today we finally visited the holocaust memorial. it was a really emotionally draining experience. it seems like no matter how much you know about the holocaust, there will always be more utterly horrific things to find out about it. the magnitude of everything that happened during those years is practically uncomprehendable. as we walked through the museum (which is just a tiny portion of the huge holocaust memorial site), we read more and more about the disgusting antisemitism that lead up to the holocaust and the even more terrible things that happened once it started. the museum was set up chronologically, so as we went on and on, each room grew worse and worse. starting off w/ park benches labeled “jews only”, vandalism of synagogues, and public humiliation leading up to forcing the jews to live in ghettos, loss of jobs, forced manual labor and then the “final solution”. i think that one thing that real;ly struck me the most today, was that no one did anything about this. the allied powers knew about what was going on in the concentration camps, yet despite people’s pleading, they did nothing about it! in fact, they spent time bombing geram sites that were *right next to* concentration camps… which means they were right there… on the scene with an airplane full of bombs… and yet didnt do anything to stop the atrocities. it’s really bizarre and disgusting to me that no action was taken.

after the museum, we walked through the “valley of the communities” which is a memorial site to all the jewish communities affected by the holocaust. the wasy they set it up was really good, and it really makes an impact. the area is a huge maze of gigantic bedrock slabs that have inscriptions listing the communities affected. the area was divide into sections (for instance, one area had all the communities near paris, another one amsterdam, etc) and the slabs were about 1/5 stories high. there were so many of them. eventually caryn and i got totally lost and really couldnt find our way out. that fact in itself made a powerful statement. that when you list just the *communities* affected, this isn’t even a list of every single person’s names, but just a list of the towns.. even that list is so huge and has so many things listed, that you can fill a huge are with that list….. so many names and places that you can get lost in them.

another thing that i couldnt help but think about, was that w/ so may jews affected, in a lot of ways, i’m insanely lucky to be here. my dad was a little kid living in leningrad when WWII happened. the germans blocked off the whole city and there was a huge siege. no food could get in or out. people had to literally eat bread filled w/ sawdust and boil the leather from their belts for food. an incredible amount of people died, and there were literally bodies in the streets. so many didnt make it… and yet my dad was one of the lucky ones. thank goodness…


random meetings


sometimes, timing is everything. you just end up somehow at the right place and the right time, and it’s really all based on luck. my friend sage just happened to randomly be going to israel this month with the program Birthright Israel. by some total freak coincidence, she ended up here in jerusalem at the same time as i was. given that out of the year long trip, i’m only here for 7 days, it’s a pretty crazy one in a million chance that our paths happened to cross! sage is staying across town in a hostel with the other people in her program so we cabbed it over there to meet up. it was so exciting!! seriously… there’s nothing quite like meeting up w/ a close friend in another country. first off, after not having seen hardly anyone that you know for a long time, it’s really exciting to see your friends again. but it’s more than just that. hanging out w/ someone so far away from the place that you are used to seeing them, really adds a new dimension to it. you get to see the place you’re in through their eyes, and they get to see it through yours. and it’s all so surreal.. here we are on the other side of the planet, in jerusalem of all places, and we’re having coffee w/ a close friend from home. nice!!

unfortunately, our time hanging out was brief. the program that sage is on is pretty hectic, and the two weeks that she is spending here are jam packed w/ activities. pretty much the only time that she could hang out was last night, and just for a couple hours. nevertheless, it was realy wonderful. we got to chat about our thoughts on israel and jerusalem, talk about back home in sf, she and caryn spun poi for a while… it was great. the program that sh’es on sounds hella cool. i guess anyone who’s jewish can do this program and they fly you to israel for free and take you around the country for two weeks showeing you the highlights. it seemed like the other people in her group were really cool, and all in all this really seems like a super fun way to see the country. i kinda wish that i had done it at some point, but oh well.

