Oh Jerusalem

Mr. Bob, the Roman Soldier, Tori, my nephew as Jesus
Cathryn, Robert, Natalie, me and Vi, and Mr. Bob in Ephesus

Though we have traveled to Israel for years we  are foreigners to both the Israelis and the Arabs when we visit Jerusalem. Israel has the strictest guidelines  when entering their country. The authorities are trained to pick certain passengers in groups to scrutinize. Mr. Bob, always stood out because he was well over 6′ tall, and a lanky chain smoker. He had messy white hair, and always wore the same old work boots with white tube socks which  had no elastic to hold them up.  Mr. Bob had money but no desire to invest in anything worldly. He always traveled with just a carryon. Sometimes we would travel on trips of more than two weeks, but that did not matter to Mr. Bob because he was completely satisfied with his attire.

Our leader Joanne always travels with a lot of luggage, and she often asked Mr. Bob to carry her luggage like it was his. At the airport in Israel, the security personnel usually unlocks and checks all of our luggage. When Mr. Bob’s luggage was unlocked, all of Joanne’s personal belongings were exposed. with Jewelry, women’s tops, etc., it was pretty evident that this stuff did not belong to Mr. Bob. Joanne had already cleared customs and was on the safe side of the airport. I was behind Mr. Bob and watched the whole thing go down. The airport security asked Mr. Bob if it this was his suitcase. “No!” said Mr. Bob. I knew that this was going to be a long, drawn-out ordeal. “Did you pack this suitcase?, they asked Mr. Bob. “No!” he said. Mr. Bob was pulled aside for the shakedown. I just watched for a few minutes and then intervened to explain the truth. Once you get through customs in Israel you can take a deep sigh of relief.

We know the routine, in which we ask that our passports not be stamped when we land in Israel. We do this because if is difficult to travel to other Middle Eastern countries if you have an Israeli stamp. The customs personnel always ask questions as to why were are in their country. We tell them that we are missionaries. Things have changed and are more high tech, so now each of us is handed a copy of part of  his or her passport photo ID. Travelers like us need this paper to visit Bethlehem and to leave Israel.

Our ministry’s work in Jerusalem is to reenact the carrying of the Cross down the Via Dolorosa on Good Friday. I will never forget what happened to us a few years ago. Someone forgot to pack Jesus’s wig and the stage blood. The night before Good Friday, we always have a rehearsal to make sure that all participants in the pageant are aware of their parts. When our group leader, Joanne asked about Jesus’s wig and stage blood, we all looked at each other with great fear. Someone dropped a really big ball and forgot to pack it. That night I was assigned the task of checking everyone’s suitcase for the blood and wig, but no one had either. It was early Good Friday when one of the women traveling with us who wears wigs, and she offered to sacrifice one of her wigs for Jesus (literally). One problem was that  it was a blond wig. We needed hair dye, but it was a Jewish holiday so their stores were closed. Caleb, a longtime Arab friend of the ministry, heard of our dilemma and offered to help. “I have a cousin who owns a beauty shop just down the street,” he said. There was no time to waste so Jim ( team member) and I jumped into Caleb’s old car and headed down the road, with Caleb trying to sell us jewelry during the whole trip.

Above the Mount of Olives gift shop was Caleb’s cousin’s shop. The shop was filled with Arab women getting beauty treatments. The women did not take kindly to our intrusion, which was a culture faux pas. Caleb did all the talking, and for $6 we left with a container of brown hair dye and a brush for applying the dye. When we arrived, Joanne nervously yelled,  ” This is not enough!” Jim and I had to return to the beauty shop, but this time Caleb was not around. We ran up and down hills for perhaps over a mile. We walked into the shop and the atmosphere was cold with the air being thick with anti-American glares. I start to explain that we needed more hair dye. A strange woman got up from her chair and started yelling at me. I could not understand one word, but I recognized that it was not a welcoming speech. Her black eyes and wet hair looked eerie. My intent was to get the hair dye because the retribution back at the hotel would be worse than this attack. Caleb’s cousin was no longer friendly, and she too wanted nothing to do with helping us. Using my hands to express my desperate need, I pleaded with her to please make us more solution. Again, the other creepy woman tried to talk her out of it. I knew Jim was praying because Caleb’s cousin finally agreed to help us. As she handed the solution to us she said it was now $20. For just a few seconds I wished I could speak Arabic so that I could give her a piece of my mind, but we did not have a minute to waste. We did not bring any extra money so we had no cab fare, and therefore  had to run back to the hotel.

The stage blood was another drama that we had to handle. In the kitchen of the hotel, Victor (team member) and I  got together with some of the waiters and cooks to figure out how to make blood. The only ingredient they had was something that resembled Kool-aid. We mixed it with water but it looked too watery . We kept adding more of the red dye until it slightly clumped up; that was all we could do.

By the time the bus arrived to take us to the Via Dolorosa, I was exhausted. I applied the fake Kool-aid on Joseph, a man from Croatia who was playing the part of Jesus. Joanne was so upset because the took on the color of pink with red. We did our best and saved the day, because we came to do our work for the Lord and nothing was going to hinder our calling.

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