Computer has started to say ‘yes’ again to the uploading of photos.

So when last we saw our heroine she was all set to hit the road with her companions on the afternoon on Monday November 11, heading for Bethlehem which is just south of Jerusalem in the occupied West Bank.

The Security Fence from the Bethlehem road
Adel leads us to the Church of the Nativity in Bethlehem. He’s pointing to the entrance, through which even short people have to bend over to get in.

It’s said to be the oldest complete Christian church in the world, built by Roman Emperor Justinian in 600 AD. (This was well after the fall of Rome itself and the removal of the empire to Byzantium, or Constantinople.)

Marian grotto inside the Church of the Nativity
Aussie sisters Libby and Rose. We were all a bit footsore and tired by then and didn’t feel like joining yet another long queue inside.
Bethlehem is in Palestinian territory. The images on the left are of Palestinian traditional costumes.

There was a big wall mural portrait I failed to capture on my camera of Yasser Arafat and his successor at the Palestinian Authority, Mahmoud Abbas. The PA runs the West Bank, Hamas runs Gaza and it’s they who fired the rockets into southern Israel yesterday. I gather from the news that Israeli retaliatory strikes have now killed up to 24 Palestinians in Gaza. Sigh. I have this thing when I travel that just about everywhere I go reminds me of a song. My friends know of my annoying ability to remember the words of songs, or to half-remember them, as was the case with this song by Steve Earle called ‘Jerusalem’. (It’s been covered by Joan Baez and other big names too.) I’ve had it as my earworm for the past several days:

I woke up this morning, and none of the news was good
Death machines were rumblin’ ‘cross the ground where Jesus stood
And the man on my TV told me that it had always been that way
And there was nothing anyone could do or say

And I almost listened to him
Yeah, I almost lost my mind
And I regained my senses again
Looked into my heart to find

That I believe that one fine day all the children of Abraham
Will lay down their swords forever in Jerusalem

Banksy does Palestine

On the way back to Jerusalem we passed this mural by Banksy, and also the King David Hotel, bombed by the militant Zionist Irgun gang in 1946, one of whom was Menachem Begin who later became Prime Minister of Israel! It was an action against the British, who were headquartered at the hotel. 91 people were killed, although Wikipedia says the Irgun did try to phone a warning in to their own people working there, which was never received.

King David Hotel entrance

The British had a mandate from the League of Nations to run Palestine from roughly the end of WWI to the declaration of the State of Israel in 1948.

See, this is what travel does – makes you brush up your history. When I was a younger traveller I’d be out at night looking for fun and company. Now that I’m old I stay in my hotel room, googling away to remind myself about half-learnt, half-forgotten things about the places I’m visiting. It doesn’t help that the $A is so weak against the dollar and the Euro these days. A pizza amatriciana and a mingy glass of chianti at my hotel restaurant (the Rome Times on Via Milano) last night set me back E27.50, or just under $50. But it was the best pizza crust I’ve ever had. Sort of crunchy and chewy and cracky and a bit smoky at the same time. I’d forgotten to take my camera down with me so can’t post a pic of this culinary delight.

Believe it or not I had a song for Lebanon too: ‘Roland the Headless Thompson Gunner’ by the late Warren Zevon. The last line goes:

In Ireland, in Lebanon, in Palestine and Berkeley/ Patty Hearst heard the burst of Roland’s Thompson gun and bought it.

Bethlehem brought to mind a few Christmas carols, which I hate hearing when it isn’t Christmas so I had to ruthlessly suppress them whenever they flashed upon that inner ear which is the bliss of solitude except when you’ve got an unwanted song on your brain.

Jordan? I had a variety of earworms because there are zillions of gospelly songs about the Jordan River, on account of that’s where Jesus was baptized (by John the Baptist, natch). Incidentally, there was an expensive optional day trip to the alleged baptism site on the Jordanian side. I mean really. I gave it a miss.