when we got back to our hostel, there was a hippy banging loudly on the door to the place. huh? well, turns out the hostel for some reason locked the door, even though they are to be open 24 hours, and this guy has been stranded outside in the cold for half an hour!! we started banging on the door too, yelling, knocking, kickin it, ringing the bell…. no answer!! crap. what the hell were we gonna do? it was 1:30 am. the old city was completely dead, and we couldnt get inside. after a bit, another girl walked up, and also tried in vain to bang on the door. finally we wandered off to the police station to see if they had the phone number of the hotel. luckily, they did, and after calling several times, we finally got into the room. sheeez!! we were really worried for a bit though… it was damn cold outside, and it would have been nearly impossible to find another room at that hour!


busy days and floating around


up until today, we’ve had a bit of a relaxed schedule here in jerusalem. we’ve been waking up fairly late, and since the sun sets really early here, we’ve also been ending our sightseeing fairly early. although we’ve seen quite a bit of the city by now, there’s so much to see here that we still have a lot left. so today, we actually wrote down a schedule of things we want to see, set our alarm, and got up early. we groggily stumbled out of our hotel and went to the first part of our plan: the dome of the rock. the hill where it is located has a lot of religious significance… it is the hill where abraham was going to kill his son isaac, it is the hill where the second main temple of judaism used to sit, and it is the hill where mohammed went up to heaven. currently there is a huge courtyard on it with a very impressive looking mosque covered by a golden dome. unfortunately, non-muslims aren’t allowed to go inside the mosque, but we did walk around the courtyard for a brief time until we were kicked out.

our next stop was the mount of olives. this is the mountain where christians believe that jesus rose from the dead. also, at the bottom of the hill was the garden where jesus was betrayed. after checking it out, we started the long steep hike up the hill. finally, exhausted, we got to sit down and enjoy the view for a while. a huge section of the hill up there is covered by a jewish cemetary. jews believe that when the messiah comes, all the dead will rise and go to mount moriah (the temple mount) to bejudged. so, if you get buried on mount of olives, you’ll be one of the first people in the queue. unfortunately, this cemetary has gotten some serious damage during all of the wars that israel has been through. it was really sad to see lots of tombstones smashed to pieces, garabage everywhere, and everything in total disarray…

after scrambling back down the hill, we walked in to the city through lion’s gate and followed via delarosa (the alleged path that jesus carried his cross down on the way to his crucifixion). the via de larosa has 14 stations where certain events happened to jesus (for instance, he met his mother, or he fell, etc) and each station is marked with a number until you end up at the church of the holy sepulchre where there are the last 4 stations. this church is quite breathtaking inside. lots of gold ornamentation and tons of fancy lanterns and incense holders all over the place. people all around us were on their knees praying, holding each other, practically crying. old ladies walked by clutching candles, father’s down on their knees showed their children how to cross themselves. it was quite a sight, and in a way i felt really awkward being there just to check it out and take photos.

Station of the cross number 4

the next thing on our list to see (after mac and cheese at the hotel!) was the damascus gate. this is one of the more interesting gates leading into the city. to get to it, you have to walk deep into the muslim quarter and it is what separates old jerusalem from east jerusalem which is the mainly muslim section of the new city. the muslim quarter is definitely the most bustling quarter. people are everywhere, it’s crowded and hectic, everyone’s yelling and selling something whether it’s vegetables, sweets, clothes, or whatever. it’s defintely a real change from the mellow and fairly tranquil christian quarter or the serene jewish quarter.

Damascus gate

the last thing on our schedule was to go see the holocaust museum, but unfortunately we didnt have time, so we’ll have to see it another day. after taking care of some errands, it was time to eat. seeing as we were in israel, we had really hoped to eat at a place serving jewish food. unfortunately, for some bizarre reason, unlike middle eastern food which was everwhere, jewish food was practically nowhere to be found. we had heard about this one place online, but when we went down there, the menu was actually not inetresting, and they were not very friendly to us. so, we left and were super disapointed.. we would never get our jewish food! well, after spending quite a bit of time searching for something else, we somehow randomly stubled upon a jewish restaurant/deli! this place was semi-famous, and the people had first opened it in 1759 (in another location). so we went in and the food was really really good!! great matzo ball soup, tons of fresh meats… we ate so much, that we barely survived.


