Grand Court Hotel, Jerusalem
A tour always takes on a rhythm of its own. In the beginning and for several days, adrenaline keeps everyone running in overdrive. Eventually a combination of jet lag and sheer fatigue from the long days leads to a bit of a slowdown. This is entirely natural, and in large part is due to the fact that you are in a foreign land, eight time zones from home, eating unfamiliar food, sleeping in unfamiliar beds, traveling in close quarters with people you have mostly not met before, dealing with a brand-new culture, getting up at 6 AM, eating breakfast at 7 AM, getting on the bus at 8 AM, spending the entire day visiting one site after another, trying desperately to listen to Abed’s explanations, ducking your head so you won’t hit the door frame as you descend the narrow staircase taking you to Lazarus’ tomb in Bethany, taking pictures along the way, trying to keep up because Abed is always in a hurry, adding up how much money you have left, gazing out the window as the bus descends back toward Jericho, looking at the Ibex out the window, nodding as Abed points out a new settlement, an ancient building and a group of wandering Bedouins, wondering how anyone can float in the Dead Sea, marveling at Herod’s massive building program that transformed the Holy Land, riding the cable car to the top of Masada, listening to Joy Keuer read Eleazar’s final oration before over 900 Jews committed suicide rather than surrender to the Romans, laughing as Abed eats his fourth ice cream bar, trying to figure out what Qumran was all about because we were only there for 30 minutes, looking at the Jericho dig in the fading twilight, studying the Mount of Temptation where the devil tempted Jesus, checking to make sure that Georg and Ken and Bob are able to keep up, sampling a Jericho orange, absolutely without doubt and beyond all question the sweetest orange you have ever tasted, visiting a shop in Jericho and finally getting stuck in an Israeli checkpoint after dark because Jericho is in Palestinian territory, watching as Abed talks the guards into letting us bypass the checkpoint only to discover as we veer off the road that we are about to drive into some serious barbed wire, and cheering as we clear the checkpoint and head back up the mountains toward Jerusalem. No wonder our tour members felt exhausted tonight. It was a long but good day that took us from Jerusalem to Bethany to En Gedi to Masada to Qumran to Jericho to the shop to the checkpoint and finally back to the hotel after dark.
As I said, today was part of the normal rhythm of a tour. People looked a bit tired when they boarded the bus, and everyone looked bedraggled when we got off. No one complained, except about not being able to hear Abed in the back of the bus because of the fan. But aside from that, we are rolling through these middle days of the tour. Things will change considerably tomorrow when we start touring Jerusalem.
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