Things never change

Church of the Holy SepulchreAn update to another past part of my travels. When I was in Jerusalem, I posted about the Church of the Holy Sepulchre and how it is shared by several denominations of the Christian church. And how they don’t like each other very much. And how there have been fights in the past.

Well, it happened again yesterday. Apparently one of the Armenian priests decided that one of the Greek ones had spent too long near the tomb. So he kicked him out. And then things got out of hand.

I just like the image of worshippers fighting police off with palm fronds. It’s just mad.

Lord of the flies…

…and mosquitoes. The 6-legged flying evil things are a lot more prevalent in Eilat than they are in Jerusalem. Despite the heat, I had to wrap myself in a blanket to limit their access overnight. The mosquitoes drilled for blood like a continent full of sheikhs who have just realised their wells are running dry. At around 5am, they were replaced by flies trying to suck up moisture from the only available source (my face) the way a fleet of Chelsea tractors drinks fuel. Oh, and some muppet decided to water the trees (and therefore, inadvertently, myself) at 1:30am.

After I woke, I went for a quick and fruitless search for a bakery to get a strudel or something. On my way I located an open-air market being set up. It just stocked the usual stuff you see at any market – cheap underwear, cheaper sunglasses, even cheaper electronic goods. The entry was blocked by a row of “Police” barriers with two gaps where bags were being searched and metal detectors run over bodies.

You don’t realise how serious the security is here until you see a granny’s handbag being rifled through and checked for Semtex. Airports, markets, bars, restaurants, bus stations, malls… Everywhere. And I’ve yet to see a single person moan or complain about the inconvenience. The probably remember all-too-recent incidents where such security has stopped more serious injury, or where it could have had it been in place. I just wish more people at airports worldwide would recognise this fact.

Well, I settled on fruit for breakfast before I was picked up shortly after 9am by another staffer from Lucky Dive and introduced to Roni (I hope I spelled that right) who looked a hell of a lot better in a wetsuit than Alan. No offense to Alan, mind. Roni’s one of these lucky people who gets paid to do her favourite hobby. If she wasn’t working showing people like me great dive sites, she’d be out there anyway diving for free courtesy of the company. I let her pick the sites for the day as she definitely knew the good ones.

Three dives followed – the Satil wreck and two from the Reserve, which incurred an extra 23NIS charge for entry. All three were superb with even better visibility than the day before. Roni was great company and it was heartening to be complimented on my diving when I’m relatively inexperienced. A shame I left my camera in the van as I could have got some great snaps on the last dive, which was fairly shallow.

With time left before my bus when I got back to the dive shop, I took advantage of their internet and allowed Israel’s friendliest cat to curl up on my lap for a while. A final falafel called my name, and a short walk around the block killed the rest of the time before catching the last coach of the day back to Jerusalem.

The route back was quiet and the bus pulled in shortly after 9pm. I gave up waiting for a local bus and walked back to the hostel via my now-regular New City shawarma shop.

Fed up and dived out, I slept like the proverbial on my rooftop perch.

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Kibbutzes, Armageddon, Betzefer and Salem

What a day this one was. And all due to the hospitality and friendliness of several Israelis I’d met in random circumstances. Despite barely sleeping the night before (I think maybe 30 mins), this would be a cracker of a day. As usual when you stay with a mate, I sat up till silly hours talking to Hen and playing with her cats until we nodded off. Then realised what time it was, tried to sort ourselves out mentally and then set off to get a bus to the town center.

On the way, I bought a plain black t-shirt as I didn’t want to trash my nice-ish shirt later on and – as mentioned – all my stuff was with Noa in Jerusalem. For 10 NIS it would do the job. We got to the central station and then onto another bus for Megiddo. Here’s an interesting fact – Megiddo is a bad translation if the Hebrew word for “Armageddon” and the valley around it is where the Final Battle is due to take place. Presumably once Bush finally flips and presses that big red button. So if you’re a journalist after some great shots, this could be your place. If you don’t mind sitting and waiting for a while. Hopefully quite a while.

