Journey to the Holy Land – Day 21

November 13, 2010

A slow, laid-back, relaxing day today.  Spent the morning working on my blog entry for yesterday, catching up with my Facebook friends, and downloading and giving descriptions to all of my photos.  My plan is to get the pictorial history of my journey on FB by tomorrow and then hopefully attached to my blog as well.  Reminder to self:  you know you are bored when you start straightening and organizing everything in your “rented” room so get out and do something already!  At 2 p.m. I finally took “‘self’s” advice and left the building.

My destination was the local market to buy fruits and vegetables but my wandering feet took me much further than I had planned.  Upon reaching the open air market with all the sounds of the vendors hawking their edible wares, I noticed that this street in Old Bethlehem continued up the hill (of course!).  Instead of stopping for my fresh produce, I began to make the climb. 

My eyes beheld a wondrous sight.  Masses of people everywhere, body to body, greeting each other, pushing baby carriages, carrying shopping bags, perusing all imaginable products offered for sale by the shopkeepers and street vendors, and engaging in price negotiations.  I could understand the ‘quibbling over price’ culture going on within my hearing even though I do not understand the language.

I think I was the only foreigner who had discovered this local treasure, and I must have stood out like a thorn among roses.  Many of the locals greeted me with the word I have heard so often since arriving—welcome.  The children are particularly fond of saying “Hello, what’s your name?” and they always bring a smile to my face—except for the young boy who was displaying a boa constrictor wrapped around his body!  It was bad enough that I saw a scorpion one day but snakes—NOT!  Please God—no nightmares.  I’m such a wimp!

By their dress I could tell that most of the women are Muslim.  At the very least their hair was covered with a traditional scarf and many of them also wore the floor length, long-sleeved garment that resembles a coat more than a dress.  I have frequently seen jeans peaking out from under this clothing on the younger women.  In this heat, I don’t know how they remain comfortable especially since the color of these garments is often black, brown, or maybe navy which absorbs rather than reflects the heat.  It is in the mid to upper 80s here today.

The street continued on for about a mile, I would guess, until it intersected with the other, tourist-traveled street in Old Bethlehem City.  A round-about for traffic sits at the point of the “V” and the sound of blaring horns and the sight of buses, cars and taxis all jockeying for space added to the shopping climate of the day.

At this intersection there was a sign for a “mall” which caught my interest so I entered and wandered around.  I would have to classify it as a mini-mall in relationship to the U.S. mega-malls.  It had three floors which could be accessed by means of an escalator and all the stores on a given floor could be seen by standing in just one spot.  It was interesting that they only had “up” escalators.  There was an elevator or stairs to use for descent.

I wondered if this particular day was some kind of special shopping day perhaps akin to the day after Thanksgiving except the people seemed much more patient and less-stressed.  There was a banner strung across the street that read Mix Mall which led me to believe that this is a special event and not an every day occurrence on Saturday.

During my trek back towards Manger Square, I saw a shop selling yarn and, as an avid knitter of prayer shawls, just had to stop and purchase six skeins of Palestinian-produced gorgeous yellow acrylic yarn to make into a prayer shawl when I return to the States.

After purchasing bananas and a local fruit called caa-caa or gaa-gaa (haven’t got a clue how to spell it), I headed back to the HCEF Guest House.  I am unable to identify this fruit which is a deep orange/yellow color, has a stem on it that resembles a tomato only larger, and is about the same size and shape as a tomato.  But believe me, it is NOT a tomato.  It has a much firmer texture and a consistency closer to an apple.  Really tasty and unavailable in the U.S. as far as I can tell.  The locals tell me that they don’t know of an English name for it.

I stopped at Casa Nova for a cup of cappuccino and the case of home made pastries caught my eye.  Apple pie kept screaming “Buy, me.  Buy me” so how could I refuse?  The pie was really more like an apple cake that was sliced in the shape of a piece of pie.  Unfortunately, it was not as tasty as it looked but I think it probably had a lot less calories than a traditional piece of American apple pie.

The Church of the Nativity is close by and there were many tour groups milling about.  I decided to pop in for a minute to see if I could find someone who might know where there is an English Mass on Sunday.  I was happy to see that the scaffolding that completely covered the church proper when I visited one day early in my journey had been removed.  The trap doors in the floor stood open so I could see the remains of the original mosaic floor about three feet lower than the current floor.  Amazing to think that this floor dates back to the early years of the 1st century.

I approached one of the security personnel to ask about Mass, and he said he thought there might be one at 5 a.m. in St. Catherine’s Church on Sunday but to ask one of the Friars. Not to be deterred, I went seeking confirmation of this information.

I could not find any of the priests but did see a man who was cleaning the sanctuary.  I asked him about an English Mass and he told me that there is one at 3 p.m. on Sunday which is celebrated below St. Catherine’s in the cave where St. Jerome transcribed the Bible into Latin.  I remembered seeing folding chairs in that chapel so this seemed to be a reliable piece of information.

However, not trusting just two sources (three is always better than two) I saw a Franciscan Friar at the bottom of the steps near the Franciscan Pilgrimage House so asked him the same question.  He was an American and said that the only English Masses were usually the ones that were specially scheduled for tour groups.  He also said he thought that the order of Christian Brothers celebrate in English around 6 p.m. on Saturday but since I didn’t know the location of their monastery, I decided to go with plan B at 3 p.m. tomorrow.

I look forward to sharing tomorrow’s adventures with you.  Until then, rest well.

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Published in: on November 14, 2010 at 4:18 am  Leave a Comment  

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