Hoofin' It Around (but never in!) the Promised Land (19 Oct 2008)
I'm just going to start by telling you, straight up, there is no way for me to talk about today without getting religious. If that's okay (and for most of you, I imagine it is), read on...
Today I took the tour of Bethany-Beyond-the-Jordan, the Dead Sea, Mt. Nebo, and Madaba. I'm pretty much wiped out right now, because I didn't sleep so hot last night, but it was totally worth it. We started off by going to Bethany-Beyond-the-Jordan, which is - and they have gone through a rigorous process of determining its authenticity - where Jesus Christ was baptized. There's not much to describe - we walked through reed-lined paths to the River Jordan, then a little further to the actual baptism site, where the guide explained how they had determined it's placement, we saw the ruins of the 3 churches that had been built at the site, and finally went to a Greek Orthodox chapel just across the Jordan from Israel (really, it was right there...I could have splashed in and swam across in, like, 10 seconds).
But what I was thinking about during this experience was what kind of people Jesus and John must have been. Or, more specifically, John (we know what kind of person Jesus must have been - ie, perfect...not trying to be flip, just trying to keep it concise). So here's John, and his second cousin, Jesus...who he, being a holy man, knows to be the son of God and Savior of mankind...wants him to baptize him. Let me put it to you another way...let's say you're an amateur painter, and Michaelangelo comes to you and wants you to do his portrait. You'd know you were totally out of your league. The thing that impressed me was that John realized this, and told Jesus so, but when Jesus told him that it had to be that way, John baptized him. I'm not sure this is translating into words exactly as I was feeling it at the time. Suffice it to say that it was, as Diana's mommy often said, "Neat!"
Also neat was the Dead Sea. When Dougie-Poo described it to me as, "bobbing like a cork," I thought he was being poetic, using similies and all that stuff. Nope. You get in the water, and literally bob like a cork. I went out to where the water was deep enough, and tried floating straight up and down, and it was harder than you might think, and the lowest my body would go was to my chest. When you shift the weight of your body, even just slightly, the buoyancy of the water makes you turn. Even without getting into the water, you could tell how salty it was, because you could feel that the water had a different viscosity than ocean water, and when you looked at the water filtering through the light, you could see the little vectors within the fluid. But I think the coolest part was swishing my hand down into the water to create bubbles, then watching their shadows on my submerged hands, because they looked like stars.
A shower and a pepsi later (they had no coke, and I was desperately hoping it would fend off my headache), and we were off to Mt. Nebo. This is the place that Moses was sent to look at the promised land, before he died. That's right, all you non-bible-scholars, Moses never set foot in ancient Israel. He gathered the Israelites together, marched them off across the Red Sea to Sinai (where I will visit in another week), and then around the desert for 40 years (due to a lack of faith on the part of some of their spies), but never got there himself. Kinda sucks, eh? That's what I was thinking about today. But Moses, he was a prophet, and I imagine he was a really humble guy, and the impression I got today was not that he was bitter about the fact that he never got to rest in the land of milk and honey, but that he was grateful to have been able to serve the Lord, and grateful that he lived to at least see the Promised Land (side note for my mom...he was 120 years old when he made the hike up to the top of Mt. Nebo - and it would have been quite the hike, I was glad to be riding in a car - and if he was anything like you, that was probably what finished him off ). From there we went to Madaba, which was kind of anticlimatic, I enjoyed the mosaics, but compared to the rest of the tour, it wasn't much to write home about, so I won't. Hopefully tomorrow we're going to Jerash, but it depends on if there's a full group interested, so we'll see.