My last entry comes as we finished our two week trip through Egypt and Jordan. The filming of the Frankincense Trail was completed, the camera people had packed and left, Gary and Mary Young had left for their next adventures but 91 of us were still in Jordan, heading back to Amman to catch many flights back to the U.S., Canada, Germany, England and Australia. Our tour guides arranged a world-wind one day trip through the Dead Sea Region on our way back to Amman.
Our first stop was at St. George’s Church in the town of Madaba where in the floor was discovered the earliest map of Palistine done in mosaic. In history we went through an iconoclastic period where images were destroyed out of religious zeal. A good portion of this floor map was destroyed before someone thought to cover it up with sand and put another floor over it. It exists in a Greek Orthodox church. As we were hearing about the map, a priest happened by and asked in a very American accent where we were from. As it turns out, he was from Cincinnati, OH and was now stationed in Madaba.
From Madaba, we went up to Mount Nebo where it is believed that Moses died. There is a memorial to Moses there. On this mountain top, the wind was very chilly. You could see the entire valley below stretching to the promised land.
Moses of course is one of the greatest prophets of the old testament and is honored by Jewish, Christian and Islamic faiths. There is the ruins of a Byzantine church on the site. The Franciscans bought the land in the 1930’s and maintain it to this day. Although a church has not been rebuilt on this site, you can go under a great tent to see the mosaic floor of this once great Byzantine church.
From Mt. Nebo, our buses wound down the mountain to the Jordan river and to the place where Jesus was baptized. Being at a much lower altitude it was quite warm. Getting out of our buses, we noticed that there were actually many churches in the area–it seems every Christian denomination needs their own church to honor the place of baptism. The one church we were taken to is St. John the Baptist, another Orthodox church with exquisite icons.
Our guide told us that this church really does have a gold dome on it, a gift from President Putin of Russia when he visited the site a few years ago. the guide then added, “laundry money.” Walking on beyond this gold domed church, we arrived at actually a muddy hole, the place where Jesus was baptized. Walking a little further, we reached the borders of the Jordan river where there was a fountain of clear water.
Jeffrey Lewis is seen here dipping into the baptismal waters. From across the Jordan (now just a muddy stream), we could see Israel.
The last picture at this site is of me sitting beside a mosaic of the baptism of Jesus.
Loading up on our buses once again, we headed for lunch at the Dead Sea. The food was outstanding but we didn’t waste much time eating for we all wanted to at least put our toe in the dead sea which is 30 times saltier than the ocean. It is actually impossible to sink in the Dead Sea. When we were there, a stiff wind was blowing white caps making it very difficult to keep your footing in the black gooey mud. Here are a few scenes to show you our final episode of our travel.
Some Reflections on Our Jordan River/Dead Sea Excursion
By the time we started this one day trip, it was the end of two fantastic weeks with little rest and a lot of 4am wake-up calls. Some of the folks on the trip weren’t always careful to drink bottled water and were suffering from the Nile Revenge. Others were coming down with respiratory ailments. Everyone’s immune system seemed to be compromised to some degree. Our tour guides told us that normally when they run this one-day tour, each stop is an hour and a half. We had 15-30 minutes because our buses needed to be at the Amman airport by 5:30pm for those who had evening flights. For those of us not leaving that evening, we stayed at a nearby hotel for the night.
Exhausted but very full from this trip, I can say that I am truly grateful for all the experiences. I stayed healthy and came home ready to get back into the swing of teaching, writing and speaking. The Dead Sea was much larger than I expected and the Jordan River much narrower than I pictured in my mind. Well below sea level, the Dead Sea is the lowest place on the earth. My only regret is that being so close to Israel, that I didn’t get to explore more historical sites important to my heart. Another day. In the Scriptures, it often referred to Jesus at the Jordan river but because so much of the water is drained off for irrigation, it is only a small stream now. You could actually walk across it to Israel although I wouldn’t advise it.
Our excursion time in Egypt and Petra was about exploring the distant past–mythology, culture, the peoples, gods and goddesses, symbols, hieroglyphics, ancient writings, temples, tombs, earthquakes, abandonment of cities, wars, conquests and more that I’m sure I’ve forgotten. Our one day trip to Christian sites was a completely different experience. Limited by our time to get to the airport, the number of places we could visit was also limited. The most powerful site for me was actually Mount Nebo–the place where Moses once stood and some believe it is where he died and is buried. It was actually looking out over the valley below–the promised land and seeing it as a fertile valley fought over by so many different peoples that I realized how connected we are to our historical roots–Jewish, Christian, and Islamic. Jesus (Jeshua) walked the River Jordan area. His footsteps are still there energetically as they are all over Palistine. When you reflect on that–remember–wherever you place your foot–you leave a little light. When we walk with purpose and awareness, we make sacred the earth. The ancient Egyptian priestesses I believe understood that, the Nabataeans understood it and many of us today nod our heads in agreement.
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