On our second trip with OAT, we travelled to the Holy Land. In this context, it included Jordan, Israel, and the West Bank. We journeyed through ancient and modern cultures, politics, current and historic religious sects, pre-Christian, Judaism, Palestinian and Muslim. We had three separate guides, one for Jordan, the second for Israel, and the third for the West Bank. As it was forbidden for them to travel into each other’s territories. The tension was obvious.
We first flew into Amman, Jordan with a dust storm blowing out of the Arabian desert coloring the sky into a dusky burnt orange. We toured portions of Amman (including simply driving past the headquarters of the CIA but if you take a picture and are caught, they will destroy your camera) and then drove (in a comfortable bus) northwest of town to Jerash. Jerash, a contemporary city, surrounds a Greco-Roman ruin. From Amman we travelled south following the ancient road to Petra, a city of the Nabateans abandoned during the 8th century. Along our way we visited Crusader and pre-Christian ruins. From Petra we headed back north, crossed the Jordon River east of Jericho into the West Bank and Israel and headed to Tel Aviv for a few days. We then traveled north to Haifa, visiting Roman ruins, a kibbutz, and pre-Roman sites along the way. From Haifa we traveled to Nazareth and onto the Sea of Galilee. Both key areas where Jesus spent significant segments of his youth. From there we headed into the Golan Heights, stayed at a Kibbutz and traveled north to near the Syrian border to share a meal with a Druze family. In this area we heard artillery fire, one explanation, an Israeli training exercise, the other explanation, the sound of war of the Syrian army.
Our journey then took us into the Old City of Jerusalem, the church of the Holy Sepulcher, the Wailing wall, the Temple Mount, and the surrounding area. Crossing from Israel to the West Bank, we traded busses and guides from an Israeli to a Palestinian to visit Bethlehem, Nablus, more ancient ruins tracing Christ and pre-Christian sites. We spent our last two nights in Jericho.
Our travels through the Holy Land, which includes the entire eastern Mediterranean, followed the footsteps of Jesus. I also need to include a caveat here, this part of the world, was and is a corridor for animals, including our hominid ancestors, between Africa the original birthplace of our species and Euro/Asia.