Israel Day 18 by Maia Coen

Today was the second to last day of the tour.  Only one more to go.  We started by visiting the dome of the rock up close.  We went through security, as we’ve had to do at every major site here, and entered the site.  On the way we passed a huge stack of riot shields and my dad had me pose with my arm in one of them.  He told me to hurry up because there was a guard coming.  Who knows how many times we’ve almost gotten arrested on this tour. The Dome of the Rock was beautiful.  I’ve seen it every day since I’ve been in Israel so it was nice to see it up close.  We posed for a group picture and got yelled at by guys with walkie talkies saying “no touching!”  I couldn’t even put an arm around my dad for a picture without getting scolded.  We didn’t stay long and once we got our pictures we were off.  Goodbye to Jerusalem.  We stopped at a Samarian museum to learn a little about their culture.  I found this very interesting because I had heard of Samaritans before but I didn’t know they actually still existed.  Their religion is an offshoot of Judaism.  They say that when a woman has a child she and the child must be separated from everyone else for 40 days if it’s a boy and 80 days if it’s a girl.  They also say that during a woman’s monthly period she must not touch anyone else nor do any house work for 7 days.  Of course this appalled me at first but they went onto say that during this time the woman doesn’t have to do anything, she is practically given a seven day vacation every month.  That doesn’t actually sound so bad.  Although their religion seems very restricting to me I respect their right to practice it and their willingness to share it with us tourists.

We left Israel briefly to go to the city of Nablus in the West Bank.  All we did was go into the marked to try Kanafa; a dessert made out of phyllo dough, hot melted cheese, and sugar.  Weird combination right? It was so good.  I’ve tried a lot of different desserts in my travels but this was the most interesting one so far.  You would never expect those flavors to go well together but it definitely works.  They showed us how it was made and served it up in giant portions.  Every single person finished their monstrous pile with a lick of the lips at the end.  After dessert we went for lunch.  Dessert first is always a good idea.  We stopped and had the local version of pizza.  They use similar dough and make it the same shape but there is no cheese or tomato sauce.  They use olive oil, garlic, and slivered almonds with chicken served on the side.  It was very tasty.

To get back to Israel from the West Bank we had to go through a security check point.  This was much more intense and thorough than when we came into the West Bank.  Our bus was stopped and Mahdi got off to tell them we were a group of Americans.  Then my dad was pulled of the bus and asked several questions.  Two men came onto the bus and checked all of our passports before letting us go on.

Our final stop of the day was the hilltop town of Nazareth where we went to the church of Annunciation.  They wouldn’t let my dad in because he was wearing shorts so I went in without him.  The church was interesting but not that impressive.  The cool thing about it was all the different paintings of Mary that were on the walls. There were paintings from countries all over the world depicting their own version of Mary and many of the paintings were very pretty.

We headed to our new hotel and settled in.  We had a little happy hour tour wrap up since it seemed the most appropriate place.  Everyone said some wonderful things about their personal highlights and what coming to these countries has done to them.  For me the highlight of the tour in terms of sites was seeing Abu Simbel for the first time in the dark.  Not during the day, there was just something so fascinating and mysterious about the statues rising out of the shadows and emerging on the other side of the cliff face.  Another thing I mentioned was my changed perspective of the Muslim culture.  I had always thought that the woman were being treated terribly and forced to wear the hijab against their will but I was wrong.  I may still not agree with this culture but it is not what I thought it was.  They make it very clear that their woman are very important to them.  They cover themselves because they believe their bodies are their gifts and you need to protect a gift.  The woman are respected more than I ever thought they were.  My mind was changed only because I was able to come to Egypt and see the culture for myself.  Opinions don’t just change like this at home, it really does take going to a place for you to understand it.  I can say now that I understand it a little better.