The Oldest City and the Deadest Sea in the World

Today was quite monumental as it involved something old and something dead. Jericho and the Dead Sea.

The fall of the city walls of Jericho and the triumph of Joshua is one of the most fascinating stories in the Old Testament. I often use this story as an example of the presence of music in Biblical times in my Western Music History class. Except for a few archaeological remains, nothing is left of this ancient city. We spent more time shopping at the souvenir store than seeing Jericho. Got some dates and date honey which the city is known for.

The Mountain of Temptation
This evocatively named mountain was where Christ spent 40 days in isolation with the devil tempting Him to give himself up in return for riches.

With not a few physically-challenged people in our group, we took a cable car (NIS 55) to the mountain rather than hIle from the base. The 10-minute ride had views of a few plantations below and of the sweeping wilderness below. From the viewpoint is hard to imagine how anyone could survive in such an arid environment. But then again, that was Christ.

We did not visit the monastery that his the cliff as there was not enough time to hike to it. We climbed back to the cable cars whose terminus was different from its origin. It ended at a maze of souvenir shops that led or to the street across the parking area where our bus waited.

Jericho is actually in Palestinian territory but under the authority of Israel. Was only reminded of this when I saw a souvenir shirt and a mosque with a high minaret just across the street from the Church of the Good Shepherd where we had our own mass.

From there we proceeded to the Jordan River with a stop at an ancient sycamore tree.

Is this the Tree?
Its been dated and all that but nobody can really tell if it was indeed the tree climbed by Zecharias to get a closer look at Jesus when he preached in Jericho. If it were not for a few stalls nearby indicating its tourist stature, it works have looked like any other tree.

Roll, Jordan, Roll.
We drove through vast tracks of wilderness as far as the eyes can see. The tracks of barren dusty land had a few vegetable patches which contrasted prettily with the dry off-white ground. Soon we arrived at the section of the Jordan River where Christ was baptized by John the Baptist. In our previous road trips we crossed sections of the river a couple of times.

A wooden platform had been built on the river banks where a couple of groups in flimsy white gowns tecrived their baptism renewal by totally immersing themselves on the murky brown water. Our priest chose to use a plastic cup instead to sprinkle our heads.

What was really interesting was that on the other side was Jordan. The river was thus divided into an Israeli side and a J ordanian side cordoned off with wooden barriers. A guard secured the Israeli side. Maybe in better more congenial times, both sides souls consider making it a border crossing. You can be baptized in Jordan and reborn in Israel and vice-versa. How cool would that be.

From the river, we drove to Qumran for lunch. Had a pita stuffed with vegetables, hummus, and a crispy breaded chicken fillet.

The place was utterly crowded but at least the lines were moving and there were lots of clean vacant tables.

I know Qumran is an important place because attached to the cafeteria and souvenir shop was a low building with a facade that read “Secrets of Qumran.”
Unfortunately, we didn’t get to see it nor get any explanation from our guide.

Floating on the Dead Sea
It is a cliché to float on the Dead Sea. The real challenge is walking from the banks to the sea. Just like the Sea of Gallilee, the Dead Sea is a huge lake and its ground is squelchy slippery mud.

However, once you get yourself into even just a depth of two feet, you’ll be able to float already. It was really fun floating in my back and even
rocking side to side. The water was really salty though and we were warned in advance to be sure not to get it in our eyes. We were also told not to stay for more than 15 minutes at a time.

I rubbed the grey-black mud all over me for an instant mud bath. Others were wallowing like carabaos in a mud pit. I really enjoyed myself and was sorry to head back-up to shower.

I really enjoyed the Dead Sea and wished we had more time there as it was set-up like a beach with sun chairs and cabanas.

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