Of Camels and Buses

Posted: December 14, 2006 in christianity, Israel, jerusalem, petra

I woke up just before sunrise to Rafa getting up. He asked me if I wanted to see the sun come up and I said hell no it’s too warm in my bed. He got up and left and after a few minutes I couldn’t fall back to sleep so I got up and went out to see the sunrise as well. It was beautiful as expected, and the light felt good on the skin.

The camels were waiting for us so after a breakfast of fruit, pita and jam, we mounted the camels, waved goodbye to everyone at camp and began the 12K trek back to Wadi Rum. Camel riding is like horse riding except that your’e alot higher and the up down rhythm is more pronounced on a camel. We trudged along and the camels tried to stop and eat everytime they saw a bush but their keeper kept moving them along. The morning was warm but then we hit a cross current of wind and it was a chilly wind. It didn’t help when the camels walked into the shadow of the mountain next to us either, but we got back into sun and warmth a few minutes afterward.

After about 2 hours of riding the camels the town materialized in the distance and we arrived finally after passing a few goat herds and other camels. We met at Mohammeds house again and after some tea and a little computer help with his email, he gave us both a big hearty hug, and invited us to come again. Our cab back to the border was ready and we jumped in and were on our way back to the Aqaba border crossing station.

Back on the Israeli side Rafa got questioned alot (as usual) by their security but we got through and caught a cab to the bus station. After just an hour or so of being back in Israel I mentioned to Rafa that I already felt a difference in the people and that I missed the warmth and open heartedness of the Beduins. He said he noticed the same thing. Our bus finally arrived and we got on.

What happened next on the bus was something that caused alot of emotion in me and I spent alot of time thinking about the situation and reminding myself that I didn’t know the exact details of what happened so it may not actually be how I perceived it. However it looked extremely ugly to me and made my stomach churn. I will attempt to tell it as objectively as I can.

As we were pulling away this young Orthodox and his wife ran up and got on the bus almost missing it. They got on the bus and were looking for seats. The bus from Eilat to Jerusalem had assigned seating so we had no choice where we sat. The front of the bus was mostly filled. Each 2 seat row had at least one person in it. There were a couple of rows where the aisle seats were both empty, which would have allowed a couple to sit together, just across the aisle from each other. The couple scanned the seats then went to a pair of seats that were filled by 2 darker men, presumably Arab. These were the only 2 Arabs in the front of the bus, the rest were light skinned and many wearing yarmulkes. The Bus was already down the road five minutes and the couple kept standing next to the Arabs, talking to them. I saw the Arabs shake their heads a number of times, and then I saw some other passengers say a few things to them until they finally got up, and one came to the back of the bus the other sat in another empty seat. The look on his face was frustrated embarrassment. As he sat down some of the other guys in the front of the bus kept looking back at him giving him hard stares like he wanted to fight him, which made me think to myself that if they were such gentlemen, why didn’t they offer their seats up themselves! Now I don’t know the details of what happened, whether the Arabs were in the wrong seats or whether the Orthodox just picked their seats because they were Arabs or just random picking, but it felt all wrong and made me mad. It made me think of the USA circa 40 years ago. For a long time I sat and stewed over it and when the bus stopped for a 15 minute break, I approached the Arab guy to try and get his view, since he was obviously the minority in the situation. I asked him if he knew English and he shook his head and walked away. I can understand why he lied. I should have asked the Orthodox their side but didn’t. We finally got back to Jerusalem and I was happy to be off the bus.

We booked a night at the Hebron Hostel in old city and Rafa met these two British girls named Ros and Lottie who offered us a ride to Tel Aviv the next day. We had dinner with them and then called it a night. I was glad to be back and happy to be able to shower again.

View today’s photos

Video of us on camels

Shadows of the camels

Rafa writing on camelback

Passing camels

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