We drive on to Qumran in silence. Sat in the west bank but managed by the Israel National parks it is one of the furthest looks into religious history you will get.
To the naked eye it is just rocks and holes but to a whole religion, it is something more. It was here the Dead sea scrolls were discovered. A look back into times gone by whether you are religious or not.
A group of Christian travellers from Ethiopia share the platform with us. For many, it was the only time they would ever travel abroad. Between their smiles and selfie sticks, they captured happy memories, memories we might be quick to dismiss.
The plans changed suddenly. A Palestinian had just stabbed an Israeli policeman and was shot to death. A detour was to be taken.
I winced at the words. No matter how upsetting I found these stories violence was never the answer. Being someone from a white privileged background that would always be my mindset. I have never had to fight for anything.
Later in the week my parents would call and my friends would whats app me “Are you ok? Did you see the news?
The ironic thing is this happens regularly. Perhaps even weekly. But for it to make international news? That was a big deal.
Someone had filmed the moment a near dead and wounded man lay on the floor before an officer approached and fired the final bullet and memory of his life into his skull. Yes, he had done wrong in his attack but can judge and jury just fall to the person who is better armed.
I write this now sat in Bali, you know, that paradise island of the gods. Last week a man tragically suffering from mental health problems stabbed a policeman to death before an office opened his revolver into his head on the floor. No one calls me here, there are no Facebook messages.
This is Bali, it is a happy place. Why the need for such international concern?
I guess what I am trying to clarify is this: Misery and tragedy happen globally, but the facts aren’t always clarified so wide as they are acknowledged.
We pull into the resort at the dead sea, now pre-determined as the last stop of the day.
By all defining maps, we are still in the Palestine controlled West Bank. As the ticket officer looks over us in despair, however, I know geography hasn’t won here.
“One second. I have it.” Our guide says as he digs into his pocket for the official guide card that allows him to join us.
I kinda want to say fuck it. Stop looking. How much do I want to float in some salty water?
But we all make it in. I float and play around with some dirty mud. Then there is time for a beer at the ‘lowest bar on earth’.
“Try and order the Palestinian beer.” He laughs, knowing they won’t stock it. For a country until a few hours ago I thought was governed by religion I still found it amusing.
Cheers, we shared over a cold beer in one of natures most fascinating, if not so beautiful spots. I imagine he had no clue of what he had given me over the last few hours but what he had done was open my eyes. I wasn’t in the ‘most scary place to visit on earth’ I was in the place I truly wanted to be in no matter what.
LET ME SEND YOU MY BEST TRAVEL TIPS FOR THE MIDDLE EAST…