Temples, Toilets, and Tombs, Oh My — Part 3

While we’re on the bus, heading to Tahrir Square to visit the Egyptian Museum, let me use the time to introduce the two main guides on this trip, Rabbi/Professor Josh Berman and Migo. By far, the rabbi/professor is better known, at least here in The Land. Several people I know are acquainted with him, and others know him at least by reputation. But even if you’ve never heard of him, a Google search (being careful not to confuse him with several other Josh(ua) Bermans roaming around) will produced this Wikipedia article, which will make reference to his publications, including his most recent book, Ani Maamin: Biblical Criticism, Historical Truth, and the Thirteen Principles of Faith. You can find articles on-line that he has written, like this one, “The Biblical Origins of Equality,”as well as a bunch of podcasts with him in it.  Personally, what I like most about him is that he doesn’t need to be a BIG SHOT, the star of the show. He was more than willing to share center stage with Migo.

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Temples, Toilets, and Tombs, Oh My — Part 2

That was probably the best way to handle it. Most of our tour group had arrived from Ben-Gurion Airport on Sunday. But there was another group, smaller in size but just as important, coming from The States, scheduled to arrive early afternoon on Monday. So what should the early birds be doing Monday morning? If we started the scheduled activities without our State-side colleagues, they probably would be collectively mad as a wet hen that they were being left out. On the other hand, our super-antsy crew would not have wanted to spend precious hours loitering in the lobby of the Ramses Hilton. So what did Cindy Kline, together with the folks at Shai Bar Ilan Geographical Tours decide? FREE TIME! Your once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to explore the streets of Cairo on a self-guided tour. What fun! Our intrepid travelers bought into this idea and set out in groups of twos, three, and fours to see what they could see. Barbara and I were one of the groups of twos that wandered forth, having only a very foggy notion of where we should be heading.  We made a left turn from the hotel entrance, walked through a tiny shuk, and made a circle around the block. Welcome to Cairo!

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Temples, Toilets, and Tombs, Oh My — Part 1

Who was the other guy?

Let me begin this segment from where I left off the last one, because where else should I start? All of us on this Shai Bar Ilan Geographical Tours trip to Egypt (organized by Cindy Kline, with Rabbi/ Professor Joshua Berman as scholar-in-residence) who were arriving from Israel were seated on the tour bus, sporting our newly acquired dorky yellow caps, waiting for the signal to leave the Cairo airport. We had been joined by staff from Shepherd Travel, Migo, the local tour guide, and John, the indispensable logistics guy. (A third member of their staff, Pola, would be with us in Cairo only.) But who was this other shadowy person who just got on the bus? Security.

We – Barbara and I – had been asked any number of times before we went if we thought we would be ‘safe’ in Egypt. There will be security with us everywhere we go, we replied. Whatever one’s thoughts of the Egyptian police department, politically or ethically, there is no question that they do not mess around. There is a special division of the force that deals with tourism and antiquities, and their responsibility is to ensure that tourists have a good time and their ancient sites are protected.  Don’t go anywhere until they tell you to. Which they finally did, and off we went on the long road to downtown Cairo.

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Temples, Toilets, and Tombs, Oh My — Introduction

Wherein lightning strikes twice

There is the old and useless adage to the effect that lightning never strikes twice in the same place. Says who? I ask. That would mean, unless you take the idea only in its most literal sense, that there are no second chances in life, which is too horrible a thought to contemplate.

Last year, as some of you may remember, we were COVID-ed out of the trip of a lifetime to Egypt, the assumption at the time being we would never get the opportunity again, at least with the same cast of characters. Yes, Cindy Kline and the folks at Shai Bar Ilan Geographical Tours might put together another similar excursion, but how would they convince their star attraction, scholar-in-residence Rabbi/Professor Joshua Berman, to interrupt his busy schedule to return to the Land of the Pharaohs?

But out of the blue a few months ago we received a Cindy-gram letting us know that tour would be repeated – actually twice – this January and February. Which one did we want to join? As if there were any question that we were going. We decided on #1 and sent in our deposit.  Then I began to worry (maybe, ‘obsess’ would be more accurate). What could go wrong now to keep us from going? It was clear to both of us that this was it. If we flunked out this time, there would be no third try. Two strikes and you’re out in the old ball game.

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