Wednesday February 11 - The Jordan Valley

Wednesday February 11 - The Jordan Valley

   [All the photos can be clicked for larger view, and roll your  mouse wheel to page through them all]
It was a hazy, windy morning and looking from our hotel room, the sun was barely visible. Wisam told us that we were very lucky -- it is a sandstorm that only happens about once a year! When we left Bethlehem we travelled through several closely-spaced villages, then we started down the crazy twisting road into "Hell", the valley that was Jerusalem's garbage dump, where wild scavengers made the place extremely dangerous.
 Our first stop was Qumran, site of the discovery of the Dead Sea Scrolls. The sand-laden wind certainly added to the  atmosphere. It is a barren, bleak and beautiful area. It has been excavated and some restoration done, to show how the monastic community lived, who left behind the many records in the scrolls. We looked down on the cave where the first of the pottery jars containing the scrolls were found.
Next stop: The Dead Sea. Question: Would anyone be crazy enough to go in? Answer: yes, 4 of us did,  but we didn't get far -- there was actually a wild surf so we were limited to a quick dip, forbidden to swim. Check out the video link below; most of us obeyed the strictures. The water was surprisingly warm on a very chilly day, and would have been very nice in better weather.
 We drove through a narrow area between high fences sporting land mine warnings to get to Qasr el Yehud, the traditional site of Jesus' baptism in the Jordan River. Several of us had been to the tourist baptism site on another part of the Jordan, but this was only recently re-opened to the public. It's much calmer and less commercial. Nanci read the account of Jesus' baptism from Matthew,

and Pastor David conducted a moving re-affirmations of our baptisms, using Jordan River water.
As we left the site, we encountered 2 young Israeli soldiers and they kindly posed for photos with us. What a contrast -- a peaceful ceremony to armed soldiers.


On to Jericho, where we first enjoyed lunch and shopping, then visited the Tell es-Sultan, the oldest site of settlement in the world. The area of the tell has about 20 layers of civilization, but has been uninhabited since Joshua's time. Still windy, chilly and sandy.
We stopped where we had a good (though hazy) view of the monastery that marks the traditional site of Jesus' temptation by the devil.

Coincidentally, someone was offering camel rides, while someone else was selling local scarves. Several people took advantage of one or both offers.

The last stop of the day was a hill overlooking the Monastery of St. George, the old Jericho Road and the Valley of the Shadow of Death. We made the difficult, though short, climb to the top and were very nearly blown off. Our view was definitely hampered by the blowing sand -- yet was still stunning. Along the road back to Bethlehem we passed a few Bedouin communities. They still follow their traditional herder lifestyle, though they are quite restricted in their movements. They've traded their tents for tar paper shacks along the highways. We also passed a Palestinian refugee camp, though we could really see nothing of it. Wisam shared his perspective on life and history as a Palestinian Christian. Quite a different viewpoint than most of us have experienced. We met back at the hotel to chat about our day, enjoyed another good dinner and retired to our rooms to rinse off the sand, salt and mud from our hair, bodies and clothing. The rain began as we returned. That should settle the sand and make the wilderness bloom.

Click Below for Video of Some of Our Ladies (and one of our men) taking a dip in the Dead Sea on a Very Windy Day                            Link to All Photos For February 11