as if we hadn’t woken up early enough the day before, we woke up even earlier today. natasha had told us to go see Masada, which is this awesome overlook by the dead sea, and the best time to go see it was during sunrise. so we rented a car the night before, set our alarm for 3am, and when the alarm went off, we barely managed to peel ourselves out of bed. Masada is actually not that far from jerusalem, but unfortunately, the lady at the rental place told us that we couldnt take the rental into the west bank (which ended up not being true) so we had to make this enormous loop and ended up not getting to masada till way after the sun was up. we were so pissed that we had gotten up so early for nothing, but the view from masada was still really really cool! this area has been called the grand canyon of the middle east, and the terrain is awesome. also, randomly enough, after walking around a bit we started hearing loud trance music… tuens out some people were setting up a sound system and stuff for what looked to be an outdoor rave!! so random!

after hanging out for a bit, we set off to go see the dead sea. btw, driving the rental car around was really fun. i havent driven my car in over three months, so the couple of times that we’ve rented a car out here, it’s really been exciting. plus, it’s just fun to drive around a foreign country. driving in each country is really different, and it’s kind of a little adventure to drive anywhere. we soon got to see the dead sea, and then descended down the road till we were at about 400 meters below sea level… the lowest point in the whole world (that isn’t underwater). near the dead sea, there were all these evaporation ponds and you could see these huge piles of salt and mineral deposits.

we kept driving and eventually got to a place where you could go swimming and had shower facilities etc. apparently, although the dead sea water is extremely good for your skin, if you dont wash it off immediately, it can be extremely harmful. so, finally we got to swim in the dead sea. it was sooo cool! now i always wondered how big of a deal this dead sea could be.. i mean, yeah sure, you float on the surface, but dont you float on the surface of any body of water if you lay back? what’s the big deal?! well, when we got in, we could instantly tell that it really was different here. if you lift your feet off of the ground, they instantly bob upto the surface all on their own. it’s actually difficult to pull them down. it was a really really bizarre feeling to be floating there. so much fun! afterards, there is this mud nearby that you are supposed to rub all over yourself cause it’s good for your skin. everyone was walking around over there, and putting mud everywhere till they looked like freaks. we decided, why the hell not, may as well be dorky and go do it as well…

after the dead sea, we drove back to jerusalem. on the way, as we drove through the west bank, caryn pointed out all these sad pathetic looking “homes” all over the hills. these homes were totally shanty towns, a bunch of sticks propping up a sorry looking excuse for a roof, with a bunch of clotheslines outside. it was prety depressing to see that people out here were living like this. from what i’ve read, a lot of palestinians cant really get any work, and the work that they do get, is mostly manual labor, dishwahsing, and other crap jobs. we wondered to oursleves just how many people out here live like this…. *sigh*. the more and more i learn about the palestinian/israel situation, the more it seems like a never ending horrible shite situation. the palestinians live w/ crap jobs, and no homeland, and the israelis live in constant fear and have to have constant vigilance. what a life. israel is such a fascinating country… so much natural beauty, religious monuments, modern technology, vibrant cultures on one hand, and yet so much conflict, strife, danger, and fear on the other.




ever since we got here, i’ve wanted to take a walking tour of the city. our guidebook had only about 5 pages worth of info about jerusalem, and for a several thousand year old city with an insane amount of history, that was practically no info at all. so, we took a three hour tour around the old city, during which we learned an insane amount of stuff… and yet this small tiny city has experienced so much, and has so much stuff of important significance, that i still feel like i barely know anything about it. our guide taught us about the history of the town, the changes that have occured there, and a little about the religion of the main groups living here. we started off seeing the mian church in the armenian quarter, followed by the western wall, archaeological excavations, and shops in the jewish quarter, and then we got to the christian quarter.

now, i’m not christian, but pretty much everyone in america, christian or not, knows at least a bit about the story of christ. often, religious stories seem so remote and fantastical, that it’s pretty surreal to be in the places where the stories actually took place. the tour took us along the “stations of the cross” where it is believed that jesus walked through jerusalem carrying his cross, and eventually the tour came to the church of the holy sepulchre which is the spot where jesus was crucified and then buried in a cave. now, whether or not you may believe that jesus was the son of god or not, it’s absolutely undeniable that he is one of the most important people in all of history and has influenced modern humanity an incredible amount. it was so intense to be there and see these places. jesus being crucified is one of those events that almost everyone on the planet has heard of countless times, every time you see a cross around someone’s neck, you are reminded of it. everytime you see a chucrch, you are reminded of it. it’s something that’s etched permanently in the psyche of almost every american… and here we were, standing on the spot where it happened. all sorts of people were coming intot he church and kissing various objects in it. the whole scene was quite powerfull.

