Our travelers sent back the following reflections on their experiences February 14:

Betty Bowersox:

It was a great Valentine’s Day!!  The drive from the Galilee area to Bethlehem was educational in itself, seeing the environment change from green, hilly and rocky to white, bleak and dirt/dust/mountainy. We learned that the color of your license plate identifies what kind of check-point stop (or not) you’ll get – black/orange got us thru everything, while most green/black vehicles were being checked. There are still shepherds alongside the road with their flocks of sheep (or camels), and Bedouin tents put up in the desert areas when they take a break from their wandering; it must have been the same in Jesus’s time.  And Jesus and the Jewish people of his time had to deal with Roman soldiers – today was the first time, while in Bethany, that I saw young soldiers with weapons at the ready instead of hanging from their shoulders. Did Jesus ever go to the Dead sea and float around on his back reading a parchment like I did today? (Okay, I had a service leaflet, not a parchment – but boy, it was fun!) This trip is making the life of Jesus come alive and more understandable, and it’s also making me realize what a struggle it still is for the Christians in this part of the world – where the faith began, and where it must continue!

Sheila Stanton:

The Mount of Temptation was just as I expected it to be. It’s a huge, overpowering, massive and threatening mountain top with a precipitous fall in the front.  It was just what I imagined from the story of the Lord’s temptation.

Ruth Moore:

The differences in the topography are stark.  The Galilee region is lush & green & the wilderness area where Jesus roamed for 40 days is so stark & barren.  As we drove south along the Jordan River, the land on closest to the river was irrigated & lush, while the other side of the road was stark and barren.

Dick Entenmann:

There is not much flat land in the areas we’ve heard about.  For people who had to walk somewhere, there were no easy routes. Walking in the wilderness has taken on a new meaning.  It seems that the reason this area is valuable is that it is/was a strategic area on the routes between major areas.  The area has been conquered, destroyed & rebuilt countless times.  It makes me wonder why Jesus did his ministry in Galilee rather than Jerusalem.  We expected Bethlehem to be a smaller place rather than the town built up on the hillside.

Jim Moore:

Fr. Todd leads baptism renewal service at Jordan River

Fr. Todd and the pilgrims renew their baptismal vows at the Jordan River.

We haven’t seen anything green in the country that hasn’t been irrigated. It’s so interesting that the things we’ve imagined are so different in reality.  Some things are closer or smaller than we think – the Jordan River is only about 10 feet wide at the point we visited and we envisioned it being as wide as the Mississippi.  Meanwhile, traveling between towns was not necessarily easy and may have required several days.

One very special highlight of the day for all of us was renewing our Baptismal vows at the site where Jesus was baptized.

Christy Boyle:

Qumran, the site where the Dead Sea Scrolls were discovered, was also a special treat.  Though the site is very different than when the scrolls were discovered, the archeological excavations nearby are fascinating.


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