Wednesday, November 21, 2001

This is bizarre. I'm at an internet place which is cheap by Israeli standards (12 shekels, ie 2 pounds, an hour) because it's something to do with some Christian charity, but perhaps as a consequence of this, it has a "web blocker", a device that prevents me from entering a website if it has adult/obscene comment. Apart from the obviously distressing fact that I'm being deprived of my duck and owl bestiality sites, I'm not even allowed to enter my own website. Seriously. When I try, this is the message I get:

A Word On Your Blocking List From The Category(s):

Adult Content

I'm allowed to enter Simon's page though. Hurray.

This slight strangeness is just typical of the madness that Jerusalem attracts. It's the centre of three major religions (four by the time my mark has been made) and it's no coincidence that it attracts a fairly eccentric crowd. Especially in the off-season and in this current climate of uncertainity where casual tourists are way way down.

Our first two nights were spent in the Petra Hostel. A fair enough place, but a bit soulless and with an utterly vacant receptionist. It was just a bit bland really, although with a rooftop that gave a good view of the old city, and a nice balcony outside our dorm room (which was inhabited only by us). And it sold beer. Hmm, it's sounding quite good now in retrospect. We've changed to the Citadel Hostel now and already I'm wondering if it was a mistake. It looked so promising when we took a look round yesterday. It's a cool little building, narrow but high, with white stone stairways winding up the building. It feels like it's been carved out of rock. With a nice little rooftop with a good view as well. Our impression was greatly helped by the guy who showed us around - called Mayad or something. He hasn't been present today, replaced instead by this crazy woman with an American (I think) accent that sounds like it's painful for her to force words out. She seems permanently distracted and appears to know nothing at all - "You should ask Tourist Information" is her favourite phrase. We've also had the pleasure of meeting the other guests. I say guests - they all appear to be permanent residents who live in the hostel. There's three others and I think we're sharing the dorm with them. One guy is this older, fat Israeli guy who looks like he wants to sink into the ground. He said "Shalom" to me, and I said "How are you doing?" and he just grunted and looked like he wanted to sink into the ground. He's going to be a slug in his next life, and I think he'll enjoy it. Another guy seems alright, if a tad odd. Again, older, balding with white hair that might be pulled into a ponytail. He just watches TV.

We're getting on with the third and final guy best. He's of Israeli descent but I think spent a long time in Germany. Oh, and he's a killer.

Yeah, we're sharing a room with a killer. It's not that fact that disturbs me the most, it's the fact he told us within five minutes of meeting us. It was self-defence against a neo-Nazi attack, which maybe took place in prison (me and Simon took different interpretations of what he said. What is sure is that he spent a year in prison for something). He seems pleasant but is obviously not quite there. He's twitchy and nervy and I hope he doesn't own any firearms. But he is friendly. He's a Messianic (?) Jew apparently, which is a Jew that believes in Jesus, which I thought defeated the point of being Jewish, but I didn't press him on it.

So we've got two nights with these madheads, and then we'll move onto our third and final hostel before leaving to Eilat at the far south of the country.

Ok, that's our living conditions then. I suppose I should stuff about what we've been doing. It's just the usual tourst stuff mainly, or the places we're allowed into. We've wandered all about all four quarters (Jewish, Muslim, Christian and, for some reason, Armenian) of the old city, we've walked along the part of the ramparts that we were allowed, the other being closed for security reasons, we checked out David's Tower and the museum which was quite interesting, we checked out the Western Wall which has a load of UltraJews standing in front of it, shaking. And we took a tour under the city, along heaps of tunnels, with a distinctly Jewish biased to the tour.

Yeah, this is something that's occurred to me. The Jews and Muslims don't seem to get on very well, as you may have noticed, but from my own casual tourist viewpoint, they really seem very similar. They both believe in the same God and both basically subscribe to the Old Testament (with the Muslims branching off after Mohammed put in an appearance in 600AD), they both have a propensity for beards beyond the normal call of duty, they both quite like hats too, the more religious sects like to cover up women's hair (with the Muslims often going all-out and covering up the entire woman) and there's other stuff too. I suppose it's like just about any group of people in the world - "hate your neighbour" seems a universal philosophy. Nobody seems to like their neighbour. Israel and uh... anyone near it, Croatia and Serbia, Kosovo and Serbia, Pakistan and India, Newcastle and Sunderland, America and Canada (if they only knew how similar they were...) and even myself and the girls who used to live next door. They were awful.

The only hatred of a neighbour that is justified is the magnificent Ross County and the disgrace that is Caley Thistle.

Um, what else then? Today I took a wander into the new city, which was quite good. A few bustling markets just ripe for Palestinian bombing. I've been wondering what a suicide bomber sounds like. Is it a mix between your traditional explosion and the sound of a human body pulping itself into many many chunks? A sort of squidgy blast?

I also phoned Daniel, the Israeli we met in Sofia, and I'm going to phone him again later to arrange to meet up with him. So we'll see what happens there. And tomorrow is our 100th day travelling, which is obvious cause for celebration. We plan to drink 100 shots of beer in 100 minutes. This cannot fail to be a good night.

That's all.

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