the last part of the tour took us through the muslim quarter, but unfortunately, we werent able to go see the most important place: the dome of the rock. the dom is only open to non-muslims during a few hours per day, and you can only enter through a certain entrance, so we’l have to save that for later.

after the tour we decided to go buy some lunch. since restaurants here are so expensive, we decided that we should just go buy groceries and cook them ourselves. luckily, buying groceries in the old city was actually super cheap! we bought a pound of steak for just 3 bucks!!


today we strated off the day by going to the tower of david museum. this is a museum in the citadel at the city wall. this is where the people who had to guard the city stayed. the museum was prety interesting, and gave us a good chronological history of the various groups of peole who have lived here. after that, we rushed across town to go see the israel museum, a huge museum with tons and tons of exhibits spread throughout several buildings and a sculpture garden. we rushed through and were only able to see three exhibits: one was an exhibit on japan with lots of japanese pottery and sculpture. the stuff they had here was so beautiful and well crafted. caryn and i both have always been fascinated by japan and the art that comes from there and seeing the exhibit made us really look forward tio when we go there! the next exhibit was another exhibit from japan, but this one focused more on moderrn japan and had different design exhibits, comercials, and artistic electronics. heh, this is actually something else that really makes me interested in japan. i really like both of these sides to their culture… the very beautiful old traditional ways and the new hyper-technological crazy consumer culture. i’m thinking that i would really love to live in japan for a while. not necesarily a long time, maybe even just for as little as a few months, but still i think it would be great. maybe i could somehow work it on this trip. the final exhibit was an exhibit of the dead sea scrolls. they had certain sections of the scrolls on display and we started looking at them, but the museum closed and we had to rush out.

jerusalem is a city that attracts so many different kinds of people who come here seeking religion. alot of them are normal everyday people who just want to be in touch w/ their religion, or come see the holy sights that they have heard so much about… but jerusalem also has the tendancy to attract some reall whack-jobs. we’ve already run into quite a few of them here. there was the man from minnesota, who believes that the garden of eden was actually in minnesota and that the pyramids of egypt were built using stone that they got from minnesota. while talking to us, he kept looking over his shoulder cause he was worried about israeli spies out to get him. there was the old hippie guy with a guitar who constantly plays old songs but changes all the words to be about being born again. there is the angry palestinian, who is constantly yelling at people in the hostel and believes that cigarettes are actually medicine. when asked why people die from this “medicine”, he exclaimed that those are only idiots, and that as long as you smoke only one pack per day, like him, you should be fine. there is the jewish teacher who believes that in just 70 years the ocean levels will rise about 60 meters and all of israel (with most fo europe etc as well) will be swallowed into the sea. he hopes that perhaps the jews can find a new home… in kenya!

and then, there is the altercation i witnessed today, which though having nothing to do w/ religion, left me wondering about some people around here. i was walking to the internet place and overheard this tourist arguing w/ someone on the street saying that he just didnt have much money etc etc. i didnt pay much attention, and sat down at the computer. a few minutes later, that same guy came into the interent place and then announced in a very loud voice “i just want everyone here to know, that the interent owner here is a CHEAT!!”. this was announced to a completely packed interent cafe… at which point the owner comes runnig out from behind the desk and proceeds to punch the tourist in the face repeatedly. two guys jump up to hold the owner back, and while they held the owner, the tourist snuck in a punch of his own and ran off, followed by all of the others. it was nuts!! apparently, they were then all stopped by the police, but minutes later the internet owner walked back in like nothing had ever happened. bizarre.

