Day 30: Tel Azeka to Netiv ha Lamed-Heh
Day 30, March 29: Got to Netiv ha-Lamed-Heh and Idan's foot messed up. Went to Jerusalem early. Staying at Abraham's, got haircut and some other stuff done. Camera needs expensive repair, so sending it to Nazareth. Also Chacos - like 4-5 pounds less! But no pictures...wtf. Haircut by old man with pix of Saddam and golden pavilion. Hitchhiked via settlement. Found Samaritan blog and emailed them. Nachshon's foot cussed. May be back here for Easter but tomorrow will see Dome of Rock and church like it's my last day in case it actually turns out to be.
We hiked only a short distance this day, until Idan's foot pain proved too much for him to continue. He and Joyce both headed out to take some days off, while I hitched up to Jerusalem, since I'd intended to make a visit there anyway. I'd planned to head there from the point on the trail closest to the city, but it wasn't a big deal to make the trip a day earlier.
Unfortunately the repair cost for my camera proved to be a lot more than I was willing to shell out, somewhere around 800 shekels (plus another 600 to repair what had gone wrong, in an entirely separate incident, with the lens).
The settlement my hitchhiking took me through was Gilo, which a bunch of people would argue is not a settlement at all, but part of Jerusalem. But no. It's well on the wrong side of the Green Line; so it's a settlement, and claiming it (and the other parts of a belt of settlements around eastern Jerusalem) as part of Jerusalem is a transparent way to stake a claim to as much West Bank land as possible when (if) the final borders get drawn.
Nachshon's foot was finally pronounced to be unusuable - he had to rest it for a month or two before he could start backpacking again, so he had to shelve his plans to hike the trail for the time being. As far as I know he still wants to do it someday.
My haircut was quite an experience. The barber (in a pint-sized shop in a crumbling old building in the Old City of Jerusalem) had at least a dozen newspaper clippings of Saddam Hussein all over his walls. I did not ask about this, not that I could have understood his explanation anyway, given the language barrier. He also had a photo of the Golden Pavilion, a famous temple in Japan, which I have been to. I told him this in my bad Arabic - he seemed incredulous. The haircut, luckily, turned out a lot better than my last haircut by a non-English-speaking Palestinian barber (at the Magic Touch Saloon in Beit Sahour) which left me looking like a porcupine-Guido hybrid.
The thing about emailing the Samaritans was in reference to the Passover ritual, where Samaritans sacrifice/slaughter sheep to cook in underground ovens and eat in haste, as prescribed in Exodus. Somebody had started a blog about the Samaritans and was helpful in letting me know when and how to attend the ceremony as a gawker. I did end up going with a couple friends. Watching dozens of sheep be ritually slaughtered, gutted, skewered and cooked (accompanied by chants in ancient Hebrew by real live Israelite priests) was certainly one of the most unique experiences I've ever had.
(Plug alert) "Abraham's" is Abraham Hostel, opened in late 2010 by Maoz Inon and a few other guys, and conveniently located on Jaffa Road in West Jerusalem. Maoz is the same one that opened the Fauzi Azar Inn in Nazareth and also co-founded the Jesus Trail, and all of the above are things you should check out if you're traveling in the region. Not that I'm an unbiased source, of course.
Morning mist in the Valley of Elah. Picture the Israelites and Philistines gathering on either side,
preparing for another day of standoff, and David coming down from the mountains
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