We left Bethlehem early this morning for an exciting trek down the steep curving road to the Wadi Qelt, (a dry river bed) imagining Jesus walking this road from Jerusalem to Jericho. Seeing the Jewish settlements along the way securely fenced, while clearing of olive fields of the Palestinians, we were reminded that the struggle continues.
Our first stop was at the St. George’s Orthodox Monastery, where the monks have lived in caves and hillside hermitages on the steep mountain sides since the 5th century AD. After a steep difficult descent and then sharp incline, we were welcomed by the Monks to the monastery for “a cup of cold water.” The cave of Elijah was within this monastery.
As we boarded the bus, our guide announced the back road he had not been on for many years due to Israeli patrol known as the Old Roman, was now open and we entered this narrow road enroute to Jericho. The scenery was breath taking, steep, bare mountains where we were able to see the Bedouin herding there sheep. This was most likely the road of the Good Samaritan story. Other sites along the way was the winter home and burial site of Herod The Great, the Hill of Temptation of Jesus. Finally arriving in Jericho, the city of palms, the oldest city on earth and 700 feet below sea level, we had a refreshing lunch. There we saw the tree Zacchaeus climbed to see Jesus.
On to Qumran after lunch with the temperature now above 105, we spent time visiting the ancient ruins of the Essene Community. This is the site of the caves where two young Shepard boys found the sealed jars of the most ancient scrolls of scripture in 1947.
All eager to continue on to our last destination of the day- a swimming experience in the Dead Sea. It was a refreshing experience floating and then crawling through the clay and rocks to get out. It was an ecumenical and international swim with Jews, Muslims, Indians and many other colorful folks.
Exhausted we all boarded our bus back to Bethlehem.
Janet Gerber (for the group)
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