at night, we wandered thorugh the new city, and jus as luck would have it, we stumbled upon a candle lighting ceremony. perfect timing once again! they had this huge menorah that was about a story and a half tall… so how do you light it? well, they took the three rabbis, and put them in this crane, and the crane lifted them up to light it. to me this was absolutely hilarious. the last place you would imagine a solemn, traditional, old fashioned rabbi is in a large high tech crane. too funny.



i’m definitely not the most hardcore religious person. i celebrate a few major jewish holiday, and i’ll go to synagogue a couple times a year. but still i definitely feel that being jewish is part of my identity and because of that, almost as much as wanting to go to russia, i ‘ve also always wanted to go to jerusalem. despite always wanting to come here to jerusalem, i actually used to know very little about it. for me it was always the center of the jewish religion, and that’s pretty much it. i kind of knew in the back of my mind that it had important significance for muslims as well, but never really thought about it much. over the last couple of days being here though, i’ve really learned about just how important of a city it is to so many people. jerusalem is one of the most holy cities in christianity, islam, and judaism. for jews, it’s the place where the remains of the most sacred temple are located. for christians it’s where christ was crucified and later ascended to heaven. for muslims, this is where mohammed went up to heaven as well. due to this mix, people from all over the world come here to se the cities history and sites and it holds a special place in so many people’s hearts. when neil armstrong came here, he said that walking around jerusalem was more powerful an event to him than walking on the moon.

the western wall with the dome of the rock behind it

to me, it’s not only amazing that so many important holy sites are here, but it’s crazy just how close they are to each other. the old city is small… tiny even. it’s only about 700 yards from one side to the other. although, it’s roughly divided into 4 sections (armenian, mulim, jewish, and christian), all the main sites are literally *right* next to each other. jews praying at the wailing wall are literally just 50 yards from muslims praying at the dome of the rock. walking along the cobblestone streets, you see menorahs sold next to fezes, you see long bearded jewish orthodox pass by their also long bearded muslim counterparts, you see arab spice shops next to stores selling yarmulkas, and at the skyline, you are just as likely to see a mosque minaret as a christian cross. signs around the city come in arabic, english and hebrew. everything here is mixed together, and i think that is what really makes this city so special and amazing. it’s not just a sacred spot for one group of people… instead it’s a place valued by so many, and each group can’t just retreat to its own section of town, cause everything is all in the same spot.

for me personally, since i’m jewish, it was very important to go see the western wall. this is the last remaining section of the second jewish temple that was destroyed centuries ago by the romans. there are very strict checkpoints w/ metal detectors etc to get to the wall, and once you descend to the square in front of it, men and women have to go up to the wall separately. yesterday when we went over there i just lloked at the wall from the square, but today i went up close. it was quite a scene up there. over a hundred jews, most of them dressed in orthodox attire all gathered around, praying… some out loud and some in silence, rocking back and forth, etc. some of them would go right up to the wall and pray with their hands and face pressed into it. it was quite a powerful scene, and even though i’m jewish, i still felt out of place being there… like i was just a tourist gawking. nevertheless, when i saw an openiung, i walked up closer to touch the wall itself. the gnarled stones of the wall were actually fairly smooth, probably from so many people running their hands over and over them. it ‘s funny in way, that something like a wall can have such an important significance to so many people… this wall is one of the most non-photogenic things i’ve seen on my trip… no ornate carvings, no gliterring gold and no fancy stained glass, if not for the hundreds of people miling around, a photo of it would show nothing but a wall like any other wall… but being there, surrounded by so many praying people, you could really really feel the power of the place. in some ways, it’s people’s devotion to things that can make them so intense and powerful.

let’s see… what else is there for me to report… we havent’ expored nearly enough of the city yet, and so tomorrow we’re probably gonna take a walking tour. that should be really ineteresting. yesterday i went to a lecture about hannukah that was given in russian. heh, although my russian is pretty damn good, there were parts of the lecture that weren’t too easy to follow. the lecture turned out to be kind of more like a history lesson since the lecturer kept straying from the topic at hand, and i woiuld have rather learned a bit more about hannukajh itself, but it was ineteresting nevertheless. anothe thing, israel is expensive!! back in syria, we were living lke kings, and ate in restaurants constantly w/ no regard for money. here, we had to go buy spaghetti to make for dinner and cereal to eat for breakfast. it’s really straining our budget!!

