The 5 minute Divine Comedy

Posted on August 15, 2010


Like the Israelites of the old testament, I too was once trapped and surrounded on the shores of the red sea in Egypt. Only not by Egyptian chariots seeking vengeance but rather by hordes of mad and relentless tourists. I wanted to get back to Jerusalem for Easter weekend, but the ferry was broken and late for days. So my friends and I played sandal golf on the beach. I lost and had to have many jelly fish stacked on my bare chest for at least five minutes.  We were staying at, if you can believe it, the hotel California and if you’re thinking ‘you can check out anytime you want but you can never leave’ that’s how it was. But with no dancing.

We didn’t have very much money, but because we were so bored we decided to eat out. We went to this ok looking place on main street and told the waiter we wanted pita and hummus and he came back with bread and this bowl of boiling hot green ooze. We thought we would at least try the ooze but the bowl kept moving around the table. “Our bowls moving,” we told the waiter so he brought us a new one but that bowl moved too. So we left.

Many long and tedious days were spent like this, until the ferry finally came and bought us across the Red Sea to Sharm Al-Sheik. We took a cab then to Saint Katerine’s the oldest monastery in the world at the foot of Mount Sinai, except that when we got there we found it was closed for holy week. That was disappointing, but what was worse was when we climbed mount Sinai and found that the craggy maze like top was covered with trash and excrement. The hordes of tourists had already been there. We spent a cold night on the mountain top, wary of poo, and woke up to watch the sunrise and on our way back down the path someone told us that it was not the actual mountain. And we were like, “wha?” and he was like, “No, it’s not the real mount Sinai, no one knows where the real one is.” This seemed to be yet another disappointment until we began to realize that the real Holy Mountain remained hidden and undefiled; that it was as obscure, inscrutable and shit free as it had always been.

We got a cab back to the border of Israel but once across we were stranded again because it was Saturday. Like Walter in the Big Lebowski, the Israeli buses don’t roll on Shabbat. So we had to hitchhike. The Israelis drove extremely fast in shiny Volkwagons and ignored us for many hours. We kept walking and got picked up at night finally by this guy with an M16 on his lap in a VW Van that didn’t have back seats. He didn’t say a word to us and played Queen’s greatest hits as loud as he could and drove eighty five miles an hour on the two lane highway, driving faster for songs such as Bohemian Rhapsody and Fat Bottom Girls. He only took us to the very outer ring of Jerusalem, so that we had to walk up the long hills toward the center of the city in the dark.

I hoped to get back to the Holy Sepulcher in time for the Easter midnight vigil, but by the time we made it there we found that the horde of tourists had beat us to it; the church was at full capacity and had shut the doors. I stood outside with other late comers who tore their clothes and gnashed their teeth. A giant Ethiopian man shouted and cursed and pushed against the crowd barriers. An IDF officer hit him in the face with a riot stick. The Ethiopian, screaming in rage, picked up the barrier and shook it over everyone’s heads. The IDF cocked their Uzis. The Ethiopian surrendered and put down the barrier. I went home to bed.

Easter Sunday I finally stood in the Holy Sepulcher for mass. It was standing room only and you couldn’t even move your arms and your feet either. We were all carried along as one, side to side front to back; it was difficult to breath. Priests from different denominations each caterwauled their various liturgies. The crowd shouted and roared in many tongues. Because Christ had risen I was in good spirits and I thought perhaps this was what heaven would be like. Only roomier and with more deodorant and less madness and I felt then, being squeezed mercilessly by many sobbing Italians, that Christ will save even tourists from the destruction.

Posted in: theology, travel