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After spending a lot of time admiring the monastery on the Mount of Temptation, we departed and I suggested that we try walking down the mountain for some variety. After looking at me like I was crazy (which I very well may be, as it was like 11:15 AM on a cloudless day in the Judean Desert and I wanted to walk down a mountain), he agreed and we set off on our rocky, dusty, and not-very-clear trail. On the way, we got great shots of the surrounding area and the mountain itself. We walked through the Palestinian neighborhoods towards the cable car station we had departed from, getting only slightly lost on the way. At one point, we ended up next to the pictured USAID sign announcing that my country had helped fund the surrounding irrigation system for the basis of Palestinian economics; agriculture. As I mention in the caption of the applicable photo, I deeply and truly regret not snapping a photograph of a few old Arabic gentlemen with their red [Jordanian] keffiyehs working in knee-deep water to fix a broken pipe. The light was perfect, the situation was perfect, my camera was pretty good, and I didn’t do it, out of a sense of respect for people (I don’t like to photograph people who haven’t consented to such a thing). Even keeping that in mind, the photograph that could have been was magnificent enough to make me wish I had broken that particular principle of mine, just that once.

We continued walking, asking for directions once and thus setting ourselves on the proper course to the tourist capital of Jericho. We arrived, and began to look for the restaurant that Justine had recommended we go to, and found it… in the lower level of the tourist hotel there. That should have been our first warning…. As we later found out, Justine and her travel companions ate WITH their Arabic taxi driver, and as such 1) they didn’t have to order anything, as food was just brought out to them; and 2) the price was close to the cost of the materials and cheap price of labor. It was not the same experience for us. Keeping in mind that we are conditioned to feasting on a falafel pita for as cheap as 6 shekels (only in Palestinian areas, as should make sense), we were less than pleased to discover that it was 60 shekels for one serving of grilled chicken for lunch. We quickly indicated that we would prefer to go upstairs to the buffet-style self-serve cafeteria. Arriving there, we were assured that the food was excellent and the prices were only USD $11 (very expensive for food in the West Bank, to be sure, but we were hungry). As such, we accepted that price and got ourselves a few trays of food.

Once we reached the cashier, I asked to pay for my meal. The woman asked me who was going to pay for the pitcher of lemonade, which was put on our table without our asking or explicit consent. I offered to pay for the lemonade, and was told that my bill came to a shocking USD $22. I wouldn’t pay that much at home for the food we were being offered (the $11 cost was for any food except meat), and certainly not an $11 pitcher of lemonade. We threatened to leave… again, and this time, she accepted our outrages over being robbed for something we didn’t order and “only” charged us USD $2 each for the lemonade. Théo and I ate in a storm of outrage at the insane prices we were being charged for food that wasn’t anything special, and the implicit assumption that as tourists we have lots of money to burn on overpriced food.

In any event, we left the place and made the poor life decision to go walk across Tel jericho (the ancient, inhabited started in 8500 BC city) around 12:30 pm, directly in the desert sun the entire time, and having just eaten more than our fill. Even though it wasn’t healthy to do so, we did have a good time and enjoyed seeing the partially excavated remains of multiple ancient civilizations which had inhabited the same piece of land (as seems to be the tendency for the various peoples who have lived here). Unfortunately, this site has never had much money, so the excavations have been piecemeal and incomplete at best. Nevertheless, I got good shots of each explanatory board with the accompanying shots of the tel, so check those out. The best part was seeing the proverbial walls of Jericho, although the section they have dug up is still standing, and with the ruins of an adjoining watchtower, to boot. Neat stuff.

We departed the tel and made our plans for the rest of the day. Unfortunately, we didn’t have enough time to do most of the other big sites in the area (the Muslim site for the grave of Moses, the 5th century monastery dedicated to St. George, and the canyons to Nebi Musa on camel-back), but we hope to go back at another time. We did have time to catch a taxi over to the Tree of Zacchaeus, so go check out those two photographs. Arriving at the city center, we started what ended up being a drawn-out process to find a cab back to Abu Dis. After being confronted with extremely high prices (upwards of 60 shekels for the 10 kilometer trip), it became clear that our original trip to Jericho had benefited greatly from Salaam’s intervention on our behalf to get us a reasonable cab. We decided to go for a shared taxi van, and then had the normal period of waiting for additional customers. They didn’t show up after more than 40 minutes, so our driver changed tactics; he told us to get in, and then drove over to where he knew some friends who needed rides and picked them up. The property across the street from them is where I got the copyright-infringing Mickey Mouse and Donald Duck graffiti photographs, by the way. We departed and I got shots of the city’s main square and all the graffiti therein.

We departed the city of Jericho, and I got some surreptitious shots of both the Israeli and Palestinian checkpoints for comparison, and in order to provide a sense of what its like to travel when your liberties have been completely stripped from you in the interest of “security.” There is something that really irks me to have to plan “held up at a checkpoint because someone Arabic was being profiled and hassled even though they were doing nothing wrong,” as one might imagine. This sort of thing happened a second time, when we took the Arabic bus 63 from Abu Dis into Jerusalem. We all had to get out of the bus, similar to when I traveled back from Bethlehem on my birthday, but this time I noticed different things. Rather than be drawn to the large concrete wall and barbed wire, I was taken in by the looks of silent outrage on the faces of the mostly-Arabic passengers from the bus. The other two foreigners (British, I would guess) didn’t seem to understand that although they did have to present their passports, the guards didn’t even look at their faces and just waved them back onto the bus. The people around me went from silently and deeply hurt that they aren’t trusted based on how they look to silently outraged, when a very skinny boy of no more than 9 years old was hassled by the soldiers. A very charged environment to be in the middle of, I assure you.

I hope to go back there at some point, and then be able to post photographs of the other points of interest in and around Jericho. That said, it was an excellent day, and my second [successful, safe, enjoyable, easy-to-plan] trip into the West Bank.

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