orthodox jews

mezuzot at the entrance to the western wall

our menorah on the first day of hannukah



we’ve been so ridiculously lazy here in tel aviv. waking up hellza late, doing pretty much nothing but eating during the day. we just cant get motivated to do pretty much anything but relax! we ate at a super good restaurant today… their thing was that all their meals were based on hummus. we’ve had plenty of middle eastern food already in the last few weeks, but this was all creative and super good! our waitress mentioned that tonight was the first night of hannukah, but when we asked her if anything was going on in town to celebrate, she said that there probably wasn’t. dammit! we had rushed over here to be in istrael during hannukah and there would be no public celebration?

to do at least something, we bought a cheap manorah and some candles on the way back to the hotel. at least we could have our own little celebration. we little the candles in our *tiny* hotel room, and hung out while the candles burned. heh, it wasnt a crazy big celebration, but it was really nice, and i’m glad that we’ll have something small to look forward to for the next 8 days.

a little while later, we decided to go see a movie, so we walked down towards the movie theater that we saw the other day. walking up to the place, i could barely make out the words or the jewish candle prayer coming out over a loudspeaker. looks like there was a public celebration afterall! so we rushed over, and there was this huge manorah that was lit up, and they were playing jewish songs over a soundsystem w/ live singing and keyboards. all sorts of orthadox jews w/ their black and white suits, long beards, and wide brimmed black hats were frantically dancing in circles. it was soo cool! i dunno… it was actually a really really moving experience for me. i’ve celebrated jewish holidays for years… and have always really wanted them to be celebrated where they are at their best.. in “the promised land”. when we celebrate passover back home, the final words are always “next year in jerusalem”.. and yeah, this isn’t jerusalem, but it’s israel.. and here i was watching a hanukkah celebration. it was all vefry emotional and exciting. there’s something really really special about cultural traditions.. and the longer you live, and the more times you experience them, they just somehow hold a bigger and bigger place in your heart.

happy hannukah!



running around the world, constantly catching buses, checking out ruins, sightseeing can eventually make ya a bit tired, so caryn and i are taking a vacation from our vacation. and what better place to do it than tel aviv. we haven’t been to a city like this since… well… london maybe? tel aviv is ultra modern. it’s sky is littered w/ shiny skyscrapers, it’s streets are filled w/ neon lights and restaurants, and it’s telephone poles are covered over completely w/ posters advertising the lastest djs playing at this club or another. if it wasn’t for the hebrew lettering everywhere, you almost wouldnt know that we were in the middle east at all. the city is crammed full of a variety of different restaurants, and caryn and i have already eaten sushi and mexican food… and are planning on getting thai later tonight. the city has jillions of bars and clubs, and people can go out all night any day of the week. we havent been to a club yet, but hopefully we can find something tonight. not only that, but our hotel is just a couple blocks from the beach.

it’s kinda nice to have no schedule for a bit, and not be worrying that we’re missing out on this sight or another. we’re chilling, sleeping in, and just hanging out. especially after yesterday’s horrible pain in the butt day, it’s a nice change.

oh yeah, did i mention that i saw more soldiers yesterday than i’ve ever seen in my life? in town, on the bus, at rsetauarnts, practically all we saw was soldiers. everyone had huge guns strapped to their backs. hordes of both girls and guy would board buses weraing their uniforms and machineguns. it was pretty crazy. for a bit we were strating to think that israel was full of nothing but soldiers… but as of today, we havent seen any. i’m wondering why there were so damn many of them yesterday. odd. it’s also odd that these people are sooo young! they’re just kids. like 10 years younger than us. i cant imagine running around w/ a machinegun when i was that young…


revenge of the hole

so, after the shoddy hotel, the messed up cab rides, and the filthy koftes turning up on our plates, it was with no great sorrow that we left amman this morning… but little did we know, that amman would have one final swift kick in the ass for us, just so we would never forget it. but i’ll get to that later.

