Mount of Olives/Church of the Ascension/River Jordan/Dead Sea

At the crack of dawn we were up at the hotel that we were put up, not due to any time constraints as it was in the previous days but because we wanted to explore a bit of the Palestinian side, and with Shyni’s friend and coworker mentioning that she was from Ramallah we had limited time to step out and try to get the feel of the city. As any traveller can attest, to step into just one neighborhood in any city especially in a foreign country is not really a taste of what daily living is, it was a cool morning my friend and co-traveller Joy and I stepped out for a quick stroll. From our vantage point the most conspicuous buildings were the domed ones, which in this part of the world typically would mean a mosque and it looked like the city was dotted with them. Despite the hour the streets were busy with fair amount of traffic. After breakfast the six of us were bussed to the hotel where the rest of the group had stayed. There were a lot of dissatisfied faces as they got on to the bus. The hotel they stayed in was not up to par. We heard the linen,  sheets, towels, food, none of which seemed to have been to our group’s satisfaction. I have to admit we were lucky in that we spent the night in a hotel which was good, not so much for the 40 others who stayed on there. After the customary prayers & singing in the bus, we were taken to our first destination, the Mount of Olives. The journey there was a very steep climb into the heart of Jerusalem, we saw the controversial West Bank wall that Israel had put in a lot of time, money and effort to build in what they perceived as necessary in stopping radicalized or disgruntled Muslims from entering their city. There had been a spate of terror incidents, in the years preceding the building of the wall, and even after when tunnels were found from the Palestinian side. The graffiti and the images of destroyed buildings will remain as a memory of that bus ride and it reminded me of a quote which comes to mind, of how intolerance exists among people :

Welcome to Planet Earth

Where children who do not know how to live
teach their children how to live

We reached the Mount of Olives, the chapel of the Ascension, the spot where Christ is believed to have gathered the disciples and ascended to heaven, there is slab of stone where his footprint is contained. Several of the group, among them Shyni, prayed with articles of faith, rosaries, crosses, other items of clothing or trinkets.

Close to the chapel of Ascension, within walking distance is another site where Christ recited the Lord’s prayer and it is impressively dotted with plaques of that prayer in various languages of the world a testament to the widespread reach of  Christianity encompassing continents and from what we learned a 120 languages that have the inscription of this prayer. Of special interest to us was the one that had the prayer in Malayalam, especially since it was sponsored by Royal Omania tours, own Father Sleeba, who is the owner and head honcho of this outfit. There were several Indian languages, the classical ones such as Tamil & Sanskrit plus other ones too. We then proceeded to a spot where Jesus wept over the fate of Jerusalem. The sight from there had an overview of the city of Jerusalem with golden dome mosque and the black dome mosque often depicted in movies – quite a sight for those who know of the history of the city.

We  got on the bus and the next stop was the famous River Jordan (ജോർദാൻ നദി) where John the Baptist (സ്നാപക യോഹന്നാൻ) baptized Jesus, hearking us back to that famous passage in the bible. The river was muddy and not at all inviting, though that had not stopped the crowds of devotees – waiting to take the dip to be in the same waters that Christ had been baptized, faith brings on such a plethora of emotions as they dip willingly in the murky waters without any hesitation. We saw several groups who wanted to be water baptized and some of them seemed to be led by a spiritual leader who performed dunking the heads of the faithful in these waters. There were some in our group who didn’t actually immerse themselves in the water but washed their faces and poured the waters of the river over their head.

Our final stop for the day was the Dead Sea (ചാവുകടല്). Those waters again, uninviting by any tourist standards of a beach resort, but where everyone who was willing to float since the density of the minerals were such that floating was easy, lay on your back and let the sea bear you. Of course many in the group were wishing and praying that the medicinal properties of the sea would work wonders for all the aches and pains. The waters are heavy, dark and deep and looked like they were laden with salt – we were advised strongly by our guide(s) Bindu & Shehadi to be very careful and ensure that splashing of the water doesn’t result in our eyes getting wet, and if it did,  do not, they vehemently warned us, pour more of the same water to wash our eyes out. Very soon, I for one, though there were several of the group like me found out why these dire warnings were issued, because in an attempt to pull in Shyni to the waters, she was reluctant to do so and was paddling in the shallow part, I slipped into the mud(black mud) and water got in my eyes. It stung the bejesus out of me, and fortunately on the beach there were fresh water showers made available to the public specifically for those who got the water in their eyes, from my observation on the day we were at the Dead Sea, more than 90% of the bathers had the experience of having this water in their eyes and so I was able to was able to wash my eyes out. That evening one of our group lost his bag carrying some of his belongings in the men’s locker room which delayed us, a lapse of memory by someone which resulted in a mistaken swap of bags.

After which a much looked forward to dinner and restful sleep at the hotel in Bethlehem was what was awaiting us, even though it meant another change of hotels from the previous night.

Ramallah in the morning.

The Lord’s prayer in Malayalam – site of the spot where Christ recited it for the first time.

The view from Mount of Olives

Floating in the Dead Sea

Leave a Reply

You can use these tags: <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <s> <strike> <strong>