The morning began by the Jordan River, close to a place where Jesus was baptized , Two women, Furst and LaDawn were baptized as a renewal and remembrance of their first baptism. Kevin officiated with the immersion, and we sang hymns as they were each dunked three times in the Jordon River. . It became a touching symbol of nearing the end of our pilgrimage to Israel.
We are touring Kings Highway from Syria to Jordan. This is the area called the Golan Heights. Lush fields of bananas, melons and other fruits are filling the fields. Miles and miles of netting are used to protect the crop from birds , disease and insects. We are on our way to Kursi National Park. The story of the man wearing shackles and chains, howling and bruising himself was told. The swine received his demons and the man was cured of his madness while the swine drowned. Many witnessed this miracle and begged Jesus to go home because he was in Gentile territory. He asked the people to share how much the Lord has done for them.
We visited the ruins of a Byzantine Church. The cistern, cemetery, baptism font,,,, steps down to the crypt, mosaic floors were all viewed. Above, on the hillside was a demonic cave with a burial site to be viewed.
We saw many ruins from villages that were destroyed in the July 1967 six day war. One hundred fifty nine villages were bombed and distroyed. Today there are forty one Israeli settlements. We passed by Mt. Hermon, 9,232 feet high with snow capping the top. We stopped at a mosque that was destroyed.
We heard of Bash an, land of the giants from Tony with many references in the Biblical texts about it being a city of refugee.
A windmill is dotting the landscape, reservoirs are kept for the many fruit trees and produce in this area. We are heading into occupied Syrian territory. There is to be no picture taking from the right hand side of the bus because we are under surveillance. The UN offices are on the hill. Eighty thousand people were killed in a site we stopped and viewed. We could take no pictures in one direction. A very strange feeling being told NOT to take pictures because it could get us into trouble.
We stopped at a Druze market and observed the cherries, special bread and fruit sold by the people who take care of agriculture in this area. On Thursdays the woman of the village gather for worship. Their religion is a combination of many different sects with numerology and other practices thrown in. They are almost Amish looking in their dark dresses for the woman and white scarves to cover their head and sometimes, faces. Mustaches are worn by most of the men.
We journeyed on to the Temple of Pan, a Pagan Temple and a cliff wall cave. There were niches in the cave wall for their many Gods There were three distinct explosions as we were coming down from the Temple. We were told at the snack shop the military was setting off unexploded land mines that were a danger in the area for safety reasons. The youth that were in the wading pool reacted a bit, not a huge scream but a surprise nevertheless. I could not help think it was a sound that was common not that many years ago. Some of the group walked down to the falls and experienced a refreshing temperature from the ruins they had just climbed and viewed,.
An interesting day for observing landscape, farm practices, cattle and listening to the many comments along the way.
Donna Baum (for the group)
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