To read about our trip from the beginning, start here.
Today, we made the journey from Tiberias to Jerusalem. It was a 5 day walk, and we joined in with the other Jews traveling along both shores of the Jordan.
Oh wait, that was how Jesus did it! We took a bus :)
But our route showed us the distance the Jews used to cover multiple times a year for the important feasts and holy days at the temple in Jerusalem. Today, it is quite a different sight along the path, given the tension with Palestine (I think this is kind of the same thing as the country Jordan??). There is so much history behind this region, and I can’t pretend to even know enough to properly understand why it is the way it is today. However, I can tell you what we observed along the way, and what our guide Ron shared with us. Currently, the border between Israel and Jordan is the Jordan River. However, the land that is contested is on the western bank of the Jordan (ie. the Israel side). The problem that we were able to observe, was the large amount of land that has been settled by the Palestinians on both banks of the river. For some reason, Israel is not able to force them off of their land on the west bank. As such, there are zones that cover the entire west bank identifying where the Israelis and the Palestinians are allowed to be. Zone A is for Palestinians only (Jews/Israelis would not be safe or protected here), Zone C is for the Israelis, and Zone B is for both aka where the roads are. The strangest part about this is that the Zone C neighborhoods have barbed wire fences and almost look like a prison, while the Palestinian neighborhoods are free and open. Ron lives in one of these Zone C neighborhoods and described how they have guards (often volunteers) patrol their fences. Do you see how strange that is? All of the west bank is owned by Israel, but the Israelis are afraid for their safety, and the Palestinians aren’t! Also, we could see where they have built the wall along the border. They call it a wall, but only 7% of the entire border is actually a wall, the rest is a highly sensitive fence alerting the guard patrols to anything touching the fence. The walls are in the highly dense areas where neighborhood activity (think about kids playing with a ball) could trigger an alarm if there was only a fence, but a wall would completely block things from passing over. Along the west bank, this fence/wall is quite far inland on the west bank side, as it would be harder for the patrols to guard if the fence was truly down in the valley created by the jordan river on the actual border.
Enough of me talking about something I know very little about…let’s talk about the places we visited along the way! Our first stop was to Beit She’an, also known as Beth Shan or Scythopolis. This was probably one of the sites that fascinated me the most! I have always loved Roman history, and this was what I would call my first real, immersive experience in Roman ruins! The history at this site goes back thousands of years. First, there is the Tel (refer to here where I discuss the Tel at Megiddo). This Tel has a top layer from the time of King Solomon, and then older layers below. When the Greeks conquered the settlement, they did not build on top of the Tel, but spread out around the hill and renamed the city Scythopolis. Next the Romans conquered, then the Byzantine era (Christian Romans), then the Muslims, and it continues. Each of the Greeks, Romans, Byzantines, and Muslims added their own details to the site. The whole area was destroyed in a great earthquake in the 700s AD. This left much of the city ruins in tact, and is what we were able to experience. This area and this city are mentioned various times through Scripture, but one of the most notable times was when the Philistines hung the bodies of Saul and his sons on the walls of the city (1 Samuel 31:10-12). When David heard about that, he cursed the mountains of Gilboa, and even to this day, trees don’t grow on it (2 Samuel1:17-27).
Some of the key sites we saw were the amphitheater, theater, cardo (main street), Roman baths, and temple. We also saw a bathroom!!
As we continued driving south, we saw greenhouses and fields of produce covering the land near the Jordan River. We also saw rolling hills that were very rocky, and we could make out various caves where the shepherds stay while following their flocks. Then, all of a sudden, there was nothing green around us! We had moved from the lush northern lands to the dry almost desert land of the Jerusalem area. We drove by the modern city of Jericho, and our bus sang “Joshua fit the battle of Jericho”. I followed this with the Veggie Tales song “Keep walking, but you won’t knock down our walls”, but no one joined in with me :(
Our next stop was at a more likely location for Jesus’ baptism, as it is closer to the region where John would have been for his ministry in the desert. At this site, there were some people from other tour groups getting baptized, and we could look directly across the river to the Jordan side where they have a full guard.
Right before we arrived in Jerusalem, we stopped by Genesis Land to visit Abraham’s tent for lunch. He showed us great hospitality, told us his story, and let us meet his camels!
And then we reached Jerusalem! Our bus driver turned on “Jerusalem” by the Hoppers as we made a triumphal entry…and of course the main chorus of the song was stuck in our heads the entire rest of the trip!
We went straight to the Israel museum. We didn’t spend too much time here, as we were mostly outside, and the temperature had dropped at least 20 degrees from our last stop at the Jordan River. However, we were able to see a large model of the ancient city of Jerusalem before the temple was destroyed. Ron pointed out to us many of the sites we were going to see, and many places we would find interesting. We also went into one of the buildings there that houses many of the Dead Sea Scrolls (more on that to come).
Before heading to the hotel, we stopped at the Haas Promenade for an amazing view of the Temple Mount and surrounding hills of Jerusalem.
That evening, we had the option to visit the Friends of Zion Museum – check it out here!
And that was the end of the fourth day! To be continued…
Read about Day 5 here.