The Blog

Lads on Torah: A Trip to the Holy Land


Their version of 'Stairway to Heaven' lasts 67 hours spreading across two books. Charge your Walkman before these guys.

"Where's your passport? What hotel are you staying at? Do you have any drugs on you?"

Just how my therapist greets me.

Except this time, it was the exact opposite of a therapist; an aggressively paranoid Israeli officer. Standing next to his equally as intimidating partner (professional partner) (maybe they were together?) they would make a darling couple. Both were holding their guns as if they were waiting for the intro part of Time Crisis to end before they could whip them up again and start blasting at zombies.

"Where's your passport? What hotel are you staying at? Do you have any drugs on you?" he said again, sounding like the worlds most threatening wind-up action figure. We'd been asked these questions about three times now, each with the same answers.

"Our passports are in the hotel. Our hotel is down the road from here, and no we don't have any drugs on us"

It was going to be a long night.

A few years ago my friend Lewis and I went to Israel to film a care home run by Muslim, Jewish and Bedouin care workers. Before we were due to arrive, we spent a week exploring as much of Israel as we could. And, as most tourists do, we began our trip by landing in the beach and bagel haven of Tel-Aviv.

As the plane flew over the city before spiralling to land, the country looked like a tropical carefree utopia. The perfect blue sea, golden sand stretching around the coast and palm trees dotted around made us feel like we were flying into paradise. However once we touched ground, that reggae fuelled image shortly disappeared.

Car park.

As we minced of the plane, before we had even got of the steps to walk onto Israeli soil, at 'random' people were grabbed of the plane and marched down the steps. Lewis and myself were two of those people. Whilst we were being kindly escorted around the terminal, questions were being thrown at us faster than a meth'd up panther on a toboggan.

"What are you doing at 2pm on this day?" "Where will you be on this date and with who and at what time?" The whole idea of this game was to make sure you weren't going to be doing anything too terroristy, and if you hesitated it meant you had something to hide. "What are you doing 5pm on Sunday?" "Sit on the beach, go shopping then I recon I'd attempt to bomb a cinema-aaaah, you got me!"

'A protest in drizzle is a protest wasted' - Gandhi. Maybe?

After the lengthy interrogation they let us go, where we were then placed on a mini-bus and taken into town. A guy from Scotland sat next to me and we began having a natter. As it turned out, he had been questioned for two hours in a separate room, and after much interrogation he was eventually let through. I asked him what he was planning on doing here, and he told me he was going help Palestine, and had been learning his "dates and times" for months like a script. Very well done.

About 50 minutes later, we arrived in the arms of sweet lady Jerusalem.

Good album cover for the kids first EP.

The city is a chaotic bustling place filled with people from all backgrounds and religions. The smell of spices and incense mixed with chanting of all different languages makes you feel like you're at the mother of all festivals. All they need is an over-priced burger van and a 'chill out' tent and they're sorted.

This took 50 years and 200 deaths to build.

Depending on whom you talk to, you are in Palestine or you are in Israel. Tourist shops selling everything from postcards to 'hilarious skull caps' will greet you upon arrival shouting 'Welcome to Palestine!' or 'Welcome to Israel!' Everyone wants to tell you a story too, which adds to the biblical kids-sitting-round-a-candle-telling-stories atmosphere.

Part of the 'Laugh 'n' Pray' scheme.

After a while of wandering through the streets gawping at everything and exploring routes via the intoxicating scent of falafels, we arrived at our Hostel. It was in the Arab quarter, and home to some of the most interesting travellers I'd ever met.

One guy had travelled all over the world, telling me of how he speaks with all the worlds religious leaders to try and form a holy truce*. His final stop was Israel, and later that day he was to meet one of the head Rabbis in downtown Jerusalem.

What happened next? Did he unite all the religions? Don't Google it; it'll ruin the ending!

To be continued...

*That's what he told me. For all I know he could have spent the best part of 20 years shouting at a skirting board for being too demanding.

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