English-speaking church in Eindhoven

Day 4 – Into Israel

Day 4 saw us leave Jordan and enter Israel.

We crossed at the Allenby Crossing over the Jordan and this was quite a process! It was not tense but very careful. As we passed through that crossing into Israel we were led in a meditation on a hymn many will know that begins:

Guide me, O thou great Redeemer,
Pilgrim through this barren land.

William Williams, 1745

and goes on to say:

When I tread the verge of Jordan,
Bid my anxious fears subside;

The very barren country viewed from our air-conditioned bus still made me wonder how anyone could walk through this to then cross a point of no return and enter a new land with challenges awaiting.

Once in Israel we changed buses and guides to head to Jericho, the oldest and lowest city on earth. We were now again in a place Jesus visited. As he entered he met a short tax-collector perched in a Sycamore tree. Conveniently as if to illustrate this we saw a similar tree in about the right place. [ See photo below] Very short people are in abundance here!

Tell Jericho (Tell = the accumulated mound of a city’s debris) loomed high above the road with 27 layers of civilisation going back 10,000 years. It is still being explored.

Just outside Jericho is Mount Temptation which relates to where Jesus was tempted with all the kingdoms of the world if he would worship the Tempter. The panoramic photo below shows this barren mount above the fertile valley below.

The dates I bought for lunch In Jericho were delicious!

From Jericho it was north along an ancient north-south route passing by mount Gilboa, a mountain cursed by David for reasons associated with the death of King Saul. While looking out of the bus Psalm 121 came to mind. These were the very hills David and other warriors of Israel might have looked to for help! I may have been about where they would have been when that meditation came to mind.

We came to Bet She’an. This is a national Park for wildlife including the only Decapolis town in Israel. The Gospels say that people form the Decapolis came to Jesus of which Bet She’an is the closest to Galilee. The time line for this town goes back 5,000 years before Christ. Sitting on crossroads it was too strategic for Canaanites, Egyptians, Philistines, Jews, Assyrians, Greeks, Romans to ignore so all occupied and built here. The bodies of King Saul and his sons were hung on the city walls after their defeat in battle at Mount Gilboa. But King David eventually took the town and it was a major administrative centre for his son Solomon. Some pictures below show what remains and has been excavated.

Then on the late afternoon we drove to Tiberius. Seeing the Sea of Galilee come into view was a wow moment. It’s a big lake and all the power and attraction of water spoke at first contact. Crossing this is no small effort and yet Jesus and his fishermen friends did this often. We are scheduled to go out on the lake.

Our Tiberius hotel room will be home for the next four nights.