Today we left Galilee and headed south to Jerusalem. Our first stop gave us a view of the Mount of Temptation, where tradition says Jesus was tempted by Satan in the wilderness. It was also a time to do some bargaining with the locals, ride a camel (yes, I rode the camel) and get goodies like dates, figs and Sycamore Tree nuts. We then stopped at the Tell Ef Sultan, which is the ancient ruin of what is the oldest city in the world, Jericho. Most of us remember it as the city Joshua defeated as the Children of Israel moved into the land of milk and honey. Today Jericho is a mutual territory of Israel and Palestine.
From there we made for Jerusalem, the Holy City, and crossed into Palestinian controlled Bethlehem. We visited the shop whose family (actually the grandfather) bought the first scroll that was to become known as the Dead Sea Scrolls. We also met with the leader of the Palestinian Conflict Resolution Center, a ministry supported by the United Methodist Church. The most striking moment was seeing the wall separating Jerusalem from Bethlehem. Ironically we began the day reflecting on walls coming tumbling down and finished with sights of walls that are far greater than we've ever seen.
Ultimately we walked to the oldest church, the Church of the Nativity, which is the traditional site of the birthplace of Jesus. Sadly, the site, which is controlled by three different Christian denominations, is more a tourist attraction than a place where one can be spiritually uplifted. In a way we longed to be back in the boat in Galilee...
Tomorrow, Sunday, we visit the Mount of Olives and then walk the Via de la Rosa in the Old City of Jerusalem.
Shalom, Salaam, Peace