Monday, February 24, 2014

Blogging from the Holy Land, Part 4

This morning we leave the Sea of Galilee.  Very few of us are interested in leaving, and though we believe that our fate in Jerusalem will be more positive than that of Jesus, we still understand why he wouldn't want to go.  Tiberias is a resort town, and we had perfect weather.  The landscape is breathtaking and it lends itself to quietness and a sense of escape.  None of us have actually been to Jerusalem, but we anticipate that it will be quite different.

We started this morning at the baptismal site of Jesus.  There's a kibbutz there that runs the site.  It's quite beautiful.  Many of us filled up water bottles with Jordan River water, and the bishop encouraged all of us to touch the water so that we might remember our baptisms.  We heard other groups cheering those among them who were being baptized, or rebaptized.  It was a happy place.

Our next stop was Jericho.  It hasn't been excavated well, so there's not much to see except the monastery built into the side of the hill nearby.  But Jericho was right next to the Temptation Shops (the wilderness of Jesus' temptation is thought to be nearby), and I bought everyone's Christmas presents with the help of my new best friend Mohammed, who may be the world's best flatterer.

From Old Testament Jericho we went to Herodian Jericho, which proved to be much more of an adventure than any of us bargained for.  While taking pictures on the excavation site, Bishop McAlilly took a pretty serious spill over the side of the ruin and broke two ribs.  More about that in a later reflection.  So that put a damper on the day. 

But it was almost completely redeemed by our visit to the Wadi Qelt, also known as the Jericho Road, upon which a certain man was traveling was he was set upon by thieves while going to Jerusalem.  It's also known as...get this... the Valley of the Shadow of Death.  Bedouins graze their goats and sheep here, and it's also home to St. George's Monastery, built into the side of the mountain.

After we passed through the Valley of the Shadow of Death (phew) we drove into Jerusalem.  Driving into Jerusalem the first time was breathtaking.  Our first stop was the Mount of Olives.  I always assumed that the Mount of Olives was a peak, but it clearly isn't.  We visited the Church of Dominus Flevit (The Lord Wept) which is built in the shape of a teardrop with tear cups on the four roof corners.  It commemorates Jesus' tears when he approached Jerusalem.

We made it to our new hotel!

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