Thursday, May 13, 2010

What happens when I get thee to a convent.

Amanda, who is going to the Holy Land soon, asked in a recent blog post if any of us had ever been there and if we had a favorite memory. And I started to comment and you know how sometimes comments get so long you think, shoot, this is more than a comment, this is a whole blog post?

Or is it just me?

Anyway today was one of those days.

Yes, Amanda, I have been to the Holy Land. Here are, if not my favorite, are my most outstanding memories of that holy time.

Once upon a time, I was 23 years old, in Jerusalem, staying at the Ecce Homo convent. Ecce Homo as in, supposedly THE place where Pilate cried "Behold the Man!" as he handed Jesus over. Or he cried "Ecce homo!" cause he spoke Latin. Et tu?

Maybe this convent is the actual place that Jesus stood. Maybe it is a tourist trap. In Israel, you can never really be sure, so you spend a good deal of time wondering if you are getting scammed or if you are just a horrible, horrible person with very, very little faith.

Et tu? Or is it just me?

Anyway. I had a migraine brought on by the cigarettes protruding from the lips of every single Palestinian/Israeli person walking around Old Jerusalem. In the convent's 'youth' hostel, there was only me, some lady from California, and a very old Irish nun who lived in the Israeli desert.

Oh, and did I mention I was alone? All alone? In ISRAEL? I had hopped over by myself from London. Fortunately this was during the intifada, a brief non-violent period, so it was as safe as Israel gets but - pardon me just a moment -

Dear Eva and Maggie and Bethie,
You may never, ever, ever go to Israel for a week all by yourself.

What are you, on crack??
Love, Mom.
And Dad.
And everyone who knows you.
PS Shep and Ike, this goes for you too.

We were sitting in the kitchen, and I was telling them about my going-on-two-days migraine. Migraines for me meant hours of lying in bed, a washcloth on my head, interrupted only by intermittent periods of vomiting.

Alone. In Israel. In a convent. Where Jesus may or may not have stood.

Suddenly, the nun came over to me and put her hands on me and began to pray for God to heal my migraine.

I had never had anyone lay hands on me before. And I tell you what - an Irish nun really is the way to go when it comes to laying-hands-on-and-praying. An Irish nun in Jerusalem. In the exact place that Jesus may or may not have stood. I am not saying that your first laying-on-of-hands experience wasn't great, I'm just saying that mine was better.

So while this sweet nun chants over me in her awesome Irish brogue, it was as if an exorcism - and perhaps it was - began to happen. I stood up, ran across the kitchen to the sink, puked, and sat back down. And Sister with a capital S never missed a beat! She just prayed louder than my dainty retching and laid her holy nun hands right back on me when I returned.

Talk about a professional, y'all.

I'd like to tell you that my migraine was miraculously instantly healed but, well, I can't remember. Believe what you wish.

My other main memory was of going to the Dead Sea. The Dead Sea is so far below sea level that your ears pop on the way down. It is also so salty that nothing can grow there, hence, the name DEAD. Get it?

But you can 'swim' there. And 'swimming' there is one of the coolest experiences because, due to the salt content, you just float. It's like you are on an invisible inner tube. You can flip flop all around. Weebles wobble but they don't sink.

Since I knew I was going 'swimming', I prefaced my bathing suit experience in the customary way: by shaving my body from head to toe.

Did I mention that the Dead Sea has a salt content 8.6 times more than the ocean?

Did I mention that I shaved from head to toe?

Ever gone to the beach and had your freshly shaven legs sting a wee bit when you got in the water?


My entire body was on fire. I wanted so much to bob around but my pores could not handle the sensation of being attacked by a million fire ants fighting over the Gaza Strip.

So, I got out, and actually paid perfectly good shekels to be covered with 'healing' Dead Sea mud from head to one foot (?), aka, a Screaming Spa Treatment.

After I washed that torture away, I took a photo with an Israeli soldier, who had his uniform unzipped to show off his manly chest hair and manlier gold chain.

And when I got them developed, I realized he had his hand on my butt.

Amanda, I hope that your trip with your mom is equally exciting. But, in much different ways.

La Chaim!


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