facing in recent times)

    and http://www.boston.com/bigpicture/2009/06/israeli_settlements_in_the_wes.html (a picture gallery put together by the Boston Globe that shows, I think, both sides of the argument, sometimes literally)

    I wanted to mention that the drinking of hot tea in the desert, especially with some mint leaves, increases the temperature of the body and makes the environmental temperature, by comparison, seem more tolerable. So it actually has the effect of cooling down the drinker.

  6. RE: Journey to Jordan’ blog – i like it.. its very nice

    thanks indeed

  7. Hi Ivan,
    RE: Journey to Jordan’ blog – I was Google(ing) the Jordanian dinar and your blog came up, i couldn’t stop reading!
    my dad’s jordanian, and my mom’s an american. i love the way you described your trip in such detail i felt like i was there.
    I’ve been in Jordan for 14 years and I’ve only been to Petra once, we never stopped in wadi rum, only drove by on the way to Petra.
    i hope you enjoyed your trip, and may i say i think it’s amazing that you and your team would travel half way around the world to help build someone a house. thank you! i imagine the owners are very pleased with the outcome of their new home🙂
    god bless you.
    Zaina.

  8. RE: Journey to Jordan’ blog – I was doing pictorial research on the Jordanian area and came across this website. How beautiful and well described! Thanks for posting this and letting this little Virginia gal experiance a taste of your travels! Blessings!

    • RE: Journey to Jordan’ blog – I am so happy you found it enjoyable. I have been on many world trips and this one was truly unique. I spent many hours putting this blog together, and comments such as yours are my sweet reward. Blessings to you also!

  9. Very interesting blog. I just coldn’t stop reading. You captivated me from your adveture at the airport. I just got stationed here in Jordan and can relate with your stories. Keep up the good work!

  10. Raelene - New Zealand Says:

    It’s now almost 1am my time in New Zealand and I started reading this blog around 4 hours ago (with the exception of being distracted by local tv viewing).

    I don’t normally comment on blogs, as I never feel gifted enough with words to adequately convey what I want, thats if I have anything I wish to convey at all.

    “Journey to Jordon” has been one of the most captivating travel blogs that I have had the privilege of reading. Your use of words, descriptions, expression of feelings was so that like one commenter has already stated “almost could picture me being there”. Heck I even welled up a little when you and your Airport Buddy Mike parted company, had me wondering if his family are ok, if HE’S ok.

    Loved the small tidbits of history that you gave on locations with a “if you want to know more, click on this link” type follow up.

    Anyone that is lucky enough to find this, should be thankful for your thorough and informative writings, your very colorful pictures, and not to mention your somewhat candid and witty humor you have hidden throughout your blog.

    Thank you for sharing your wonderful experience with the world Ivan, it was enough to touch and capture the imagination of a lady all the way in the south pacific.

  11. Good advice and sharing. Thanks.

  12. Nice site, it brought back some great memories for me.

  13. connie Says:

    The Sea of Galilee was discussed in my sunday school class today. On arriving home I googled “Sea of Galilee” to do some research on the Easterly winds that suddenly churn up the sea and I see your blog “journey to Jordan. That was 12:20, it is now 4pm. I live in Ft. Myers, Fl, could not stop reading it, and will be sharing your beautiful accounting of that region. It is my understanding that many vessels were destroyed on the “sea of galilee” when the water became turbulent. Do you have any knowledge of this happening, and if so please reference the source?

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