the trip to jerusalem
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got my chair in the trip to jerusalem
as much as i loved playing the trip to jerusalem game, i never ever dreamed of really going to the holy land. i wasn’t even curious about the bible. but i considered myself lucky when my company sent me together with my 4 other colleagues to israel for a ‘training’.
it was my first out-of-the country trip and i was more scared than excited. feeling lucky and scared at the same is like having a diarrhea. unfortunately, any amount of diatabs couldn’t help.
we travelled via Hongkong, and i was amazed of the airport. first time have i seen a really big airport with a mall, lots of lounging chairs, walkalators and aquarium-like smoking rooms. it was big, i didn’t even realize how we managed to find the EL AL airlines counter.
at the EL AL counter we were thoroughly questioned about the possibility of having bombs in our luggage, we also had to surrender our luggage keys and/or lock combination. the scan was really very thorough, from the sole of your shoes to the strands of your hair. believe me they scan every inch of your stuff IN your luggage, even your undies.
the “tooth squeeze”
the 13-hour flight was hell. the pressure on the plane gave me a “tooth squeeze”. when we got off the plane it was already sore. and i forgot to bring my antibiotics! for a couple of days, i had an inflamed tooth. the hotel helped me call a dentist, but unfortunately he couldn’t speak english. so i went to the pharmacy and tried to buy some antibiotics, but they won’t let me unless i had a prescription. i showed the pharmacist my sore tooth and then she gave me a mouthwash. two days after, it was sore no more.
pine trees and beaches in the desert
we stayed in Haifa, the 3rd largest city in Israel located on Mount Carmel and is split into three tiers. our hotel (Dan Panorama) was in the upper tier overlooking the residential neighborhood on the slope of Mt. Carmel and the commercial center at the lowest level (where “our office” is located).
the temperature in the upper tier is averagely low and with the pine trees of mt. carmel it was just like we were in baguio. and everyday we take a cab down to Matam (where ‘our office’ were). the ‘office’ is just 20-minute walk to the beach, awesome. we got to unwind at the beach after work, you see.
haifa is a beautiful city, it has mount carmel, the beaches and the surf! there you can visit the Bahai Garden — the architecture, landscaping and water system are admirable. there’s also the german colony — that showcases the old houses that survived from the time of german templars.
floating at the dead sea
yeah, it’s true. everyone floats in the dead sea. just don’t get a drop of sea water into your eyes, it’s freaking painful. i really felt it could blind me, forever.
the dead sea mud is known to be used as facial mask and has curative effects to our skin. you see…
it is the lowest point on earth – 1300 feet below sea level. fortunately i didn’t get another “tooth squeeze” from the pressure.
the way of the cross
though i considered floating around the dead sea as the highlight of my travel in israel, the jerusalem tour was also quite a significant experience. we went to the garden/church of gethsemane, hmm we passed by schindler’s tomb, we went up to mt. olives and the jewish cemetery and then to the old city of jerusalem.
the old city has several quarters, the jewish, the christian, the muslim and the armenian — each one having its own special shrines. we visited the western wall, followed the ‘way of the cross’ , stopped by the spot of the last supper, then to the church of the holy sepulchre, we just watch the dome of the rock from a distance.
i couldn’t grasp every detail of our stops. it was just too overwhelming. i was busy with my thoughts. it is said to be the holiest city in the world, but i could feel the religious tension through the old walls. one old city, different old religions divided only by stone alleys, but for years they have stood to be divided.
it was several days of shalom and good hotel living until i heared the rocket siren for the first time. i was window shopping at the hotel mall when i heared an announcement, it was in hebrew and it was repeated several times. i couldn’t understand it but i could see people moving fast so i sensed an emergency. i ran back to the hotel and at the entrance stewards were holding signs marked “TO BOMB SHELTER”. i panicked, i was alone and the bomb shelter seemed a really scary idea. i ran to the elevator and went up to edward’s room and told him that people were being guided to the bomb shelter. a hezbollah rocket hit a spot in the neighboorhood. it was all over cnn. friends and bosses started to call. but then we settled, it was only one rocket.
but then in the morning when we were having breakfast the siren wailed again. from the hotel window, we saw lotsa rockets hit the haifa bay. we felt the earth-shattering kaboom and saw the smoke cloud. we had no choice but to go deep down the hotel’s bomb shelter, we had to go down several floors. the shelter’s not bad as i thought. it was huge, good ventilation, not so much light but comfortable. we were down there for around 3 hours. when it was safe to go out, ‘our office’ arranged our transfer to tel-aviv.
from rockets to diamonds
the view from my hotel room (Dan Panorama too) took my fears away. we hang out at the beach, in front of the hotel, had a tour of the city and old city of jaffa. we shopped for souvenirs, bought some hookah and chocolates and toured the israeli diamond center.
the trip was never planned that way, we were supposed to work/train
this was three years from this week. i never planned any of it except for the work part. it was a true adventure, unplanned and spontaneous.