Passage to Palestine

Nicholas Quirke was in full explorer mode on 9th May 2019 and facing a day with Cole of discovering The West Bank, Palestine. Their Itinerary drew them ever deeper into the mystique of the Holy Land and into the divisive politics of these two opposing states. It was with excitement that set they off at 6.45 to meet their tour bus, though it was a short journey coloured by stress as they were called upon to pass the location where they had quarreled with a local native. Fortunately, the Souk, with a very chill wind breezing through its avenues, was dead at that time of the morning and they did not face the encounter they feared. Any doubts about taking a guided tour of the West Bank were swiftly dispelled as their guide Khalil was informed, passionate about his subject, full of energy and truthful. They learned some fascinating facts as they drove through Jerusalem’s suburbs, learning that during the British occupation a law was forced on the city that all buildings must be made from limestone and have a uniform appearance and as a consequence its real estate is ridiculously expensive. It was not long before they were breaching the wall at a check point where once again the presence of armed military, and armed security to protect the soldiers, created a tense and ominous atmosphere. The wall is a chilling presence dividing the states but it was not long before the sun, the informative commentary, the sense of adventure dispelled any bad feeling and apart from the shift in tone to a poverty of architecture the mood of the pair and their fellow travelers lifted. The first stop was Yasser Arafat’s grave, shrine, at which Nicholas was surprised to have his preconceptions about these divided people shattered. It was a whirlwind tour with a visit to Ramallah, and then a drive through the mountains of Judea, past sea level onto the the lowest point on earth at the banks of the River Jordan, where in the waters that Jesus was baptized in they witnessed baptisms, drenched their own feet and gazed at Jordan on the opposite bank. It was disturbing to learnt that there were still a plethora of mines left after the Jordanians had departed after their occupation of the land. They had formed a bond with an Irish couple Steve and Niamh and during the drive to the oldest city in the world Jericho they shared stories of their travels. The temperature had begun to soar and the heat added to the overwhelming sense of insignificance against the tide of history as they surveyed the archaeological remains of the ancient city. Camels, peacocks, falafals dominated their short break before they sped north to Bethlehem and a surprisingly relevant Banksy. They were treated to a lunch before heading towards The Church of the Nativity and a glimpse of the birth place of Jesus and the manger. The tour finished with a walk along the separation wall and the Graffiti art that has sprung up around it. They were sobering images and words and was given the perspective of a native Palestinian who had spent 6 years in prison following the death of his brother in street brawl between Israeli and Palestinian militia They made it back to Jerusalem and Jaffa Gate, said goodbye to their companions and headed back to the hostel. Exhausted by the long day they decided to have a quiet night and dine at the hostel, watch a film, American Indie, Jess and Moss and have an early night before their next adventure. They also had the time to do some admin and decided to check the route back to the Airport on Saturday. To their horror they discovered there is no public transport on a Saturday! The question now is, How will they get their plane to get home?

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