Friday, December 4, 2009

Jerusalem Trip: Part One

Many of you are itching for details about our trip with Dozan wa Awtar.  That's the name of the choir I'm part of.  The name means "Tuning and Strings".  The choir is made up of local singers and foreigners.  For us choir-types, there is nothing more magical than getting together with a group of sopranos, altos, tenors, and basses and creating a blend of sound, rhythm, and harmony together.  Creating music with my Arab brothers and sisters really does feed my soul.  This time we had the opportunity to join the lovely Hania and her Magnificat Choir, from St. Saviour's Monastery, also made up of Palestinian and and a few foreign singers.  Rehearsals included Arabic and English, with a little Italian and French thrown in.

We decided to bring the whole family, and reflecting on it now I wonder how many families with three young boys would even considering traipsing around the city of Jerusalem with a touring choir.  As Abu Tulip commented, "maybe it was crazy, but I want to live."  Staying at home just because traveling with our boys is a challenge is simply not an option.  The opportunity to see Jerusalem, and spend time with locals who love this land was absolutely worth it. 

The trip started with a 5 am wake up call.  We finished packing out bags at 11 the night before, after a long day.  Teddy Bear got his stitches out just in time for the trip, we shared a thanksgiving meal (chicken, sweet potato casserole) with local friends, and took Oliver over to visit a former classmate.  I finally called family at 11 pm to wish them a Happy Thanksgiving (seven hour time difference)  and went to bed.  We had the boys sleep in their clothes to make the next morning a bit easier.

We were the second group to arrive at our meeting place.  We piled our luggage on the bus and got moving around 6:15.  Being up so early meant we really got to take in the full effect of the adan, or call to prayer on a holy day.  It was the start of eid al-adha, or feast of the sacrifice.  Our drive to the north border took us through several small towns.  We saw the crowds at a mosque, a shrine of an important Muslim historical figure, and numerous sheep being slaughtered.


We arrived at the border.  This was an anxiety filled time for all of us.  Our local friends had visas in hand, but this trip was actually a postponement of a previously planned trip.  The first time we attempted to travel the visas did not come through.  This was extremely disappointing, and at that time we did not know if the trip would happen at all.  For some choir members, this was the first time for them to visit the land where their parents and grandparents, and many generations before them, grew up.  They were traveling to their homeland, a place they knew only from stories told while sitting on grandpa's knee as a child.  For us foreigners, we can enter easily on a tourist visa but are often questioned randomly before allowed entrance.  Abu Tulip was one of the "lucky" ones questioned at length.  I had to tell them my father and grandfather's name, and with the wiggly baby in my hand I think the border control officer decided I was telling the truth.  After about an hour of processing, we made it to the other side of the Jordan River.  We were immediately greeted by the Magnificat choir members.  It's hard to describe the joy-filled welcome we received.  We were quickly loaded on to the tour bus, handed maps, a refreshing bottle of water, and we filled the bus with songs and laughter.  Our first stop would be lunch by the Sea of Galilee.

It's getting late.  Part Two will have to wait for another day.   ~ Um Tulip

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