On our last day, some of us had a leisurely morning to pack and get ready for the late morning and afternoon tours. Others headed back to Bethlehem to see the place where the manger was; however, the Armenians were having a ceremony and they couldn't get in after all. Although we had been there earlier in our tour, the shouting match with the Russian tour guide had left a bad impression, so our guide and director offered to take those who wanted back. I felt bad they didn't get what they were seeking.
Mom and I enjoyed a cappuccino in the downstairs cafe, which Father Bob said had the best coffee he has ever had, and then packed our bags and did a last charge of our devices.
Then it was off to Abu Gosh for lunch and to a mass and to see the defaced Frescos on an ancient church. The Muslims had come through and rubbed out all of the faces, thinking it was unholy to have depictions of God and prophets.
After we went to the Israel Museum in Jerusalem to see the Dead Sea Scrolls and the Aleppo Codex, the oldest and most complete version of the Hebrew Bible that had been housed in Aleppo, Syria, but now has been brought to Israel. The museum also had an outdoor model of Old Jerusalem, with the old wall and surroundings. Shafiq, our guide, put everything in perspective as he pointed out all of the places we visited using the model.
We stayed at the museum until it closed, marvelling at the pottery jars that held the scrolls, the scrolls themselves, the Aleppo Codex and how closely it follows the Bibles we have today, and other ancient artifacts. On the bus as we traveled to our dining place, we saw that the streets in the Jewish section were bustling. We especially saw many men pushing baby carriages and strollers. Shafiq explained that it was Thursday, the last time to shop before the eve of the Sabbath (Friday) and the Sabbath (Saturday) itself. During this time, everyone has to prepare meals and do household chores as they are not allowed to do so on Friday and Saturday. And he said Thursday night is like Friday and Saturday night in America: time to eat out, go to the bar, date, etc. Since beer is considered a leavened food (grain with yeast), it cannot be drunk during this time; only wine.
Then we had to have an early supper as some were headed directly to the airport, my mom and myself included, while others would return to the hotel for an overnight before a morning flight. It was very hard to eat so early after a filling lunch, but we tried. And it was hard to say goodbye to all of our fellow pilgrims, turned friends.
The airport had a few bumps but we all got through and home safely. Wow! What a trip. It will take a while to process everything we saw and learned.
When I arrived home, it was hard to get back into daily life as it seemed such a strange lifestyle compared to what I had just experienced. It was as if I were looking at Great Falls, Montana, and the United States culture with all new eyes. I'm still adjusting.