First, to update you on our progress. It is currently 6 am local time along the shores of the Sea of Galilee. I had hoped to post more last evening, but was tired enough to sleep right after supper, so I thought I would add a quick post before breakfast and the start of our second day. I took around 175 pictures on the first day, so I'm only giving you a few highlights. I'm already realizing how impossible it's going to be to put this experience into words in a way that conveys how amazing it is to stand in these places and literally touch things that are so old, but I will do my best.
Wednesday, we awoke in Amman, Jordan bright and early, many of our group saying they were up at 2 in the morning, ready to go. We didn't technically get a wake up call until 6. Personally, I was awake just before 5, just in time to hear the Muslim call to prayer from a local mosque outside; a little surreal to say the least! We enjoyed a nice breakfast buffet at the hotel before meeting our Jordanian guide and boarding our bus for the trip southwest to Mt Nebo. Here is a quick picture of the outside of the hotel we stayed at: The Grand Palace. It was very clean, modern, and comfortable:
We were on the road by 7:30 to avoid rush hour traffic, but there were still a lot of people moving around and heading to work, much like in any other city around the world. Amman struck us as a very modern place with lots of new construction going on.
As we left the city proper and moved into the "suburbs," the terrain became more rugged. Our guide shared a lot of information about the city of Amman and the country of Jordan with us. One thing that amazed us all was to find out that there are nearly 1.5 million Syrian refugees in Jordan right now because of all of the fighting in that country, as well as many Iraqi refugees still there. Our guide seemed to take pride in the fact that his country was a safe haven for their neighbors. This view gives you an idea of what we saw along our way out of Amman:
And speaking of our Jordanian guide, this is Fadi. He was with us only this morning until we were ready to cross into Israel. An Israeli bus and guide met us on the other side. We will see Fadi again at the end of our journey when we cross back into Jordan to return home again through Amman.
Along the way, Pastor Art read for us parts of the story of Ruth, reminding us that Ruth was a Moabite who left her home to follow her mother in-law Naomi, then successfully wooed and married Boaz, and eventually would became the great grandmother of King David. In Pastor Art's words, that made her one of the most important Jordanian women in the Bible, and we were following in Ruth's footsteps as we traveled from Moab to Israel.
As we left Amman behind, we encountered more agriculture. Being the wintertime, most of the fields were fallow and tilled, but there were still lots of greenhouses, olive trees, and other things still being grown and tended to. The farmers in our group really got a kick out of seeing all the rocks and other debris in the fields, wondering how anything could possibly grow in some of these places. It makes the sandy soil of the Bonanza Valley look pretty good, I guess!
Within an hour, we had arrived at our first destination for the day: Mt Nebo. This is where God showed Moses the Promised Land and where Moses died before Joshua led the Israelites down toward Jericho. There is a church constructed on the site that is undergoing restoration. This statue greets visitors to the site, and it is called "The Book of Love."
Here is a sign a little farther up the path that alludes to the fact that there is a Franciscan monastery at the site as well.
Walking around the path, we got a view to the north, back across the plains of Moab toward Amman:
Looking west from there, this is the church that is undergoing restoration, with Israel visible in the distance. It was very windy and cold, at least by Jordanian standards. It felt like a nice Minnesota spring breeze to me, but a few in our trip ended up with gloves on their hands. We were lucky, though, our guide said, to have such a clear view and we were the only group there at the time, so we had the place pretty much to ourselves.
From this spot, it was a short walk to a tent to see some large mosaics that have been preserved from another local church. This area of Jordan is known for its mosaic craftsmanship. Leaving that place, we continued around the church to the west side and came to the spot where you can see the same view that Moses had when God showed him the Promised Land. This was the first of many "goosebump" moments for me, and not just because of the cold. Pastor Art read the passage from Deuteronomy for us and pointed at each of the places mentioned that God showed Moses before he died. This is the view, with the Dead Sea on the far left (the lowest place on earth) and the Jordan Valley stretching to the north (right). The building to the left is the Franciscan monastery.
There is also a sculpture on this side of the church that depicts a serpent around a cross, reminding us of the passage from Paul that, as Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness and the people were healed, so Jesus was lifted up that all would be healed from sin through him.
It was also the first good chance we had to get a picture of the entire group, so here we are with the Promised Land in the distance:
And I wanted one of just me:
Here's another picture with the marker they have in place to show you the different places you can see:
With that, we went back inside to walk through the museum on the site and buy a few postcards and books before getting on our way. Our next stop was a museum and mosaic workshop and that's where we'll pick up the next time I have a chance to post something! For now, I'd better get ready for breakfast, so good morning from Israel and "Shalom" to you this day.