Who would have thought I’d end up posting a blog from a wifi-equipped bus? But the hotel Internet is down, so we do the best we can.
The remains of a 2,000-year-old fishing boat carefully preserved helped the study tour group from Campbell University Divinity School launch into a fifth day of travel in Israel. After brief visits to the church at Tabgha, which commemorates the feeding of the 5,000 with a famous mosaic floor, and the neighboring Peter’s Primacy, where a tradition holds that Jesus cooked breakfast for the disciples and confronted Peter after the resurrection, we bade the Sea of Galilee goodbye and headed south for Jericho.
The city of Jericho claims to be the oldest city in the world, as archaeologist Kathleen Kenyon found an ancient tower there that could date back as far as 8,500-10,500 years ago. The city is located in a desert region some 1,000 feet below sea level, and could only exist in ancient times because it is home to a strong spring that makes the city a green oasis amid a barren wilderness overlooking the Dead Sea (see the photo below).
A nearby mountain is known as the “Mount of Temptation” due to a tradition that Jesus was tempted there after his baptism in the Jordan at a site nearby, at Bethany Beyond the Jordan. We royally failed temptation by eating a buffet lunch at the “Temptation Restaurant” before going to visit the baptism site.
The Israeli side of the baptism site is called Qasar el Yehudah. Although the water is muddy, shallow, and foul-looking at that point, a group of Russian Orthodox believers were baptized, then splashed each other with glee before emerging from the river.
The sun was really bearing down as we drove a few miles further south to the site of Qumran, where a small village is thought by many to have been the headquarters of the Essene community, and where the “Dead Sea Scrolls” were found in nearby caves. The most important of these caves, known as Cave 4, is just across the deep wadi from Qumran, though difficult to access.
A short jaunt up the old Jericho road allowed us a short look at St. George’s Monastery, built into the side of the deep wadi Qelt, and from there we drove less then 20 miles, mostly uphill, into the city of Jerusalem, where we caught our first glimpse of the temple mount while singing “The Holy City,” and stopped for a brief devotion at the Promenade overlook before heading to our hotel, where we will spend five nights before returning.
Do you find a journey like this intriguing? We plan to do it again in May of 2015. You might want to start planning now!
(You can find other blogs from our group at these links:
David Stratton: davidsdeliberations.blogspot.com
Josh Owens: joshuakowens.blogspot.com
Susan Sevier: sevierlybaptist.com)