Tuesday, April 21, 2009

From Israel into Jordan

It is early Wednesday morning here in Petra. Today we will be touring the ancient ruins of Petra, a major stop for the caravans traveling to/from the east.

Yesterday/Tuesday we:

Saw the ruins of Bet-Sheam, a large Roman Decapolis/city destroyed and abandoned after an earthquake in the 8th century. The Romans built this city on a grand scale to attract Romans to stay in the area. While much was tumbled pillers and blocks, much has been "reassembled". The size was really impressive. We entered through their theater and then walked around the city. One reason our guide wanted to show us the site was so that we could get a feel for what Jerusalem was like at the time of Jesus.

From here is headed further south along the Israel side of the Jordan, the land becoming drier as we went.

Crossed into the West Bank, a portion of Israel reserved for the Palestinians. The crossing was marked by a armed solder, guardhouse and a fence. Beyond it the Israeli settlements are surrounded by trees and barbed wire topped fences.

Visited a traditional site of Jesus's baptism in the Jordan. Our guide must have some contacts left over from his time in the military. This location was heavily damaged by war and is still being renovated. As we drove in solders were working to clear mines in the fields along the road. Still we had access and seating at the Jordan where Pastor Mattson gave a homily and we sang hymns. This location is only 2 miles from the Dead See, 30 miles from Jerusalem and 1200 feet below sea level. 10 yards away from us/across the Jordan a group from the Greek Orthodox church (in Jordan) was wrapping up a baptism.

Saw were the Dead sea scrolls were found. This area on the shores of the Dead Sea was originally inhabited by a Jewish group trying to escape the distractions of Jerusalem. Dry and hot with eroded hills and cliffs I can see how the scrolls went undiscovered for almost 2000 years. Scrolls are still being found in the area.

Crossed the border into Jordan. While the actual customs inspection was fairly low key we went through at least five gated checkpoints and several miles of desert dotted with guard towers. The drive immediately changed from the European feel of Israel to the middle east. A few miles shifted us by a continent.

Stopped at Mt Nebo, where Moses saw into the promised land but could not enter. The towers of Jeruselum 30-40 miles away are sometimes visible from here. Unfortunately the air was hazy. We could make out the Dead Sea if we tried hard.

Rode for three more hours to get to our hotel here in Petra. Most of the land we rode through was a mix of desert with a little farming where water was available. Every small town had at least one mosque and tower for calling to worship. Many community buildings were marked by a large portrait of the King Addulah II.

We arrived here around 8:30. After a quick inspection of our luggage we could check in. It was after dark but the restruant buffet was still open.


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