Israel 2015: Day 4

In keeping with the footsteps of Jesus, we left Galilee today and traveled along the Jordan River down the Jordan Valley toward Jericho, then on to Jerusalem. Along the way we had some great stops. First was Beit She’an. At the top of the mountain (or tel) in the picture below stood the ancient city where the bodies of Saul and Jonathan were nailed to the city walls (1 Samuel 31). Later the Romans built a fabulous city at the bottom of the tel, which is where we spent our time.

Bet She'an

Then we stopped at Gan Hashlosha, a wonderful swimming hole fed by natural springs. Most of our travelers donned their bathing suits and jumped into the water, where strange little fish nibbled at their legs and feet.

Natural Spring

There’s nothing like swimming to spur on the appetite, so we motored on to the world’s oldest continuously inhabited city, Jericho, and had lunch at a restaurant named for the nearby Temptation Mountain — traditionally the place where Jesus was tempted by Satan for 40 days.

Jericho Restaurant

Having withstood temptation, it was baptismal time. We visited a spot in Judea near the place where John the Baptist baptized Jesus. This was my first visit to the place, but it was beautiful, though hot. The picture at the head of this blog is of the Jordan River at this spot.

Jordan Baptism

The next stop on our trek to Jerusalem was the ruins of Qumran, where the Dead Sea Scrolls were discovered. There are many reasons to appreciate the discovery of the Dead Sea Scrolls, but especially because it pushes back the date of our oldest extant Hebrew Scripture text by 1000 years.

Dead Sea Scrolls Cave

Next: Swimming again. Well, not really. Floating in the Dead Sea, the lowest elevation in the world, but the highest rate of buoyancy.

Dead Sea Floatin

On the way into Jerusalem we detoured onto the ancient Jericho Road and saw the Wadi Kelt, with its ancient monastary. This is the pathway the Jews took when going to Jerusalem, and it’s the route our Lord took toward the cross. It’s probably the inspiration for David’s “Valley of the Shadow of Death” in Psalm 23.

Wadi Kelt Monestery

My friend Casey Carriker took the easy way to the overlook:

Casey and Donkey

Now we were ready for the climax of the day — the drive into Jerusalem with its spires, domes, minarets, and golden walls — Jerusalem the Golden.

Jerusalem Golden