In the Spring of 1969, I was among 12 TWA sales reps selected to take a five-day quick tour of the Holy Land, compliments of a Chicago tour wholesaler who specializes in Holy Land tours. Other than the significant historical aspects of the the tour, I most remember several offbeat cultural experiences.
My room at the Mount Scopus Hotel on the West Bank was located on the lower level, rear. Outside my window was an open field with rocky ground cover and a smattering of olive trees. In the middle of the night I was awakened by a loud braying of he-haws. Jumping from bed and parting the drapes, I was surprised-and I must say, amused-to see a jackass, no more than 15 feet away, looking at me. He stopped braying when he saw me. We stared at one another for five seconds or so before he turned and moved away. I wonder if he got his kicks by waking hotel guests on the ground floor. I have to admit I have been awakened several times by jackasses (rowdy hotel guests) but this was the first time it was a real "jackass".
Another animal-related experience occured in the Old City of Jerusalem. I was standing in front of an open-air meat market, observing cuts of meats hung on a wall drawing flies, when something brushed against my calves. Turning around, expecting to see an unruly toddler, I was surprised to see a herd of goats passing by (something I'll never see at my neighborhood grocery store).
A moving cultural experience happened as we drove through the desert. I had an opportunity to meet, and have my picture taken, with two Bedouin boys. I wish I had more time to spend with them. I
I often like to pick up souveniors to take home on my travels. This time I bought a Coke by the Dead Sea at Jericho. Upon my return to the U.S., a customs agent held it up and asked "Why this?"
"Turn it around," I answered.