Saturday, June 23, 2018

Israel Day 4/9: Jericho

Because it was a Friday, the Muslim holy day, we had to skip Nablus. Friday is the day that tends to have "trouble" in Palestine. Usually it's just tire burning after leaving the mosque but recently Nablus had been the site for more significant issues and it was decided it wasn't worth the risk.

After leaving the Jordan River we went to Jericho. It was still early in the day and there was plenty of time before dinner to do a bit of exploring.

The bus passed by several places that looked fun to explore but we went quite a ways past them to our hotel on the edge of town.

The Hotel Oasis, by far the nicest hotel we stayed in, has quite an interesting story...

The $92 million Oasis Casino, a joint project between the PA, Israel and Jordan, opened in September 1998. Israelis are reported to be the world's most prolific gamblers and gambling was, and still is, illegal in Israel. Investors and the PA were putting their hopes in the fact that Israelis, along with foreign tourists, would come to Jericho to gamble, despite the fact that Islam also forbids gambling. They did come. And after only a year, about 2800 tourists a day would come and spend about $1 million US. Soon there was financing to make improvements to the city's infrastructure and the economy was beginning to improve.

It all came to a crashing halt in the fall of 2000 during the Second Intifada; violence and security concerns for Israelis traveling to Palestine put an end to the casino. But the big fancy hotel still remains...

the views from our room windows 

Since it appeared that the tire burning was done for the day, we changed into long pants and six of us went out to see what we could see...

the remains of an earlier tire burning

the empty lot next to the hotel

you could see the amusement park in the distance

there was a wedding going on at this mosque we walked by

It looked like there were horses behind the barbed wire fence but we weren't sure

Yup. There were

Horses weren't the only farm animals in town

there were also sheep and goats

and the random odd camel just lying in the dirt in 
an empty lot taking a dust bath

so many empty lots and abandoned buildings

and garbage

We came to a grocery store and of course I had to stop. It was still quite hot and the sodas we bought tasted so good! Thanks, Matt! 

On the way back we also decided to stop and have Turkish coffee at the little hookah bar we had walked by on the way. A very nice man, who spoke rather good English, had invited us in for coffee but we had politely declined saying that perhaps we would on the way back. So we did. 

Chris, Matt & Therese enjoying their coffee

Turns out the man was just another customer but he was so excited to see us back. Two young boys were actually working there and brought us our coffee, which was sweet and flavored with cardamom.

Well maybe all the tire burning wasn't done for the day...

After dinner Chris and I went to Matt's suite to play UNO with Melissa and Ashley. Then we did a bit of exploring around the hotel before going to bed...

Friday, June 22, 2018

Israel Day 4/9: Jordan River

Our next stop was the western bank of the Jordan River across from Bethany Beyond the Jordan, the place believed to be where John baptized Jesus. Is it considered to be the place where Joshua and the Israelites crossed the Jordan River into the Promised Land and where Elijah was taken to heaven in the fiery chariot.

Bethany Beyond the Jordan is actually in the country of Jordan was on the other side of the river.

you can see the dome of the Greek Orthodox Church
of St. John the Baptist 

But the site has a more modern history as well...

Between 1967 and 1994, it was a heavily mined military zone. A peace treaty in 1994 meant that pilgrims could visit the area only twice a year to celebrate the baptism of Jesus, once in January for the Orthodox and in October for the Catholics. It wasn't opened to the public until 2011.

there are still signs in the area warning of buried landmines

these 2 IDF soldiers said we could take their picture

Every year more than a half a million people come to be baptized or renew their baptism here. 

Some in our group chose to remember their baptism...

When I saw the water I realized why Naaman reacted the way he did to Elisha telling him to dip himself in the Jordan to be healed of leprosy. Ugh!

Israel Day 4/9: Qumran

From Beit She'an we drove south into Palestine towards the Dead Sea.

a Bedouin camp

the landscape was so rock and dotted with small caves

this wasn't the only gas station with a camel to ride that 
we drove by :) 

Qumran was a sect of devout Jews, called Essenes, who stayed here in a sort of monastic lifestyle. Bothered by Jewish corruption, they believed it would also usher in the arrival of the Messiah who would lead an army in an epic, end-of-the-world battle between good and evil. Most Essenes never married in order to remain ritually pure for the coming Messiah's arrival. 

Because of the massive amounts of water needed for twice daily ritual baths, the Essenes built and dam and aqueduct to reroute water to the community.

There was also a large communal dining room where 1000 complete eating vessels (cups, plates & bowls) were found.

Much of their day was spent studying and copying the Scriptures in the Scriptorium, using sharpened reed pens and parchment.

The Essenes at Qumran were driven out and completely destroyed by the Romans in about 68-70 AD. Their precious scrolls were placed in caves near by to save them from destruction.

And they stayed there for nearly 2000 years...

"In the summer of 1947, Bedouin shepherds were pasturing their flocks near the northwestern shore of the Dead Sea. While looking for a goat that wandered off into the cliffs, they came across a curious rock crevice. When they threw a stone into a cave opening they found, they were surprised to hear a strange echo. 

They crawled inside, and in the dimness they spied large, whole jars standing on the floor. Inside the jars, they folded pieces of leather, some of which were wrapped in cloth. That is how the secret of the Qumran scrolls began to be revealed." 

The seven scrolls were found in the first cave.

Between 1948-1956, five miles of the cliff face caves near Qumran were searched. Eleven of those caves proved to hold 850-900 scrolls, most in fragments. The largest was 26 feet long! Eventually, every book of the Old Testament except Esther would be found here.

It is believed that because searchers were paid by the fragment, that even some whole scrolls were torn up and distributed in order to receive more pay for more people.

But Cave 4 yielded the largest find: 15,000 fragments from over 200 books, 122 of them were biblical scrolls or fragments.

Cave 4

After lunch, we were given a couple of hours to wander around the site and shop for the world-famous Dead Sea products. But as soon as we knew all of the cliffs were accessible to hikers and climbers, we made other plans.

We ate as quickly as we could and took off with Melissa and Ashley to see what we could find.

It was quite a hike and there really wasn't much of a trail once we hit the rocks...

But we felt just like adventurers and mountain goats, exploring nooks and crannies and soaking in the incredible views!

Melissa and Ashley made it! 

that little blue dot is Ashley

I probably wouldn't have worn these shoes if I had known
we'd be climbing in rocks but they were amazing! 

Then it was time to head back to the bus. 

We saw some real rock climbers on the way down...

We were so fast that Ashley and I had time to do a little bit of shopping at the discount store before we had to get on the bus. :)