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Day 14, June 13, Friday

(Chris) Greg, Sam, and Matt all turned on me and decided not to go to Petra. They had decided to spend more time in Israel and make the trip, "more like a pilgrimage." The number of beaches and bars we hit in the next few days testify to their definition of pilgrimage. I was depressed all day.

We tried to drive to Bethlehem, but we kept getting lost in the West Bank. We kept joking about getting shot, but all anyone showed us was friendliness. We saw a nice, big Church-like structure and drove a windy road to it, only to find it was a convent and we weren't in Bethlehem. But the nun said we could follow the priest's car as it was heading there now. A few blocks later, the priest got out of the car, but the driver took off like a 747. I was driving and put a heavy foot to the pedal to keep up with this zig-zagger speeder crazy man guy driver.

After many zigs and zags, we were at Nativity Square with no clue as to how we'd ever get out of here and back to Jerusalem. Nevertheless, we parked and went into the big, old Church. You have to bow down in order to enter (unless you are a lollypop kid or something) because the door is small. The church was large and gray. The delightful crypt was where the action and beauty really wreaked havoc.

218.jpg (10497 bytes)A Franciscan showed us St. Jerome's living (and dying) quarters below. It was here that he did his famous Bible translations. The Franciscans then treated us to a N.O. Mass with Tridentine music. They couldn't use the altar with the Birth spot because it was Greek Ortho, so the part of the Mass they needed an altar for, they went off to the side altar, which was the spot of the manger Jesus was laid in. (The manger is in Rome - we saw it on T2.) A little weird, but Brother Benjamin seemed to like us and walked us up to the street to the Church of the Lactation, where it is said the Holy Family lived for awhile after the birth.

It was a cave also within, and some think they were hiding here during the killing of the Holy Innocents. There were many pictures of Mary breast-feeding Jesus. The ceiling of the cave was an odd milk color because of what happened there. Women from around the world (including Muslims) come here to pray when they have breast-feeding problems. Needless to say, none of the T-weeds had an urgent need to pray there a long time, but it was a nice chapel.

We hit the gift shops and a falafel stand and tried to get out of town. But we got lost many times - eventually found Shepherd's Field after it closed for siesta. A brother was kind enough to show us the chapel and the fake sheep and we left singing, "O shepherd's, why this jubilee?"

Our jubilation soon turned to distress as we struggled to regain the main road. Eventually, we found Jerusalem (luckily) and then got lost in Jerusalem. Then Joe and Matt left us and went to the hotel for medical reasons (that time of the month, I guess) and the rest drove around the city crazy and parked near the Mt. of Olives.

We started hiking up it, but were stopped by a gardener half way up. He told us why he hated America for awhile (nearly an hour.) After we tore ourselves from him, we finished the climb and bought a 1.5 liter Coke for 5 shekels and Dave bought a small can of Sprite for 5 shekels. While Sam gloated about his purchase vs. Dave's, these 3 decided that now that we were at the top, and had gotten drinks, it was time to go back down. (You must remember, I was still in a bad mood and refused to have any input in their decisions but this did not stop the local Muslims from putting in their input: "Church this way!" "Church? It's over there." "You climbed to see church - go that way." The three companions refused them all and led me back down the hill.)

227.jpg (13907 bytes)As we started down, one of the locals was so distressed we were going down that he followed us in his taxi yelling out the window, "No, No - Church is that way! The Church were Jesus cried! See where Jesus cried!" Body just said, "Na! We're OK." and led us back down the hill. Of course, when we got to the bottom of the hill, we sat around doing nothing because the Garden of Gethsemane was closed for another 1/2 hour. Since I didn't go to see where Jesus cried, I called my mom.

Then we went into the garden church, which was okay. the nice 8 tree Garden of the Agony was actually fenced off, though. A worker there did a split for Dave's benefit and we began walking to Mary's tomb. Then came the only smile I had for the day. We were rounding a busy street sidewalk corner, when I saw a camel coming towards us, so I stepped aside. Sam, behind me was walking with his head down. Sam looked up with the camel only 2 feet away and bearing down fast. He screamed, "Ahhhhh!" and jumped to the side as the foam-mouthed camel trotted by. He was completely startled. I laughed very hard. Before this, Sam kept saying how cool and fun camels were. Since then, he keeps saying how dopey they look and how they are so stupid. I think he took being scared personally.

