Sunday, July 10, 2011

June 28: Jericho, Dead Sea, and Bethlehem

The Sycamore in Jericho
Simple Pleasure of the Day:
Something I've came to appreciate during this trip is that hot milk is served with coffee.   Something very simple that makes a big difference when enjoying my coffee at breakfast.

Geography 101:  Jericho is located in Palestine.   We saw signs while driving around town reflecting that US Aid was used to build some of the roads.  Politically this can be a hot topic as some Palestinians see it as trying to normalize life in a contentious "occupied" area. 

The sycamore pictured above is believed to be the same sycamore tree referenced in Luke 19: 1-10

"Jesus entered Jericho and was passing through. A man was there by the name of Zacchaeus; he was a chief tax collector and was wealthy. He wanted to see who Jesus was, but because he was short he could not see over the crowd. So he ran ahead and climbed a sycamore-fig tree to see him, since Jesus was coming that way. When Jesus reached the spot, he looked up and said to him, “Zacchaeus, come down immediately. I must stay at your house today.” So he came down at once and welcomed him gladly. All the people saw this and began to mutter, “He has gone to be the guest of a sinner.” But Zacchaeus stood up and said to the Lord, “Look, Lord! Here and now I give half of my possessions to the poor, and if I have cheated anybody out of anything, I will pay back four times the amount.” Jesus said to him, “Today salvation has come to this house, because this man, too, is a son of Abraham. For the Son of Man came to seek and to save the lost.”

Also in Jericho is Tell es-Sultan, where you can see some of the ruins of the ancient city of Jericho.  Just like we learned that Nazareth and Bethlehem were small villages, ancient Jericho, wall and all, was also very small.  The ruins here date back to 8000 BC.

Learning at Tell es-Sultan
After leaving the ancient ruins, we headed to the Dead Sea.  We had an hour to enjoy floating effortlessly as well as coating our skin with the miracle mud on the sea floor.   It really did make my skin super soft.
Ashley and I at the lowest bar

The Wellshire crew floating in the Dead Sea

Leaving the Dead Sea we started to make our way towards Jerusalem via Bethlehem.  Our first stop was lunch, at the Christmas Tree restaurant.  Lunch was casual and delicious, either falafel or chicken shwarma.  We also had a chance to shop for our Bethlehem souvenirs, including the famous olive wood carvings.  Naturally I was more intrigued by the small grocery store next door and stopped in to by a variety of candy to take home for my office candy dish.  Either way, we were supporting the local businesses. 

Bethlehem is in Palestine - there is a big fence and you have to go through a checkpoint to cross the border.   This is hard on their economy as well, especially this year when tourism has been dramatically down compared to 2010.  We headed to the Church of the Nativity which is the oldest still standing congregation church in the world.   We learned that in 614 there was a massacre of Christians and churches were burned, except this one.   There was a mural there that reflected the three kings, who were Persian.  The army, also Persian, spared the church for this reason.   The church is also shared by a variety of denominations, including Greek Orthodox, Armenian and Catholic.   Peter told us that Christmas is celebrated on three different dates in Bethlehem because each church uses a different calendar.  Easter is celebrated twice.   In the rest of Israel, Christmas is celebrated using the Catholic calendar, and Easter, the Orthodox (except for Jerusalem and Bethlehem). 

Quote of the day:  "It is easier for Jesus to come back than to upset the status quo." 

St. Catherine's Church - Church of the Nativity

Greek Orthodox Church - Church of the Nativity

Manger Square - Mosque of Omar

The star that marks where Jesus was born - Church of the Nativity

Humility Door - Stopped people from riding their horses into the church

After our visit to Bethlehem we headed to Jerusalem, our home for the remainder of the trip.  The Gloria Hotel was located inside the gates of the Old City and had a great rooftop terrace - perfect for drinking in the views of the city, as well as wine. 

Old City Jerusalem from the Roof:

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