After a series of long flights we landed in Jordan where we spent two nights. While in Jordan we had the opportunity to go to The ancient city of Jerash, a city of the decapolis. We also got to visit a house church in Jordan which was incredible! The people there truly live out their faith in amazing ways. Then we stopped by the beautiful Jabbok river, where Jacob wrestled God, earning himself the name Israel. The next day he and his family crossed the river and made peace with Esau. After seeing the Jabbok river we took a driving tour of Amman and were extremely impressed with the beauty of the city.
The next day we took the route out of Jordan, into the land of Israel! On the way out we stopped at Mount Nebo where God showed Moses the holy land. He saw a land filled with milk and honey and we got to see it, too! Also the last chapter of exodus tells us that God buried Moses here in an unknown spot. And in 2 Maccabees 2:4-7 it says that the ark of the covenant is buried here...Indiana Jones was looking in the wrong spot! After our stop at Nebo we crossed the Israeli border in record time and finally arrived in the holy land. I guess it usually takes a while to cross borders but we must have been lucky. We met our bus driver and traveled through no-mans land, where bedouin shepherds camped. Their tents and sheep lined the desert hills. On our way to Nazareth we stopped at Jericho, the oldest city in the world! From Jericho we were able to see the temptation mount, where satan tried to tempt Jesus into sin...fail. After a wonderful falafel lunch in Jericho we headed over to yardenit, which is the part of the Jordan river where people can be baptized. It looked like an amazing rain forest cut out of the desert! It was absolutely beautiful. After a very long day we finally made it to Nazareth. We visited a place called Megiddo which overlooks the fertile Jezreel valley. King Ahab built a waterway at the time of Hosea and Amos here and we got to walk through it! This is how they got water while under siege because the water source was outside city walls. There was also a big grainery here and is referenced in the Bible when Amos and Hosea chastised Ahab for his opulence.
We were able to go to a place called the House of Hope. A man named Elias Jabbour met and greeted us with falafel, hummus and some other delicious foods. He spoke to us about peace in the Holy Land and we were so impressed with his passion for God and for peacemaking. We didn't want lunch to end, we just wanted to keep listening to his Jabbour's jokes and eloquent speech. He said, "We've tried war, so let's try peace. If it doesn't work, we can always just go back to war." He told us we can help by spreading the word about the need for peace and also by praying for them.
Then we went to the basilica of the annunciation which commemorates the place where the angel Gabriel told Mary she would have a son and name him Jesus. It started raining but we all wanted to roam the streets of Nazareth. We explored the bright colored textiles, and the fruit! I got a pomegranate and John got some olive oil. They are the biggest exporters of olive oil! Also, they have the largest and yummiest pomegranates I've ever had! I bought at least one every day! They were only like 10 shekels so how could I resist.
Another amazing thing we got to do was sail on a fishing boat on the Sea of Galilee. Yep, the sea where Jesus walked on water! We sang worship songs in Hebrew and enjoyed the sun and water. It was an incredible experience! We learned, "Kadosh Adonai Elohim sev rah ot." It means, "Holy is the Lord God Almighty." (but I'm not sure of the spelling!) Our captain showed us how to fish with the same sort of net that Jesus and his disciples would have used. We had communion on the Mount of Beatitudes and visited the primacy of Peter where supposedly Jesus forgave Peter for denying him 3 times. We went to Tabgha where they say Jesus multiplied the loaves and fishes for the 5,000, visited the Mount of Olives, the Garden of Gethsemane, a grotto where Jesus was supposedly arrested, the church of the Nativity, and shepherds fields commemorating where the shepherds watched their flocks by night. We decided to collect nativity scenes from everywhere we travel and so we bought one carved from olive wood in Bethlehem.
We got olive oil soap and visited Jacob's well. This is the place where Jesus talked to the Samaritan woman! The dead sea was a fantastic place. It's so salty you can just float! And the mud I guess is really good for your skin. We visited Qumran where they found the dead sea scrolls so that was pretty neat, too. We got to ride a camel, visit the old city of Jerusalem, play soccer with kids in Palestine, visit the wailing wall, walk the real stations of the cross, wander through a bunch of markets, talk with the most hospitable people we've ever met, and eat pita and pomegranates in the holy land! The Bible truly came to life on this trip!!