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Mary's tomb was very nice and had many steps underground and many ostrich egg candle hangers form the ceiling in the Greek Ortho tradition.

 230.jpg (15971 bytes)It was dark but for the candles and sun from the top of the 50 or so steps that led to street level. Next door, we saw the spooky chapel of the betrayal. A bloody Christ decorated the doorway to the place where Judas kissed Jesus and Peter valiantly cut off a Roman ear.

Matt or Joe can next tell you how they spent the afternoon learning to drive in Jerusalem and how it was they came to be re-united with the other 4 TUMBLEWEEDS.

(Matt) Joe and I had no trouble navigating to the Garden of Gethsemane. We did, though, have a bit of trouble getting through the hordes of Muslims coming out of Lions Gate after their prayer time (not to be confused with nap time) was over. It was just like Cairo, but at a complete standstill. There was still the honking and yelling and hordes of people, but stopped (and very, very anxious to get going again.)

We laughed our way through the crowds (mostly at them but with a few of them,) to the Garden, which was closed. So we wandered around a bit and made our way up to the Via Dolorosa. We were early and ended up walking to Damascus Gate and all around the gate trying to figure how the hell to get on top of the walls. We finally paid a kid a sheckel to show us the entrance and as we walked to it through a tunnel he left. Then we realized that that gate was closed as well. We finally gave up, bought some corn on the cob, and tried to blend. (We were still in the Muslim section, mind you.) Since we weren't screaming, yelling, or trying to sell something, we didn't blend so well, you might say.

We wandered back to the Via Dolorosa and met up with the other guys. We were all sitting together waiting for the troop of Franciscan friars who were supposed to lead us in the Way of the Cross. Suddenly, Dave and Sam noticed a lady they thought looked like Mrs. Youngblood. They poked me and said, "doesn't she look like her?" I looked and said, "It is Mrs. Youngblood." I walked right over and stood in front of her till she noticed me and she stopped and said, "Ohhhh, MATTHEW" (really loud) "I CAN'T BELIEVE IT!!" She was a bit surprised to see us.

232.jpg (12641 bytes)(Greg) We talked to her for a while and took a picture together (which we have to mail to her!) The stations on the Via Dolorosa were supposed to start at 4:00, but 4:30, when the Franciscans had not shown up yet, we decided to do it on our own. Mrs. Youngblood produced a version of the stations of the cross (somewhat modern but better than nothing) and led us through the streets of Jerusalem stopping to say each station at the actual spot it took place. I don't know what the other guys thought of that 1/2 hour, but for me it was the highlite of Jerusalem. To walk those same roads, to see the very spot where He met his mother, to climb ever uphill toward Calvary, and to finally kneel at the site of the crucifixion was an awesome experience not easily put into words.

There were, of course, many distractions; people selling their wares in the streets, cars honking us out of their way, and scores of tourists shooting off their flashbulbs at the holiest of spots. Nevertheless, I don't believe any of us will ever say the stations quite the same again.

Mrs. Youngblood led us to an Arab restaurant in the Muslim quarter where we broke from our Falafel diet to try some schnitzel and hummus. We tried to save a few shekels and buy our drinks at a market, but the restaurant owner got offended. The meal was good (though Joe and I didn't think we'd order the hummus again,) and we decided to head back to the hotel. Matt walked Mrs. Youngblood back to her room at Ecce Homo Monastery and we went back to our car parked near the Garden of Gethsemane.

On the way to the car, we discovered St. Ann's which appeared to consist of two ancient rooms beneath the street of Jerusalem. This was the place where the Virgin Mary was conceived and born. We prayed briefly and gave a few shekels to a man there who indicated that we owed him something. Later, before we left, he offered me a cough drop which I couldn't refuse.

Back at the hotel, we were all reunited and we cleaned up, made a few phone calls, and finally marched off to the cyber cafe Anot had told us about. We all had fun sending e-mails to friends and drinking some beers. We had so much fun, that I didn't mention my doubts just as we were leaving that the e-mails never made it. Computers are tricky things and things didn't look right as we finished up. Oh well, I guess we'll know when we get back.