Written by Guest Author – Chris Jones
Smash and Grab
We’ll jump a 4×4 over a sand dune! Smash and Grab!! Pick up Israeli honies!!! Verilyyyy!!!!! Several months prior, these were a few of the selling points thrown at me from half the world away by my comrades drunk on cheap Bosnian wine. And with such lofty aspirations, how could I say no?
Groggily, I arrived in Tel Aviv. Twenty eight hours of flights and layovers is quite taxing but I had finally made it to the holy land. The plan was simple… smash and grab of the near middle east, see Jerusalem, tour southern Israel, cross into Jordan, Rick north through the desert, and cross back into Israel before flying to Georgia. Oh yeah and sick psytrance club night rage in Tel Aviv! All of this in 5 days.
And at a time of great conflict.
The first morning waking up in a new place is intoxicating. New smells, different languages, different beliefs are all part of the allure.
Jerusalem is holy to the 3 major monotheistic religions: Judaism, Islam, and Christianity, and has shaped the modern world immensely.
Disembarking from our hostel, we began the hajj. The Dome of the Rock was the first stop. Construction of the Dome was finished in 692 CE/AD. It encloses the rock from which Muhammad ascended to heaven. The footprint of the complex is built upon the Temple Mount of Solomon, so it is vitally important to Jews as well. Non-Muslims have been prevented from going inside since about 2000 CE/AD, but that didn’t stop Kyle from trying.
The Church of the Holy Sepulcher is the most holy site to Christians. It contains the Sepulcher which is the tomb where Jesus’ body was laid to rest before the resurrection. It also contains a large collection of other religious artifacts related to Christ’s crucifixion. Among these was the Stone of the Anointing. After the crucifixion, Jesus’ body was laid on the stone to be prepared for burial. People place objects on the stone such as necklaces or crucifixes to make them holy. I didn’t have anything along those lines, but my camo hat sufficed.
The Western Wall was last. When the Romans razed the Temple of Solomon, they left only this one wall standing. As such it is holy to Jews. It is common practice to place pieces of paper with written prayers on them into the wall. In order to near the wall, male visitors must place a Yamaka on their head to cover it from God.
Leaving Jerusalem with lighter souls, the Ricks took flight upon the back of a 2015 Opel Corsa. The hot desert air rushed through cabin as we sped south through the desert. Our destination was the Dead Sea, the lowest point on the surface of the Earth.
Continuing on the highway, we came across a checkpoint manned (or rather womanned I suppose) by some female Israeli soldiers. The lust in their eyes was all too apparent, but alas, the Ricks were too pious to engage in desires of the flesh. We pulled off the road to take a dip. Due to the extremely high salinity of water, objects float higher than they normally would. I was buoyant enough to jump in the water without submerging my head.
Oh yeah, and clothing optional mud baths! The piousness of the Ricks began to wane…
Continuing in true smash and grab fashion, we advanced south and laid siege to Masada. Masada is the mountain-top fortress where the Hebrews made their final stand against the Romans in the first century CE/AD. We learned that siege life wasn’t so bad though. They did have a pool.
And as we all know, an army marches on its stomach.
After a few more hours of traveling, we arrived in Eilat, Israel’s taint-dip into the Red Sea. In dire need of rest and alcoholic beverages, Kit hastily booked us an inn for the night. Never one to put on heirs, he booked the most..uh…budget-friendly establishment in town. Club Red was the Russian-speaking bastard child of a one night stand between Club Med and a run-down, seedy Florida beach resort. Although they did have air-hockey and an on-site liquor store, so my needs were met.
When did day 2 begin? For me, it began early in the morning in a strange hotel room, shirtless, with some unknown Israeli man yelling at me. I surveyed my surroundings and was quite perplexed. How did I get here? As best I could figure at the time, the man had an attractive daughter, and that had something to do with my location.
A security guard hauled me out of the room and began interrogating me. How did you get in there? Did you steal anything? Are you on drugs? I told the guy I was staying at the hotel. As bad as the situation was, I was most distressed by my lack of a passport or any other form of ID. That feeling when you’re about to get box-pitted in a foreign jail without documents is quite unnerving. Luckily, the guy wasn’t a cop, so I showed him where my room was. After showing him my passport and the other Ricks vouching for me, he let me go. Apparently, some combination of sleep deprivation, jet lag, and Jameson make me both sleep walk and extremely adept at breaking into things. This is both a curse and blessing that I will keep in mind for future travel or captivity.
