Sunday, December 24, 1995

1995 Israel: Jericho (12/24/1995)

Sunday, December 24, 1995 (continued)
We retraced our route, then took the road to Jericho. Passed a checkpoint and showed our passports, although they were not taken to be perused. We were now entering a Palestinian-governed area. Jericho is an oasis town that Marc Antony once gave to Cleopatra. Antony’s vassal, King Herod, had to lease the land back from Cleopatra. Jericho is green, with groves of tall date palms, banana plantations, orange groves, bougainvillea, papaya trees, etc.
Date palm plantation
But neglect and dilapidation is apparent in the now mostly Muslim area. We headed to Tel Jericho, looking for Elisha’s Spring. Saw a hand-painted sign at what looked like a dirt driveway to someone’s shack, with an old man sitting out front. We did not want to deal with another guard with 30 years of experience, so continued past. So we may have missed what is supposedly a generous spring capped by a pump house. The spring is called Ain Es-Sultan/Sultan’s Spring, or Elisha’s Spring to recognize the Old Testament prophet and his miracle of sweetening the water with a bowl of salt. We drove to a large parking lot, and at one corner, Kent, Brynne and I paid 20 NIS to enter Tel Jericho. A tel is an archaeological mound, and this one was an excavation of the ancient city of Jericho. There were no remains of the walls of the first Canaanite objective of Joshua’s army when the Israelites marched around the city once a day for six days. On the seventh day they marched around seven times, blew on the ram horns, and shouted so that the walls came tumbling down and they were able to take the city. But we saw the remains of the world’s oldest walled city with a stone tower of 28 feet in diameter and 25 feet high attached to a 7.5-foot thick wall.

It predates the invention of pottery. Human bones dated to the Neolithic period (Late Stone Age, 6500-7800 BC). It is not known why they would have needed a wall. There was also a moat and retaining wall from about the year 2000 BC.
Wall from 2000 BC
View towards the city of Jericho
An observation point allowed us to look toward Elisha’s Spring, toward the City of Palms/Jericho, and toward the mountains in the west, one traditionally being the Mount of Temptation where Satan tempted Jesus with dominion over all the kingdoms of the world. Halfway down the mountainside was the Greek Orthodox Monastery, built into the cliffs on Byzantine remains. We could not really see the caves where hermits once lived, since it was dusk. The mountain and monastery are known locally as Qurantal, a corruption of the word quarantena (period of 40 days), which was the period of the temptation of Jesus.
Across the parking lot, Tom and Dot led us to the Temptation Restaurant for dinner, the one for which we had to save space. Tom and Dot were known by the owner, both for working with the American Consulate and for bringing all their guests here. The owner had his son take us up to a table on a balcony overlooking the wall mosaic and fountain of the restaurant.
Inside Temptation Restaurant
Several waiters served us, including the Ls’ usual waiter who arrived later. We did not order, rather they simply began bringing us dishes! Pitchers of fresh orange juice and lemonade, and a tall bottle of water. Brynne drank a lot of lemonade, but did not eat. She fell asleep lying across my lap. Next was pita bread (saucer-size) and toasted pita bread, which came with meze/small appetizers, an array of Middle Eastern salads including hummus, a hummus with something green blended in it, chopped cucumber in yoghurt, tabbouleh, marinated eggplant, spicy marinated green olives, and hot peppers. We also received two orders of the seven-saucer salads, and did a good job on them. This was followed by kibbeh, described as chopped meat in a pointy zeppelin-shape coated in cracked wheat and fried. Good and crispy; Kent and I each had one and split Brynne’s. There was a platter of juicy and flavorful chicken wings, and a platter of lamb chops and lamb sausages. So much food, but we kept eating! The head waiter noticed Brynne was not eating and was sleepy. He kept patting her head and cheeks. He leaned over the balcony railing to call to another employee below, who tossed up a large chocolate candy bar, which the waiter then gave to Brynne!
Kent and Tamiko at the Temptation Restaurant
Dot and Tom at the Temptation Restaurant
Below on the steps in front of the fountain, they were videotaping a young woman in a Western-style bridal gown. Another woman managed the train, but we did not see anyone else except employees standing around. So we figured they were filming for an advertisement rather than for a true wedding.
When we were more than full, they brought out the desserts. There were two sorts of honey-rolled baklava-type pastries, one with a creamy layer and both stuffed with pistachio nuts (bourma pastries). Kent and Tom had Turkish coffee with a quarter inch of silt at the bottom of the handle-less cups. A waiter came with a bill that was just 200 written on a slip of paper. We managed to give the waiter a 200 NIS bill, so that the Ls did not have to pay, although they left a 50 NIS tip. Even with a generous tip, it came to only about $20 per adult!
We went downstairs to explore the gift shop and decided to get some souvenirs, since we did not know when we would have the chance again. A shopkeeper kept close to us, rearranging nearby displays. We went up and down the aisles and eventually lost this guy. Another man brought me a basket since I was juggling a few items, and suddenly there were several employees waiting on us. One told us the boss said we could get a 30% discount on anything, because we were friends! Oh, boy! We did pick out a couple more things than we would have. We asked Tom and Dot if they wanted anything, and they only wanted a tiny paper Palestinian flag. I reached to get one, and an employee got another and gave it to me. Kent went to look for a larger Palestinian flag, but what they had was too big. They added up our purchases of four mud packs, one mud soap, a souvenir package of vials of olive oil, water and earth from the Holy Land, and five pins of flags and the Jerusalem cross. The total was $51, discounted to about $35, but all I had were shekels. The man said ‘110,’ then to just to give him 100. I had figured it was about 112 NIS and tried to give him 110, but he would not take it. He also had not charged for the little flags, never mind that big chocolate bar for Brynne! We were told to wait a moment, and he reached under the table to get a couple handfuls of samples of Dead Sea mud, moisturizers, gels, etc. We felt showered by generosity! We were accompanied out the door by the group of employees, and we thanked them profusely.
Outside at the fruit market, I asked about the fruit that is supposed to be in season now, the pomelo (a large citrus fruit related to the grapefruit). Dot had mentioned they were expensive, but I was willing to get one. The employee here picked one up and presented it to Dot, his “love.” We tried to pay for it, but were told it was a gift. The head waiter came out to give Brynne a package of raisins. Now thoroughly laden, we finally left saying goodbye to the owner, some of his sons, and many employees! Dot was enthusiastic in her congratulations to them in Palestine. Back in the car, we drove back to Jerusalem without incident. We could see some of the Bedouin tents were lighted from within, thanks to a generator. But many more remained dark.
When we arrived at the Ls, Tom and Brynne were anxious to open gifts. We figured we would not be around Christmas morning to exchange gifts, so we went ahead and did it now.
Brynne and Tom
Brynne and Dot
Brynne with the
Druze-embroidered purse
We had brought a couple small things, homemade cookies for Tom and a calendar for Dot’s pocket organizer. They gave Brynne a book, rare to find a Jewish one in English, about God who is everywhere, and a cloth purse with embroidery that is typical of the Druze, an Arabic-speaking people with a secret religion who had broken away from Islam 1,000 years ago and are loyal to Israel. The Ls gave Kent a small ceramic plaque with a beautiful village scene, made by Palestinians. I was given a holiday cookbook, and a wooden ornament from Bethlehem, likely made with olive wood. We tried to go to bed early because of the early start tomorrow for the Egged tour.
"Brynne's room" at Tom's and Dot's
After Brynne was in bed, Santa left a small gift for her under the tree, even though she understood that Santa would be leaving gifts under our tree at home in Rumford.
Next: Nazareth and Sea of Galilee.

No comments: