Today, we left the Sea of Galilee and headed down the Jordan Valley to the Jordan River Baptismal site.  There we renewed our vows and dipped our toes into the muddy, and cold, waters of the Jordan.  This is always an interesting site, a former military stronghold for Israel, with landmine signs still up on the road leading in, abandoned army barracks, and once at the river, one that is not at all wide, the Jordanian Military on their side, and Israeli Defense Forces on this one, both armed, both watching oddly, and ironically, over this site.   But, there we were, in the face of it all, reminding ourselves of where our allegiance has been pledged.

Jordan River liturgy 2015

Jordan River Olympia

We left the Jordan and headed the short distance to the ancient town of Jericho.  This is a town I loved visiting shortly last year and this year we spent more time here.   We stopped at the sycamore tree, purported to be the one Zacchaeus climbed into and from which Jesus invited him to come down.   We took a cable car ride up to the Mount of Temptation, high above the city.

Jericho mountain

We visited an ancient tel being excavated there and ate our lunch at the Temptation Restaurant.   Not kidding.  Really good place.  They had more peacocks here than I have ever seen in one place in my life!

We traveled to Bethany, where we visited the church dedicated to Martha and Mary and we sang together in this most beautiful church.  It was a moving moment to me as we sang so very well together.   Bethany is interesting, we could just keep driving down the road where the church is, into Jerusalem, in five minutes, but because of the separating wall, we had to travel back out and around, which took about 35 minutes, an every day occurrence for many Palestinians.

This is a wonderful group of 10 of us from Olympia, with 18 more from Arizona and Northern California.

Jericho Olympia group

The Olympia 10

Jericho selfie

A Selfie of the same wonderful 10!

The best part of the day was in the West Bank, in Jericho, when a man came up to me, without expecting a thing, but sincerely saying, “Thanks for coming here.”  It is important that we do.  And then tonight, when my wife and I sat down with Adnan, a small business owner I met last year.  His two small shops are right off Manger Square and he was so glad to see me again, and he invited my wife and I for tea, and we sat with him, his sons, on the sidewalk, around his charcoal fire, looking at the Church of the Nativity across the square and we talked of many things.   This is becoming the real Holy Land to me.