8 Nov 2012

Thursday Truths...Tales of the Crypt

This story was requested by some good friends on Twitter, star Twuddies that are @HapRochelle & @LynnGerrard. There are unfortunately no photo's as this was pre-digital cameras! Got a cuppa? Sitting comfortably...then let me begin...

After graduating from university I decided to go travelling with my friend, she had been living in Israel on a Kibbutz for a year whilst I was doing my final year, and we had decided to take a month to see Israel, Jordan & Egypt.

I had never backpacked before but was confident and careless and safe in the knowledge that she had a list of instructions from a friend who had travelled around the same region previously. Everyone knows that if you have a list then you can’t go wrong…right?!

We also planned to spend 1 week in Israel, which was plenty of time to see everything that we wanted to, and my sister asked to come along for that segment of the trip. I think she was pleased to leave at the end of the week and get back to normality; many people are surprised we survived the month!

My friend Kibbutz was not far from the northern border in Nahariya and I stayed there with her for a few days before we headed back to Tel Aviv to meet my sister.

One of the places that we went was, of course, Jerusalem. We visited sites from there and also did a couple of excursions that were offered by the Hostel we were staying in.

Excursion 1: Bethlehem
A short bus ride from Jerusalem is Bethlehem, and we couldn’t really go all that way and not see the birth place of Jesus at the Church of the Nativity. I won’t go into any detail here about my beliefs (they’re mine, all mine, my precious) but I am interested in religious artefacts and places (regardless of the religion). I have a bit of a thing for stained glass too.

We took the bus from Jerusalem to Bethlehem; we weren’t sure of where to get off the bus and opted to at a small museum. We chose to walk from there to the Church. It didn’t seem far on the map. It took as quite a long time of walking in the wrong direction for us to realise we should be walking towards where the noise was coming from, the muslim call to prayer, there was a mosque right next to the church.

The church isn’t very big and is quite quick to look around….

We looked at the spot which had been adorned with decoration on the ground. As we were thinking, is that it?... lets go…a hunched man engaged us – not in conversation exactly but he waved and indicated for us to follow him…so we did!

We left the church at the back and went to a gate, he unlocked it and there was a flight of steep rock steps going down into another area. We followed him down and as we reached the bottom of the steps we could see that it was a crypt. In we went. It was really spooky and you could walk down a passage and look through some grid iron windows at mounds of rock on the ground. There was another area near the entrance with some artefacts and we were trying to decipher what we were looking at.

The man then pulled me to one side were there was a stone dish on the wall, he couldn’t speak English and we tried to figure out that he was saying it was holy water, he then started pointing at my waist and as you do (when you aren’t thinking) in an attempt to understand you also look at the area – he then wanted to dowse me in holy water! We did think that this was weird. Everything else, perfectly normal!!

Now the mans keys to the crypt were like something out of a movie and were on a large iron ring. We carried on looking, I went down the passage again and my sister loitered by the door – she’s a worrier! She called us back and said she wanted to leave because he was sorting his keys out, and we looked and saw that he was heading to the steps!  My sister really did panic and shouts “Run, run, he’s going to lock us in!” and you know when someone panics, even when you aren’t sure you should be you automatically start to panic. Well, we all ran after the man who was now halfway up the steps, we legged it and shoved past him and out the gate and down the street, I don’t think we looked back.

In our haste we went the wrong way out of the church (for anyone who doesn’t know, Bethlehem is contained within the notorious west bank in Israel), and we ended up down an alleyway. I was laughing (as I tend to do) and could hardly walk from the hysteria. My sister was still panicking and saying, “Where are we? I don’t like the look of this, where is everybody? This is really creepy.” I on the other hand am the worst person to travel with if you are sensible, health & safety oriented or a worrier. We’ll be fine, this way, I’m sure we’ll work it out is my mantra although only in groups, when travelling alone its paranoia that I suffer from.
But, my general method of getting unlost is to go left at every turn. Those intelligent people amongst you may naively believe you can end up walking in circles….I never have!

Anyway, we headed to the main intersection, and it was quite busy and we did start to feel like we stuck out a little…then my friend & sister noticed that the bus driver who had dropped us off earlier in the day was flashing his lights at us and beckoning us over. We climbed on board and he said “What are you doing walking around here? You shouldn’t wander.” And off we went back to Jerusalem, so we could rest up ready for a 4am start to go and see the sunrise on Mount Masada…my sister nearly got to see me fall to my death off of Mount Masada…Aaahhh! Good times :D


  1. I love your travel tales. I am sure that it is only your naivety that keeps you safe!

    1. It must be! I have that in abundance :D

  2. As one of your Twud buds..( I quite like that )..I must say..I REALLY enjoyed that and now I understand!..lol. You tell a story well Kate and should share more of this stuff..( no better a thing to share than 'Stuff!') I'm of similar ilk to yourself...my religious opinions are mine alone..but I do enjoy the mystery of other cultures and their beliefs. When I went to Egypt I could have cried the whole time, overwhelmed by the historical power, pain and beauty of it all. However, despite a few peculiar moments in the Tombs my time there wasn't as colourful as yours!..lol. Seems that guy wanted to exorcise and incarcerate you...Strange 'customs' procedure indeed..;)

    1. lol! I have Egypt tales too! Want to trade?

  3. I've never had the good fortune to travel in the middle east. I've done Europe, and the far east, so I've seen some interesting things, but I don't think I've ever had a true 'adventure'. I thank you Katy, for allowing me to be one of your buds, and for sharing this tale. I'll bet there are more, and I'm looking forward to them.

    1. I would love to travel some more in Europe, the far east, south america, india, africa..oh wait! yeah, if anyone wants to pay for me to travel the world and regale them with stories...Im available! pmsl Thanks for stopping by Hap.

  4. Excellent story - I can visualise it, as I've been to Israel. Thanks for this! Enjoyed reading it.


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