By Rebecca McCourtie
Despite the title of this series, I have always considered myself to be a good girl. Sure I have done the odd naughty thing on occasion, like had one too many vinos or dropped the F-bomb when it hasn’t been appropriate to do so, BUT I pride myself on the fact that I am on the verge of 30 and I have never been ‘kicked-out’ of anything. I have never been kicked-out of a bar. I have never been kicked-out of a pub or a club. I have never been kicked-out of a cinema. Fact is, I have never been kicked out of anything because I am a good girl… well, until today! Today I was kicked out of a church!
Allow me to back-peddle if I may and explain to you where exactly I am. Contrary to my assertion above, I did a naughty thing. I came to Jerusalem. I came to Jerusalem even though I told my Mum I wouldn’t. You see, my Mum and I have a very close relationship. I tell my Mumma err-thing about err-thing. The one thing she didn’t want me to do was visit any place that might be dangerous. Given the media coverage we get in Australia, this included Jerusalem. OK, OK, I know what you’re thinking: ‘cut the cord already.’ It may seem odd for some that I have a metaphorical umbilical cord attached to my Mum that has lasted thirty odd years and crosses continents, but I wouldn’t have my relationship with her any other way. That ol’gal has had my back through everything. From my first steps as a baby to my giant leaps around the world, that woman has been, and continues to be my solid! I would never want to do anything that might cause her to fret over me. So you will understand when I say: I lied out of love. I couldn’t come to Israel and not see Jerusalem!
I didn’t plan to go initially, but once over here I saw that all the tourists were visiting and no one seemed to tell me that it was dangerous. In fact, quite the opposite. Given that Jerusalem is one of Israel’s biggest tourist revenue sources, it is the most highly guarded and security present area. So you see, I have never lied before and I never plan to lie again, but on this occasion I thought it best to save everyone the angst. So I am here in Jerusalem and I have just been kicked out of a church!
Essentially I spent my day just wandering the streets. I didn’t really have a plan to tick every box on the tourist map, I just wanted to wander and absorb the atmosphere. I think that is always the best way to get a feel for a city. So, as I wandered I happened to wander upon the Coptic Patriarchate. From the outside, the old stone building with all its intricate carvings and awnings looked breathtakingly spectacular. Naturally I decided to wander inside for a closer look. As I walked through the stone arch entrance I stopped to watch the people mid-praise/prayer/worship or whatever you like to call it. I am not very religious. I like to think of myself more as a spiritual soul. I basically try and live a good life of kindness and love. I don’t feel the need to partake in organized faith. I do, however think it beautiful for those who do.
As I stood and watched people kneel at the base of a stone slab, I wondered what, or rather who it was. ‘Was it meant to be Jesus?’ I thought to myself, simultaneously walking around the site to try and catch glimpse of a plaque that might answer my query. I didn’t even get half way around the bloody thing when a scary looking priest ran up to me and said: ‘no, no, no- you OUT! You come back covered.’
‘WHAT THE HELL JUST HAPPENED IN THIS HOLY HOUSE’ I thought to myself as I was being enthusiastically ushered back out of the stone arch I had walked through moments earlier. The dude had to be joking. There were men walking around in shorts the exact same length as mine, but apparently I was the only one causing offense. I mean, common! It was just my knee-caps and a little bit of thigh. Jesus came from a time when people didn’t even wear panties, and here I was being told that the modestly covered yoghurt sticks I call legs were offensive! It was outrageous! Anyone would have thought that I was wearing arse-munchers and sporting a mad camel-toe with the reaction the priest afforded me. Not to mention the fact that my legs were far more decent than the veiled woman who was practically dry humping the tomb at the very same moment I was being kicked-out! I just wanted a quick walk through and then out. Unlike her, I had no immediate intention of physically mounting and crotch-thrusting any part of the interior. Alas, I was still deemed the offensive one and escorted out of the presence of the Lord in my shorts that were ‘too short.’
I was angry that the men who were wearing shorts the same length as mine were allowed to remain inside. Was I inappropriate because I was a woman? Surely the priests had more respect for men than that. To deem my legs a distraction was to undermine the intelligence and the perceived level of inherent self-restraint in men. It was a disgrace that even in today’s day and age my gender was an issue.
This little saga stands as a stark contrast to my time in Tiberias, where the man I was volunteering for took me and a few other volunteers to a hippie gathering/ kibbutz. That was a place where clothing wasn’t mandatory, but rather forbidden. I have never seen so many naked people in one concentrated area before. The smorgasbord of bodies was amazing. People come in all different shapes and sizes, literally (and I don’t mean just THAT part of the person)! Up and until that point, I had always thought of myself as slightly hippie/ alternative. I mean, I travelled to India for crying out loud! I was totally spiritual and alternative! Right? WRONG! I realized as all the hippies embraced each other and lay uninhibited in the water with their ‘privates’ not so private, that my ‘alternativeness’ stretched as far as buying organic fruit and veg from the market and occasionally rubbing coconut oil into my hair, not bosom bumping with a complete stranger on an elevated rock in the middle of the Jordan River. Needless to say I broke the rules and kept my clothes on. I need at least dinner and a few drinks before I take my clothes off for anyone!
I leave Israel in less than 48-hours. I am ready to leave. I have had some good and some bad experiences while roaming the ‘Holy Land.’ The Orthodox Jewish man who shoulder bumped me into the gutter in Tiberias and didn’t say sorry= BAD! The lovely Israeli ladies who I met in Poland and who invited me to stay at their house= AMAZING! Let me tell you, you know that you have met a quality pseudo-aunty in Israel when you leave her house hobbling from the weight of your over-stuffed belly.
So yes, Israel has been a mixed bag of adventures that I feel has definitely enriched my life. It is time to go though. Given that the Mediterranean weather has turned my hair into kindling and I now pose a fire danger every time I walk out into the sun, leaving for a cooler climate is in the best interest of my personal safety and that of those who are in my immediate surroundings.
Until we speak again…