Not Just Another Day

Posted in Holy Land 2011
May 15th, 2011

By Chris Carpenter

Each day here brings new adventures and today we experienced some more “firsts”. This was the first time we spent the entire day away from the Jerusalem & Bethlehem areas. We traveled south to Jericho, one of the oldest cities in the world, on a recently opened road built over the original Roman route. We headed into the Judean desert & had our first glimpse of bedouin camps.

Our first stop was St. George’s Monastery, where we viewed desert cave dwellings originating in the 4th -5th centuries. As we departed the bus, eager donkey handlers greeted us & tried to persuade us to ride the donkeys down the path & up the steep hill to the monastery. In the 23rd Psalm, King David referred to this area, the Wadi Qelt, as the “valley of the shadow of death”.

As we continued on, the skies darkened and we got to experience the latter rains–the few rains before the 6 month dry season begins.  We stopped briefly to view the Mount of Temptation & ate lunch at one of our first touristy places thus far. We loved the name The Temptation Restaurant.

In the city of Jericho we viewed an ancient sycamore tree & read the story of Zacchaeus climbing the tree to see Jesus as he passed by him. Tony our guide explained the meaning of the name Zacchaeus, “pure in heart” & made reference to the Beatitude “Blessed are the pure in heart for they shall see God”.

Finally after much anticipation we reached the Dead Sea. What a surreal experience to float with no effort required! A few of us availed ourselves of the opportunity to apply the black mud as a skin conditioning treatment.

On our drive back to our guesthouse in Bethlehem, we were reminded of the increased tensions right now due to the Palestinian day of mourning
(Nakba) over the commemoration of the founding of  Israel, May 15. We are the fortunate ones as the only effect on us is a few minor inconveniences as we travel.

One thing I know. Tomorrow will not be just another day either.

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