The Lower Jordan Valley is twenty miles south of the Sea of Galilee. It is a lush, fertile region of land. Our first stop of the day is at the site of Beit-Shean which guards the eastern entrance to the Jezreel Valley. Why is that important? Well, it was an important trade route as early as the 15th century BC mentioned in Egyption documents during Egyption rule. I am standing in Roman ruins from the 1st Century!!
During New Testatement times, the Gospels record that Jesus would travel through this region teaching and great crowds followed him. Quite possibly he would teach from one of the 12 temples uncovered by archaeologists in what was the only city of the Decapolis west of the Jordan River.One of the best preserved Roman theatres is located close to this site as well as the Roman Baths and courtyards. Sort of a stone, spa-kind of place:)
We walked through the ruins of the town of Samaria before having a delicious lunch offered to us by a man who went to Alabama! He and his family prepared the best meal of our trip – chicken, rice, fresh salads, oils and hummus and some fabulous dessert made of cheese, sugar and dough! All baked and glazed with honey.
And with that, we were fortified enough to barter for scarves, pottery, jewelry and camel rides. This group does it all and none of the merchants are disappointed.
We stopped at Jacob’s Well in the town of Nablus, a very large city and read the story of Jesus and the Samaritan woman. The well is located underneath a Greek Orthodox church. Beautiful gardens surround the church inviting us in. We are enchanted by a very old priest who is responsible for building the church. He sits by the well and fills small jars with water from the well, seals them, and sells them to us for $5. We buy again and have a drink of the water from the well.
On the way out of Nablus, our guide tells us about the refugee camp directly across from the church. The misplaced families live in cramped, inferior housing. Sadness seems to abound. Loss of hope for a homeland, loss of homes and resources…loss of pride in who they once were, these are troubled times.
I guess it is fitting to board the bus and head through the Judean wilderness.
Nothing. No trees. Nothing green, Desolate and dry. Parched land. I could not help but think of the refugees. While I was drinking of the water at the spring and hopping on my air-conditioned bus, children go hungry and families are displaced for reasons I do not understand.
But my personal devotional today – April 27 – from Disciplines reminds us from Psalm 22 that all the ends of the earth, all the families of the nations will worship God. Not just us in our hearts and homes or cities, but all the ends of the earth will worship God. Past generations and future as well.
These are troubled times. As we move through this country that has had so much strife – even yesterday and today – we praise God. And we pray for peace.
Saying good night from Jericho.