We hitched the few k’s from the main road to the kibbutz entrance, and then again up into the kibbutz itself. OK, what is a kibbutz? For the long version go have a look at Wikipedia’s article. In short, it’s a collection of dwellings, sort of like a compound. The properties are built by the people who live there and most, if not all, of the facilities are co-funded and shared. They got a bad reputation when they kicked off for being very “communist”. Everything had to be shared, no major personal possessions allowed and so on. These days they seem a lot more laid back. People volunteer to travel to a country and help build and maintain the places. Hen made a lot of foreign friends this way.

We met a couple of Hen’s local friends who provided us with drinks and then walked over to her dad’s studio. He makes small sculptures for the tourist trade, all by hand and all pretty cool in an offbeat kind of way. Ice cream was provided by her parents’ fridge and we explored the surrounds. The kibbutz is well-furnished for kids with climbing frames, slides and a kick-ass new swimming pool all to play on.

Now, I didn’t mention this the other day, but when I was in the Tower museum I got talking to one of the security guards. I was wearing one of those handy-dandy limited edition MOSH tour t-shirts I had printed up before I left and he recognised the writing. We got talking about music and bands and I gave him one of my cards. Lo and behold a day or so later, I got an email detailing a few gigs he was thinking of going to including one in Haifa tonight. Megiddo’s more or less on the way (he was going to pick me up in Tel Aviv) so Hen gave him directions and my chariot arrived around 5:30pm, containing Giora, Lior and Ma’ayan. How’s that for friendly locals?

We got to Haifa early, picked up out tickets (60NIS, around £7) and I pretended I was 13 years younger so I could stand around on the street drinking beer from an off-license with a crowd averaging 21 years in age. 27 years in age if you included me. Now, drinking on the streets in Israel is not illegal, in fact it’s very common especially outside of concerts. Unlike the UK where venues always (try to) open on time or early so you’ll spend your money over the bar, Israeli ones advertise a time and then always fail to open anywhere near it.

So for the old guy staggering round with a cart and two dogs collecting empty bottles and cans, it was very much a *kerching* evening. We managed to convince him that the devil horns were a way of saying “hello” and he became a huge star as crowds of people wanted their photo taken with him! He wasn’t complaining. A bit of attention rather than just being “the scruffy guy with the cart” and a load of empties.

The doors finally opened around 90 minutes “late” and in we poured to watch Prey For Nothing, Betzefer (Hebrew for “cool”) and Salem. I picked up a Betzefer shirt with a very nice backprint that I can’t detail on this page. Suffice to say your mother wouldn’t like it. At least mine wouldn’t. Which is why it’s not going on here.

I had a great night. The music rocked, the company was great, the beer cheap and the women stunning (and far too young for me not to be morally outraged at myself). Despite the beers I also noticed something of a coincident. In Hebrew, “fire” looks like the word “LUX” in a vaguely unusual font. Lux is Latin for “light”. Weird, eh?

Prey For Nothing got a good reception for a support act and Betzefer really ruled for me. They ended with a superb cover of AC/DC‘s Thunderstruck which even Gio went mad to and he doesn’t like Betzefer. I ended up with a very large lump on my arm and another over my thumb. This is strange as anyone who’s festivalled with me in the past will know I normally get a swollen wrist. I’m sure Caz remembers my arm after Green Day at Leeds all those years ago… She spent half an hour trying to get me to go to the Red Cross as she was insistent I’d broken it.

I confess I fell asleep shortly after Salem started. Yes. Asleep. In a metal gig. I’d had less than an hour’s sleep! What I saw was good but I just couldn’t keep my eyes open. Afterwards, Gio managed to get the phone number of possibly the prettiest girl in the club. Way to go, Gio! I continued my sleep thing in the car on the way back to Jerusalem, so apologies to my travel buddies for being so antisocial. I’m just old, deal with it. I have to!

We pulled up at Jaffa Gate at around 3am and I dragged my luggage-less carcass to bed/roof and collapsed.

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