We'd come to the Dead Sea in a cab, paying 60 shekels to get there from Vered Jericho, after paying 400 shekels in cash that morning to our hostess at the hostel (since she preferred that to the credit card). We'd also received a business card from her that she said would get us into Kalia beach at 50% off, which ended up not working, so we payed 54 shekels each for access to the Dead Sea beach. In the span of 3 hours, we'd spent 612 shekels of our cash. And, we found out that the national bus system wasn't running that day, as it was Saturday, the shabbat. Without an atm in Kalia, or a moneychanger to turn our American dollars into shekels, we were sitting in Kalia without money to get to Jerusalem. We had just enough to get to Jericho, where we could visit an atm or moneychanger to get more shekels, then grab a cab into Jerusalem, but at a much greater cost. After we'd swam and laid in the sun for a while, we decided that the stress of figuring out our next move dictated that we go up to the front desk and inquire about taxis.
We were sitting at a table in the restaurant/bar area, thinking and talking about our options, as we watched a bus full of tourists arrive. Emily listened to some of their conversations and picked up that she thought at least a few of them speaking with Spanish accents from either Mexico or somewhere else in Central America. She then struck up a conversation with a couple of Episcopalian priests from Spain, telling them our situation, until their tour guide approached her and told her that they could not help us. We resigned ourselves to our Jericho plan, trying to laugh at our failures and lack of planning to get over the fact that we'd be spending considerably more money due to our lack of foresight. As Emily talked to a worker in the Dead Sea salts and lotions factory, the worker hailed the same tour guide and said, “Can't you help these kids?” The tour guide replied, “Ok, I'll check with my boss, and see if it's ok.”
So after waiting around for a bit while the group finished their time at the Dead Sea, we found ourselves loading our bags under the bus (the bus driver said, “This is not my group!”) and stepping on board a bus full of pilgrims, mostly from Spain, but with 1 or two from Mexico and Columbia. We boarded first, and were quickly greeted with many quizzical looks from pilgrims we hadn't gotten a chance to talk to before, along with some cheers and excitement from some of those who were hoping they would help us out.
In the words of the head tour guide (who greeted us jovially with great excitement) “There is no better way to talk about the parable of the Good Samaritan (which happened on the road to Jericho) than to act it out.” And we indeed felt that hospitality, as we were serenaded with Spanish hymns and readings from the Bible as we drove from Kalia to Abu Gris (or Bethany, where Lazarus, Martha, and Mary lived), and then on into Jerusalem. We rode along with our new friends and shared their joy as they looked out on Jerusalem the first time.
As they learned their parable through acting it out, we experienced a miracle through their generosity and hospitality. I have rarely felt so reliant on other people as I did as we sat on their bus, listening as the landscape was described in their language. At one point one of the Episcopalian priests Emily had first talked to came up during a song and showed me they were singing Psalm 121 in Spanish, encouraging me to sing along with the words in front of me. I felt so incredibly lucky to be invited to share. It was one of those few moments for me that the Holy Land felt holy and sacred.
We're often told to put ourselves in the Bible stories, to insert our name, to make it real. How much more meaningful it is when we have opportunity to truly live them out.