29. June 2010 23:14
Driving down from the Sea of Galilee into Jericho was a study in topography. The Sea of Galilee is refreshing in itself, bright blue and dotted with boats. As you drive toward Jericho and the Dea Sea, you descend steadily toward some of the world's lowest elevations and windswept deserts that are so reflective of the sun thas it's a bit blinding. A swim in the Dead Sea provided a fun diversion, but I was more mesmerized by the desert itself.
We visited Hisham's Palace, an archaeological site that offers a fascinating look at an ornate 8th century ruler's retreat. Above us in the distance was a Greek Orthodox monastery, Quarantul, that is built into the mountainside and also dates to the 8th century. This mountain is traditionally thought to be the Mount of Tempation, where Jesus rebuffed the entreaties of Satan. That evening we rode the Jericho Cable Car up to that site, where we had a wonderful outdoor dinner on a terrace restaurant just beneath that monastery. Several of us walked up the steep incline to its gate before dinner. The sun set, a nearly full moon took its place,and a breeze blew into our perch on this high cliff face. As the lights of Jericho and distant Jordan gradually appeared, this meal and evening took on a distinctly Mediterranean feel. One of our hosts pointed out Amman, Jordan's capital--from here it was a bright glow far beyond the mountains across the Dead Sea.
The following morning, we made a brief visit to a desert overlook that displayed some of the Wadi Qelt, a hiking area that I would have loved to had more time for. This is Bedouin country, and there is a half-day walk down into this area from the mountain where we dined that would be time well spent.
Our guide said something the next day that I did not forget: "The desert is a very spiritual place."
A member of our group joined me and another for a steep walk up to the monastery gate
A Bedouin's camel took a break as we surveyed the vistas of the Wadi Qelt near Jericho
Our perch for the evening was high on the Mount of Temptation
The ruins of Hisham's Palace date to the 8th century
27. June 2010 19:00
Wisam Salsaa was our guide for most of this trip. He is Palestinian and works out of Bethlehem. He is a Christian. On our way into Jerusalem from Jericho, he brought up an age-old teaching of Jesus, but added this caveat:
"When Jesus said 'if someone strikes you on the right cheek, offer them the left', he was talking about the Romans. The Roman soldiers would not use their right hand against you because the right hand is their best hand. They would use their left hand to strike you because you are not their equal. So when Jesus said to turn the left cheek to them, he was talking about rejecting their superiority. This forces them to use their right hand to strike your left cheek. In doing so, you force them to treat you as an equal. You were refusing to acknowledge their superiority by doing this."
It made me think about his teaching on forgiveness. If you forgive someone who does something against you--how much can they hurt you? Forgiveness becomes a powerful act of overcoming a transgression against you. In a way you are refusing to let that person harm you. On this trip, you begin to realize what a revolutionary figure this man Jesus was and how the downtrodden must have been drawn to him. And how the powerful must have despised him.
These three girls reside in Nablus, a conflict-scarred town that is almost exclusively Muslim. Muslims believe Jesus was a prophet and will return for the resurrection.
This chairmaker works in Nazareth Village, a very authentic reconstruction of life there in Jesus' time.
Mosaics from throughout the world adorn the courtyard at Basilica of the Enunciation in Nazareth, which is built at the site of Mary's home. This mosaic is from Spain.