We felt a bit sad as we packed up our bags once last time and said good-by to the hospitable crew of the Clio. Our time with them was not nearly long enough. We wonder if we may run into Katarina again. She was the waitress who recognized us the moment we got on after sailing together on the Corinthian. In a few weeks her five month contract will come to an end and she will return to Odessa in Ukraine. Her country has been on the news in our country for weeks on end, but for her things are very ominous. She has friends who died in the Crimea as the Russians came into her country and took half of it away. For the first two years she had a bag packed by the door, because she felt so unsafe. Both she and her husband have served in the Ukraine military and it is especially hard for them to get exit documents as a result. She is seriously thinking about moving to Sweden. At least she will be home in time to see her five year old daughter for Christmas. Meeting people who are directly involved in the news stories we see on TV, really brings it all home.
As we drove two hours to Jerusalem, we thought about the long drive we had taken around the city, because our Palestinian guide Mustafa was not allowed to enter. The concierge at our Ramallah hotel had been to Jerusalem twice. He simply climbed over the fence and walked in. Once the Israelis finish the wall, that will no longer be possible. After the British left the area in 1948, West Jerusalem became the capital of Israel and East Jerusalem was annexed by Jordan. In many places around Jerusalem a 30' wall separates Arab East Jerusalem from the West Bank. It's had for me to keep it all straight, but it's no way to live.
On our way here we stopped at a crusader castle, which is currently used as a Franciscan church. It has lovingly been restored and it felt like an oasis of tranquility in a beautiful garden. When Jerusalem was conquered by the Turks, Christian pilgrims were stopped from visiting the city. Western European Christians responded with a series of crusades and their kingdom here lasted less than one hundred years when the Kurds took it all back. It does leave one wondering what the world would be like if religious leaders were not in charge. While the Christians were here they discovered white crystals the locals were making into sugar from cane. They were thrilled with the taste and made fortunes importing that delicious sweetness back to Europe.
Our introduction to Jerusalem was from a scenic overlook; the whole city was spread out before us. The golden Dome of the Rock is especially distinctive. The city is crammed with churches, spires and mosques. The distinctive golden onion shaped ones from the Russian Orthodox were especially striking. Outside the walls surrounding the old city, was a huge cemetery. Jews believe that when the Messiah returns to Jerusalem, all the Jews will rise from the dead body and all and join him in the city. Being buried close by just gives you a natural advantage.
We moved on to the Garden of Gethsemane, the place where Jesus spent the night before his crucifixion praying that he would not have to endure what he knew lay ahead. Supposedly he was arrested there. The garden has some of the world's oldest olive trees. Young branches are grafted onto the old trunks. They are supposedly 2,800 years old. The Catholic Church of all Nations there was an oasis of calm as masses of buses dropped off tourists, cars honked their horns, the minarets issued calls to prayer, and the church bells rang throughout the city. I could hardly hear myself think. And we are here during the low season.
After a multi course lunch we left the restaurant and ran into a political protest in the park. People here are angry that Netanyahu refuses to resign despite all the charges brought against him and people are camped in the park in tents, marching and carrying signs. They were anxious to talk to us about their frustrations. We could only nod in empathetic agreement.
Today was the Sabbath and there was a marked contrast in traffic volume as we drove to our hotel in the Jewish part of the city. Our rooms were not supposed to be ready until sun down, around 6pm. Anahid phoned them all though lunch to encourage them to get the job done a bit sooner. Just like in Tel Aviv, the Shabat (sabbath) elevator stopped on every floor so the observant would not have to push any buttons.