Day 3 – Jordan River

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From Petra we drove the scenic route, to Galilee.  We drove up the Kings Highway, which was the main trade route in historical times. It joined Africa with Mesopotamia – so very significant! There was one point where we were crossing the mountains, and got a brilliant view back towards Petra – to get a bird’s eye view of most of the land we had walked the previous day. Once again I reflected on how barren, hot and dry this land is, and how people can carve out an existence here. I felt a sense of respect for people that inhabit this land, and it reiterated to me how lucky we are, and how often we take things for granted (like clean water from the tap).

We passed an interesting kind of accomodation, in the Wadi Rum Desert near the view towards Petra. They are called bubble tents, and I sure did hope they had some kind of air conditioning! Maybe on the to-do list next time.

We made a brief stop at the Shobak castle ruins. The Crusader King Baldwin I built this in 1115AD, to defend the road that connected Egypt to Damascus. There were many attacks from the armies of Saladin (Salah ad Din) before being defeated in 1189, after a siege that lasted 18 months. The Mamluks occupied it in the 14th C, who also built on top of many of the Crusader buildings. 

Windmills looking from Shobak Castle

As I have read, the rest of our drive back north towards the Dead Sea and on to the Sea of Galilee took us through the Bible lands of the Edomites, Moabites, Ammonites, and the areas held by Reuben, Gad and Manasseh.  I loved the pockets of windmills we saw on our journey.

The bus had great wifi (the only bus in our whole study tour that had decent wifi), so I was able to facetime Adrian and the kids at home while we were driving!  It was fun videoing the scenery as we drove, while Adrian and Elizabeth tried to find where I would be on google maps. The problem was it was so dry with very few landmarks, and so saying ‘oooh some trees’, actually didn’t help. But it was still fun! It was only day 3, and I was missing them.

I took much delight when we descended to the east bank of the Dead Sea, capturing my first sight of this wonder. It was quite exciting to see it! We drove alongside the Dead Sea, and stopped to have lunch at a buffet restaurant, at the ‘Amman Beach Resort’.

A little more driving and a walk took us to the Jordan River.  On the other side of the river was Israel, the border being right through the river.  I am not sure what happens if someone tries to swim across! I wouldn’t want to anyway as the water was very brown.  The river was more narrow than I imagined – it has been interesting on this trip how I have had images in my mind of what I thought a place should be like, often having it blown away and replaced with a more realistic image!

On the Israel side, people were paying to wear a white cotton gown, and they were stepping down into the Jordan and immersing themselves under water.  Very symbolic, quite the pilgrimage for some.   Whilst under the shade, we had John 1:15-34 read aloud, where John gives the account of Jesus coming to John the baptist for baptism. This was quite moving to hear the story, and picture the event while standing at the edge of the Jordan.

Shaded walkway – much relief on a 40 degree day!

‘Bethany Beyond Jordan’, is the proposed baptism site of Jesus, on the Jordan River (John 1:28).  It is 8km east of Jericho on the Jordan side of the Jordan River at ‘Kase El Yehud’. Some say the baptism site is at Bethany, on the Israeli side.  Whichever one is the actual site, we were pretty close and it didn’t bother me that scholars thought there was more than one option for the ‘actual’ site. This felt quite authentic, and that is what mattered to me. Another walk under covers took us to the proposed site of Jesus baptism. There are uncovered remains, (including mosaics) of a 1st C synagogue which indicates this site was of religious importance. This therefore gives it more credit as a site. There was not much water, but apparently it can fill a little more in the rainy seasons.

Some Bible stories to do with the Jordan River (thanks to our amazing study notes) are:

  • Crossing of the Jordan by Joshua and the Israelites (Joshua 3 & 4)
  • Baptism of Jesus (Matt 3:13-17 and John 1:28-34
  • Captain Naaman is told to dip in the river to cure his leprosy (2 Kings 5)
  • Elisha and the floating axehead (2 Kings 6)

At the Northern Crossing (Sheikh Hussein Border) we crossed into Israel.  The border crossing was interesting, and took about an hour or so. We unloaded the bus, went through security, x-ray scanners and so forth, then loaded back into the bus.  I thought we were now in Israel, but in actual fact we had only just left Jordan. A couple of hundred metres drive, then we unloaded to bus again, went through security, x-ray, questioning and then we had officially entered Israel. 

We met our guide ‘Effie’ (short for Ephraim). He was quite the character…was very open about what he thought of Jordan and the people there compared to Israel. He told us how we had entered the promised land, and we quite believed him. The contrast from Jordan to Israel was huge.  Jordan was so dry, barely a plant. Driving through the rift valley of Israel, was almost a complete opposite to Jordan. It was so green, full of crops, green hills, date palms, olive trees, so many trees. But it also had rubbish. Lots of rubbish littering the sides of the road.

Our drive took us through the valley and into our destination for the night – Tiberias.  Tiberias is a village on the shores of the Sea of Galilee. A beautiful little town, with amazing views over the sea. I was very much looking forward to the next few days exploring this area.

By the way…Dinner at our hotel (Nof Ginosar Tiberias) in Tiberias was pretty impressive!

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