Suffering from the excessive moisture in the Israeli desert and Chris’ great shame, the Ricks crossed the border by foot into Jordan with their sights set on Wadi-Rum, an exquisitely beautiful desert in southern Jordan; which was surprisingly devoid of rum. Sabi, our Bedouin guide, met us in a sick 70’s Toyota Hilux, and we got sand-pitted to the max.
Making it to camp, we scrambled to the top of some local peaks. Kyle, weak from hunger, described the topography as melting cake. We scoured the horizon to thwart any raiders that might ransack our camp. No bandits raised their heads, but we did find a desert kitty!! Or rather he found us. Little did he know that the Ricks lacked food, but he seemed to enjoy our company all the same.
The temperature drops rapidly after the sun departs. We gathered around the fire with our new Bedouin friends to share the warmth of the fire with some strong tea and hookah. We exchanged stories of our conquests and spoke of religion. Sabi was quite the riddler, and would not let us go to bed until we answered his riddle. After much more hookah and tea, Kit solved the riddle and the Ricks retired.
Departing from the Wadi-Rum, we cruised north in a poorly-ventilated, crowded bus en route to Petra. The heat was stifling, but we were bolstered by a new game. You stick a note to your head with the name of some person or character and you ask questions from everyone around you to figure out who it is. This became an entertainment staple for the rest of the trip.
The Ricks arrived only a few hours before Petra closed. The guidebooks said that it would easily take an entire day, but that ain’t our style.
Petra is an ancient, archaeological city in southern Jordan that was home to the Nabataeans as early as the 4th century BC/BCE. The Nabataeans built a great city by carving buildings into the stone of the mountains. At its peak, the city was inhabited by over 20,000 people. With such a large civilization, the Nabateans had it all: architecture, pools, and entertainment.
Battling the desert heat and a relentless onslaught of touts selling their wares, the Ricks ascended to the ancient monastery.
After a full day of exploring, the Ricks retired to the local inn for the night.
The goal for the day was to cross back into Israel. Would the Israeli’s willingly let us back into their country? Doubtful, but we had to try. Grant had found a sick psytrance night at a Tel Aviv club, and the Ricks would not be denied.
The Allenby/King Hussein Bridge, is the northernmost border between Israel and Jordan. We handed over our passports and waited. At this particular crossing, it is necessary to board a bus for the short ride across the bridge. Why this is necessary we weren’t sure, but we theorized that the guy running the bus company was the King’s cousin. The Ricks were concerned as the Jordanian authorities retained our passports until about 20 minutes after boarding the bus. Thankfully, these were returned, and the exodus began.
After clearing customs and a long series taxi and bus rides, we made it to Tel Aviv. Weary from the long journey we napped in anticipation of a night of trials and tribulations followed by that drop.
Much debauchery and lasers ensued…
Afflicted with throbbing heads, dry mouths, and great exhaustion, the Ricks suffered verily. Grant and Chris drank many more holy vodka redbulls than their brethren and thus were spared some of God’s wrath, but alas, the affliction of Kit and Kyle was too great. Grant and Chris set out to see the city.
Tel Aviv, the newer city, grew out of Jaffa, an old port city dating back to the about 7500 BCE/BC. We wandered the streets absorbing the history of the place. As seems to be customary in this country, there were many religious sites. Here a pensive Grant can be seen pondering Allah’s will. And Ladies: keep in mind that Grant is looking to fill his harem.
Reuniting with Kit and Kyle at the AirBNB, the Ricks pondered another night of debauchery, but settled instead on watching Life of Brian. A wise choice as much energy would be needed for the next leg of the journey to Mother Georgia.
We packed our stuff and left for the airport with our sights set on Georgia. Israel and Jordan are amazing countries with rich histories. Some might say that our trip was too short, but most people aren’t Ricks. Mashallah!
For a taste of what we found in Georgia, check this post by our friend Rowen.