For the first time in all of my pilgrimages - over 15,000 kilometers by foot - something 'bad' happened =( Two men tried to rob me of my leather bag that holds my pilgrim credenziale, the book that contains the record of all the places I slept, the stamps from churches and monasteries, notes and signatures from the various hosts, etc... In the souk I visited in Monastir, Tunisia, I was stripped of my reading glasses and my wee little pocket knife, but there was no violence involved, so it wasn't such a horrible experience and I dismissed it as a simple annoyance.
Walking through richly historic Samaria in Palestine, midway between Nazareth and Jerusalem, I came down from the terraced olive groves where the road winds tightly between some mountains... I like the groves, muddy though they are, but geography overrules at certain points and roadside walking is required. Not many cars or trucks pass along the modern highway, so it's not too stressful for a pedestrian pilgrim. Idiot drivers honk their horns as they pass, though, which I distain as much as I cannot imagine what possesses them to cause such unnecessary stress to a complete stranger... 140 decibels is unpleasant... morons disturbing my tranquility... whatever.
One of the idiot drivers who honked as he came up from behind me shouted 'where are you going?' I waved him off and he drove away, only to return from the opposite direction a few minutes later. The passenger got out of the car and said he wanted to help me. I don't need anyone's help, thank you, goodbye. He got back in the car and the two men drove off again, turning around a few hundred meters further along, and passed me in my same direction. They disturbed my tranquilty once again stopping only long enough for the passenger to alight. ´Imshee!´ I shouted at him to leave me alone and went from the shoulder of the road to the center, though there were no cars at that moment, if one came by, he'd have to stop. The man told me straight out, rather politely I can honestly say, ´I want your bag,´ pointed to the leather pouch. ´You won't get it, I'm a pilgrim and have no money, there're only books (in English)...a traveler only on foot and with no money (in Arabic).´ He laughed and said of himself, ´but I'm crazy.´ ´Still, I have no money, leave me in peace.' The moron then made an effort to reach for my bag. I whacked him hard across the chest with one of my hiking poles. Though the lightweight titanium just bounced off the solid muscle, it sent the message that his petty theft wouldn't be a painfree one and thankfully at that moment, a car came around the bend a half kilometer away. The crazy would-be thief thought better of the situation and ran off in the direction of his conspirator waiting in the getaway car hiding behind the other bend. Then a steady stream of cars came by in both directions and I saw the car of the two men pass me in my direction again, waving a twisted fist. I wrote down their licence plate number, for what it was worth, but the ordeal was over. I was through the windy part of the mountains within a few more kilometers and returned to the tranquility of the olive groves and sheep pastures.
I certainly wasn't afraid of either of the morons - what could they do in the middle of the highway while I was armed with two hiking poles, two very heavy hiking boots, and a backpack for ballast? Thieves should really think these things through a bit more. It was just sad that after all this distance, days before completing the pilgrimage, I had to encounter 'bad' people. There's always something 'good' about the people I meet, even if they're pesty morons. It's hard to convince myself that they're really 'good' guys just having a 'bad' day. Heavy sigh. Bad Samaritans.
Continuing on, I entered the outskirts of the city of Nablus. I asked a few people where to find the Catholic church and was pointed toward the Greek Orthodox one high up a mountain. I asked more people who directed me to the farthest end of the city, high up another mountain. Once again, Greek Orthodox. Next door, there was an insurance agency. I popped my head in the open door and asked for help. The kindest of men stopped what he was doing to help... phone calls, directions, Google Maps... he offered coffee. Settling on the location of the church, he offered to accompany me there since it had gotten dark. It was back toward the first Orthodox church, which was too far for his legs, so he hailed a cab and escorted me there. It turned out to be a Melkite Catholic church and a friend of his new the son of the priest. More phone calls, invited in to spend the night in the rectory with the priest's family, cake, sparkling wine, festivities followed... Good Samaritans. Happy ending.