Thursday, 26 June 2008

Mount Nebo and Bethany-Beyond-Jordan

The first two photos are from the top of Mount Nebo. This is where Moses is said to have seen the 'Promised Land' before he died. On a clear day you can see Jerusalem, Jericho, the River Jordan and the Dead Sea. We could make out everything except Jerusalem. It was a little to hazy to see that far. The Franciscan monks have been restoring the Moses Memorial Church. It was first described by the Roman nun, Etheria in 393 AD. In 597 a large Byzantine monastery was built around the church. Archeologists have uncovered some lovely mosaics from that time. They are in the process of adding a bridge over the large mosaic floor so that people won't step on it and ruin it.

The rest of the photos are from Bethany-Beyond-Jordan. This is the place they think Jesus was baptised by John the Baptist. First, we boarded an open-backed shuttle to drive to the pedestrian entrance. We passed by Elijah's Hill, a mound of earth that is said to mark the place where Elijah ascended into heaven on a chariot. As we left the shuttle, we followed a dirt road until we came to a platform for our first glimpse of the Jordan River. It was disappointingly narrow. I guess they use a lot of the water for irrigation now, but there are marks to show how high it used to flow. I was amazed that this small river marks the border between Jordan and Israel.

As we continued along the path we came to the actual baptism sight. It is the small pool of water surrounded by the ruins of four different early Byzantine churches that were destroyed by earthquakes. They believe that John the Baptist lived nearby (in the wilds) surviving on locusts and honey. We wandered past the baptism sight toward a beautiful, newly-constructed Greek Orthodox Church. Hopefully, this one is earthquake-proof. They are planning to build a Catholic Church next. Pope John Paul visited this sight a few years ago.
Beyond the Greek Orthodox Church we came to a place along the river where we were able to dip our own hands into the sacred waters of the Jordan. Just across the river at that point, the Israelis are busily constructing their own visitor center. I couldn't believe how close we were to a territory that is in the news every day. From the river it all seemed so peaceful. The photo of the reinforced wall is the Israeli (or Palestinian) side of the river. Jericho, just across the water, is part of the Palestinian Territory.