Tuesday, March 01, 2011

Project Israel- Promised Land

We started our day in Amman, Jordan, and spent the majority of the day seeing sites related to the Old Testament.

(Side note- we weren't able to visit the site of Jesus' Baptism in the Jordan River because the Jordanian army is keeping that area under tight control right now, and we didn't have time to go through all the security. We were all disappointed, as you might imagine. I was looking forward to collecting some water from the Jordan for baptisms. While they sell it on every street corner here, it wouldn't be as meaningful if I purchased it. Oh well, just one more reason to come back!)

First we went to Madaba, also called Moab in the Bible. There we visited St. George's Orthodox Church, which contains a mosaic map of the Holy Land (though not remotely to scale, nor does it contain any of the major roads from the time) on the floor in front of the main altar.

Next we visited Mt. Nebo, where Moses is said to have blessed Joshua as the new leader of the Israelites and glimpsed the promised land right before he died, where God then buried him (Deuteronomy 34). Although the view was hazy today, we could see the Jordan River and the plain leading into Israel.

Next we crossed back into Israel, which only took us about an hour to go through all the checkpoints. Given how strict Israeli security is, we had it very easy. Since it's a military zone, pictures aren't allowed, and I wasn't about to risk getting detained and questioned by the IDF or the Mossad.

We visited Jericho, site of the famous battle in Joshua 6. Herod's Winter Palace is here, but it's only partially excavated. The Jordanians started the excavations when this area was under their control, but it has remained untouched since 1967. Apparently the Israelis aren't interested in archeological sites in the Palestinian territories. "Zacchaeus' sycamore tree" (no sycamore tree lives for 2000) years is also there (Luke 19).

Then we swam in the Dead Sea. The salt content is so high that you can float on it very easily. Many of the minerals from the Dead Sea are sold in cosmetic products, and people cover themselves in the mud because it does something good for your skin. One of my traveling companions has a picture of me covered in the mud, and I'll post it when they send it to me.

Yes, ladies and gentlemen. Mark Twain has returned, and he's bathing in the Dead Sea.

Lastly, we visited Qumran, where a community of Essenes (they self identified as "The Covenanteers") lived and produced the Dead Sea Scrolls. We could see some of the caves where the scrolls lay undiscovered for two thousand years. Cave #4 is just past my right shoulder in the last picture.

Tomorrow we're staying in the West Bank, visiting Jacob's Well, Mt. Gerazim, Nabalus, and a few other sites. Until then, take care!

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