we paid 30$ bux a piece for a bus that would take us from amman straight to tel aviv in israel, but of course along the way there would be the dreaded israeli border crossing. the israelis are obsessed w/ security and rightfully so after all the terrorism that has been unleashed upon the country..but it definitely makes getting into the country a long and arduous event. as we pulled up to the border, there were guards walking around w/ mirrors peering under buses for bombs, and other soldiers wandering around w/ huge machineguns held in their hands all ready to shoot. “this guys is serious. he will shoot to kill if there is any funny business. he has orders!” the guy next to us told us while pointing to a soldier. at this point we were told to get off and go to passport control. the guy in the bus added to us as we walked away “after passport control, we will switch to a red van on the other side of the border. be sure to get in the red van…. people on the other side may lie to you and say that there is only taxis to get your money, but look for the van”. ok, sounds easy enough.

once inside, we were instantly interrogated by the guards. they even did the usual police trick of seprating caryn and i while we were asked questions to see if our stories corroborated. now, this wasnt the usual “has anyone unknown to you given you a package” type of questions. we got asked everything: “where ar you going. do you have family there. which sites will you see. who is that girl with you. which countries have you been in. how much money do you have. will you go to the west bank. which school did you go to. where di you buy your bus ticket” etc tec etc. this went on and on and on. probably like 30 minutes of questioning. our bags were then searched, and we had to gfo through a detector. unfortunately, my pants have a bunch of metal buckles on them and i kept setting it off, so i was told i had to go to a “special room” for a “body search”. oh no!! i pictured the horrible scene that you always hear about in movies… but luckily it was just a room where they use a metal detector wand and the guy feels you up everywhere.

after all that, we went on to another group of people who asked us more questions. the girl there asked me if i had been to any arab countries and when i said that i had been to syria, she looked all perplexed and asked me what for. i told her that it was to see the sights, and she responded with “syria has sights??”i wanted to respond by saying that no, there were no sights at all in syria, it was just a row of huts with terrorists hanging out inside, but i decided to keep my mouth shut. oh yeah, i and i forgot to mention, to make matter all the more interesting, when the guy talking to me found out i was russian, the rest of the interrogation was in russian. anyways, after al this we had to sit and wait for another 30 minutes, and finally left. on our way out, as predicted, a guy came up to us saying that our van had left, and our only way to get to tel aviv was to take his taxi. we told him to get lost, and walked on to get our van to tel aviv.

but much to our dismay, it wasn’t a scam. the van was gone. GONE. we were stranded at the border, and the van that we had paid 30$ each for wasnt there to take us any farther. the guy came up to us again and offered to take us to tel aviv for 20$ each. we were in no mood to pay that extra $$ so we walked away and decided to try and call the van company… but then realized that we had no phone and no shekels to buy a phone card with. we were sooooo pissed. we were able to exchange money and then spent another 10$ in phone cards calling the van company who told us that since we were “late” at the border crossing, the van just left and it was our fault. i tried to argue w/ the guy, but he really couldnt give a fuck less. he just kept repeating “you were late. you were late” until our card ran out.

so there we were. in the middle of butt nowhere. not near any towns. 60$ in the hole. thanks Amman. thanks a bunch. as if we hadnt dealt w/ enough bullshit, now this. so what to do? afew minutes later, a taxi pull up and offers to take us to the next town which is only 3 miles away for 12 dollars. 12 dollars!!! for 3 miles. what a ripoff. at this point, a nice lady on the side of the road started arguing w/ the cab driver saying he wasa ripping us off, but the guy didnt care at all. 12$ he insisted. luckily, someone else waiting for a ride told us that her ride would give us a lift to that nearby town. we soon were in the nearby town of ben shean. all we needed now was some cash to pay for bus fare. we go to the atm. out of order. great. this day was really going our way. then we went to the next atm. this one said that it couldnt give us money… and then promptly swallowed my atm card. oh. my. god. now what?

the bank was closed, and the guard told us that we could come back the following day at 8:30 to talk to someone about getting my card… but tomorrow we wont be in this town, we’ll be in tel aviv! ugh. so what will become of my card is still to be determined. eventually, we took two buses and got to tel aviv. it cost us about 20$ each. ugh. what a nightmare.

that’s about it for this post.. i’ll actually wriete about tel aviv tomorrow…