This day we went to Bethany. Bethany is where Mary, Martha and Lazarus lived and where the Tomb of Lazarus is.
Bethany is on the southeast slope of the Mount of Olives and in Christ's time you would've walked out the Golden Gates on the east side of Jerusalem, up over the Mount of Olives and down into Bethany. Now however there is a wall cutting it off. Bethany is in the West Bank, Palestinian territory. Israel has built a massive barrier called the separation fence. It was started after the increase of suicide bombers during the second intifada. So, you now have to drive really far out of the way around to a security checkpoint where you enter the Palestinian territory. It was very interesting. And it is a serious wall. No one gets through.
Anywho. We made it through the checkpoint's full-cavity searches and made our way to the tomb.
I will remind you again that this is not the actual tomb of Lazarus, it's traditional and supposed to give you an idea of what it would've been like. Either way it was really old and I loved it.
You had to walk down a flight of VERY steep, old steps. The stones were worn smooth and had deep indents where thousands of feet have walked.
At the bottom of the stairs you can see a now blocked doorway into an ancient crusader church, which was of course, built on top of whatever Jewish building had been there prior.
To enter the actual tomb you had to scoot down into a hole in the ground turn around and back through a little "tunnel" into the tomb space.
The tunnel was only a few feet high so you pretty much crawl backwards. I was very concerned about everyone doing it correctly and not being hurt :-) I have issues. And obviously Mike is paying close attention .
(oh there you can see the blocked entrance to the crusader church behind me.)
It was SO hot and stuffy in the tomb. I imagine the bodies disappeared pretty quickly.
I think you can actually see the water running off of me.
Did you know that they would lay out the body on the main slab of the tomb, let it rot away, and then go back, gather up the bones, put them in a vessel of some sort and put them into holes carved into the tomb walls. Then it would be ready for a new inhabitant. Cool eh? (you can see one of the holes to my right in the pic above)
So after losing 5lbs in water weight, I ventured topside to bake the sweat away. It was blistering that day. Right next to the tomb is a shop run by a funny old guy who weaves slings. David's sling to be exact. We tourists are suckers. Just saying. But he did show us how to use one. It was great. He could really get some distance.
Then...came the 'almost meet my Maker' part.
Enter. The camel.
Enter the camel. With a very pushy Arab who drug me to the camel and put me on it. Yes, he was strong.
The camel was actually really sweet. I scratched his head. From behind. No camel spit for me. Or getting bit. At another spot some dumb tourist walked right up to a camel and reached out to pet its nose. Its master reached out and grabbed her hand just before the camel bit her. Who does that?!?
So it turns out that riding a camel is nothing like riding a horse past the fact that they both have four legs.
Camels really lurch getting up and down and have a funny swaying gait. I'm sure you get used to it but egads.
Standing up is the worst. They stand up back legs first so you lean back as far as you can but still feel like you are going to face-plant. Once the back legs are straight they kind of jerk the front legs straight up and you feel like you are chucking backwards. They are also very vocal which can be disconcerting when you are used to the relatively quiet horse.
Can you see how much fun i'm having written all over my face?
Life flashing before my eyes here.
But it really was fun, and the Bethany trip turned out to be one of my favorites.