Friday we were up and hit the road early. We spent some time in the ruins of an old Kursi church that dated back the time of Empress Helen, the mother of Constantinople, and the one responsible for many of the churches built on holy sites around Israel and other parts of the middle east. Then we drove to the ruins at Bat She’an, where I took a great picture of AJ in the excavated amphitheater from the year 200 AD:
The city was destroyed by a massive earthquake in the mid-700s, and the ruins they have uncovered are extensive. AJ and I walked around quite a bit, admiring just how much has been uncovered.
From Bat She’an we began driving south through the desert toward Jericho, which sits on the north side of the Dead Sea. It was vast, and empty, and brown. When I think of the word “desert” I suppose I always think of a place closer to Tunisia – lots of sand dunes that go on for miles and miles. Like this:
But Israel isn’t like that. Israel is like this:
That’s not sand, that’s rock. Lots and lots of rock. With a little bit of sandy dirt thrown in for good measure. In the first picture, you see that darker line in the middle of the picture? That’s Jericho, the only area we saw most of Day 4 that had any green. We passed Mount Nebo, where God showed Moses the Promised Land (which we were driving through, all the while thinking, “How could THIS be the Promised Land? It’s got nothing going for it!”) before telling Moses he was to die on the mountaintop, forbidden from entering the Promised Land himself.
For lunch we stopped at the Jordanian border along the Jordan River where it is believed Jesus was actually baptised by John the Baptist. Much less touristy than the place we had been to a few days prior. Here we sat under a canopy and enjoyed some falafel while listening to a nearby tourist group sing hymns. It was at this point that AJ commented to me, “Why God would decide to send His Son to this nothing place, I have no idea – but I’m sure glad He did.”
Then it was back on the bus where we began seeing more and more Bedouin camps in the hills as we got closer and closer to Jerusalem. Finally, we reached Jerusalem, where we parked our buses on the Mount of Olives with a tremendous view of the Temple Mount and Dome of the Rock:
Unfortunately, our vantage point was once again in direct sun at the hottest part of the day, and Lon felt the need to speak for upwards of 30+ minutes. After about 20 minutes, AJ was seriously flagging, so I helped her escape to the cool air conditioned bus, where we sat for another 10-15 minutes before Lon finally let everyone escape themselves and get back on the bus out of the hot sun.
But our day was not over. Our buses drove over to the historical site of Golgotha, where we saw the skull in the rock (sadly, it is now the site of a BUS DEPOT – I’m not even kidding) before taking time to visit the Garden of the Tomb. While most people believe the Church of the Holy Sepulchre is the actual burial spot of Jesus, a case is made for the location we visited to be a true contender of that claim. Either way, we stopped in this lovely garden for a few minutes to hear Lon speak, followed by a time of communion.
The time finally came for us to make our way back to the bus and on to our new hotel. The new hotel was gorgeous – our room was deluxe, for sure, and the dinner we had was fantastic. The only downside? Shabbat had started, which meant no laundry service was available. Not only that, but it was announced that night that we were required to wear LONG PANTS again the next day. At this point, I was on day four wearing THE SAME WHITE PANTS. Time to wash them in the sink again…