DAY EIGHT: In the words of Madonna, “Borderline, feels like I’m going to lose my mind!”

***Note: This was a previous post that I had to move/recreate (thus comments are lost).  Sorry for any inconvenience — webMAN***

Ma’a Salaama to Jordan & Naiheim!
Shalom to Israel and Ruti!

A majority of this day’s adventures (aka 10.5 hours) was centered around bus activities en route from Petra to Jerusalem. That’s right folks, ten and a half hours on the road…despite the fact that the two cities are less than a normal three hour drive apart. Of course, being back with Ruti, we stopped at every roadside tourist trap and gas-station lunch stop between the Jordan River and the Holiest City on Earth. Not to mention that it took us three hours to cross the border between having all our bags x-rayed and Brandon volunteering to bribe the border police with duty-free cigarettes in exchange for expedient passage (Beverly, you’ve raised quite a gentleman!).

Unfortunately, they were out of King Hussein Double Tipped Reds, so we were forced to sit on the bus for two hours. We passed the time, as we did the road miles previously, with another good old-fashioned sing-along.

We started with hymns and praise and worship music and somehow moved to gospel renditions of “Swing Low” and Naiheim belting out “How Great Thou Art” (“Ha Gray-tute Dow Aaart”). Good times, good times.

We had to cut what could have possibly been a Grammy-award winning performance of Kum-Bay-Yah (think: “WE ARE THE WORLD, circa 1982) short due to the 12 year old border police with an uzi responding to a disturbance of the peace our van.

Being the responsible and resourceful social chairwomen of Israeli Invasion ’08, we pulled an oldie but a goodie. Nancy Jane harkened back to her days of Kamp closing to a “List What You Love About Your Fellow Bus-Mate” love fest. All 17 members of our bus group, Naiheim included, received a torn out piece of spiral journal paper with everyone’s handwritten comments about what made them lovable and traits that had been recognized during the past week of travel and getting to know one another.

The girls immediately loved the idea and started digging around in back packs for pens; we had to wake the boys up and they tried to act like they weren’t into it. But let me tell you…there was not a dry eye on the bus after love fest was over. And, thankfully, the minute we were done with the exercise, it was time to enter Israel and yet another security check-point.

Like Joshua and the Israelites into the Promised Land, we were led to Reunion Land with our dear Ruti. She was, folks, ECSTATIC to see us! She laughed, hugged, kissed, joked, hugged a little more and excitedly told us of how we were going to be visiting her town now…on our way to Jerusalem, one of the world’s five oldest (at a fair 7,000 years old) cities and the birthplace of Islam, Christianity and Judaism.

As we neared the place that Ruti calls “home sweet home,” our head honcho leader talked about the spiritual and topographical significance of this barren area. He referenced instances where Christ talks about his people being “like sheep without a shepherd.” Prior to visiting this spot, we’d have thought… “Wow, the sheep are totally lost.” True, but after seeing the conditions that “sheep without a shepherd” would have to endure, it has totally new meaning. Those animals, without their shepherd, would be toast. It’s broiling, no shade or water in sight, long distances give way to longer more desolate distances, wild carnivorous animals abound, and the desert is never-ending. Just like the sheep, we without our Shepherd are toast. Totally.

We stopped for lunch at Rosaline’s, which was Ruti’s second cousin twice-removed’s new Desert Stuckeys. It had a sunglass hut (where Nancy Jane purchased a styling new pair of sunglasses), a Dead Sea mud store (where Lincee had her hands re-conditioned four times as the “Mud Model”) and diners feasted on pita bread filled with cut up hot dogs. All of this ajoining a local filling station…our girl sure knows how to pick ‘em.

The one diversion from the Stuckey’s ambiance was the fact that a group of Israeli soldiers were having their McPitas when we arrived. And folks, these Israeli soldiers are worth writing home to the Mama Readers about…so that’s just what we’re doing. Prilly, Linea, Bev and Pam: Lincee was getting her hands re-conditioned for the second time in the air-conditioned Dead Sea mud store when she turned around and saw Nancy Jane giving her the look…you know the one: Cute boy at ten o’clock.

Lincee agreed. We immediately sought out Ruti’s advice regarding whether or not it was “kosher” to approach armed Israeli guards in the middle of their McBaklava to request a picture. Ruti, game for anything that highlights the beauty of her country, was thrilled to approach one soldier in particular to ask for a close up of his eyes…see below.

After the photo shoot, the bus moved on toward Jerusalem where it detoured onto Jericho Road. This is a Palestinian occupied territory, so armed Israeli guard escorts were necessary to complete this stop. Because the group had been told there would be no hiking involved in our bus-trip day, Nancy Jane wore her most stylish and uncomfortable pair of corked wedge sandals and was grounded…no hiking for her, but that meant plenty of quality time with the rest of the inappropriate footwear folks AND another photo opportunity with the Israeli armed forces. Lincee, who wore appropriate footwear, was quite jealous that she did not get her picture taken with a soldier. There’s always tomorrow, Linc! Maybe she’ll score a Hassidic Jew at the Wailing Wall. Good times, good times.

Another turn of the mountain and our bus arrived near the gates of Jerusalem. We passed through a tunnel at the entrance of the Holy City of Old Jerusalem and out of nowhere, Ruti busted out into song:

“Je-rrrru-salem, Je-rrrru-salem
Leafed up ydour boys ant seeng…”

Nightingale, not so much. And her voice is in fact, lower than the Dead Sea with a nice tamber of smoker’s cough on the high c’s. At the end of her solo, the bus went wild with Islamic Calls to Worship…ALA LA LA LA LA LA LA LA. See DAY FIVE for instructions on how you too can incorporate this Call into your repertoire.

Our last stop, just prior to the hotel, was believe it or not a gift shop. And this one was a little different from gift shops in the past, because Ruti actually bargained on behalf of the shop keeps. We noted she received free coffee and kissed each of the workers upon entrance…we think these may be her nephews trained by her sons, or neighborhood friends. This could also be the internship site for the school Ruti runs to teach entrepreneurial skills to young Israeli men.

Either way, it was a HIGH-END Galveston Strand souvenir shop. Olive wood nativities ranging from $300-1,400, “Hand-woven” silk rugs for $3-7,000 or your typical Jerusalem Gate chatchies ranging between $1.25 and $15.00 after the 20% discount Ruti’s tourists receive from the nephews.

This store could have been sitting in the middle of Willowbrook Mall and called Lifeway for Jews. Everything that even had a SMALL tie to Jerusalem or Israel was included in this store. We were supposed to go to a traditional Israeli market, however, security concerns prohibit that. So, this was our one stop to collect unnecessary Jewish objects…a Woolworth’s of the Holy Land stop, if you will. But, folks bought and all of our loyal readers included in the “friends and family” category can expect at least one olive wood cross or “hand-carved” camel upon our return…we bought in bulk!

Heavy laden with packages, we arrived at our hotel…barely moving. After dinner and our evening re-cap, we didn’t even discuss meeting up for social time, but rather waved “Shalom” and headed to bed. Believe it or not, these bloggirls are off to bed at a very decent hour.

Shalom and stay tuned for news of our visit to Jerusalem and cross into Palestinian territory to visit Bethlehem.


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