We have had three action packed days around Jerusalem and are excited about heading for the Sea of Galilee and following in the footsteps of Jesus on his lakeside ministry. Our bus is the first to set off, and early. We have another busy day ahead.
We leave Jerusalem in a north easterly direction into the Judean Desert and towards Jericho and the River Jordan marking the eastern boundary of the occupied West Bank. Our first stop is in the desert and we get out of the bus for a steep walk up hill towards a cross on the summit. At first glance, the desert looks totally barren and unable to sustain any kind of life. But that is an illusion. The curiosity of the dormant botanist in me is aroused as I spot a tiny but brilliantly colored flower among the stones and fissured rocks. Soon I see another, and another, and before long I have spotted and photographed something like 15 different species, of flowering plant for later identification. And the cross? I have absolutely no idea what this commemorates. Perhaps someone could let me know?
|St George of Koziba monastery|
But we must hurry on. We have a rendezvous to keep at the River Jordan, where we are to celebrate the Eucharist with the other groups and renew our baptismal vows…
We have a pre-booked slot at the original baptismal site of Kasr al- Yahud on the banks of the River Jordan just north of where it flows into the Dead Sea. There are four other sites, mostly in forbidden military zones. The other main one used by pilgrims is the Yardenit Baptismal site at the southern most end of the Sea of Galilee.
|Baptisms in the river Jordan, Jordan side|
|the River Jordan|
No one knows where in the River Jordan Jesus was actually baptized by John. But in the end that doesn't really matter. The significance of the Eucharist ceremony and the formal renewal of our baptismal vows is still very meaningful and indeed moving.
On the opposite bank of the river, on the Jordan side, there are renewals taking place where pretty much everyone is going for total immersion. We noticed that they clearly appreciated our extremely gutsy rendering of our hymns.
|A rough Sea of Galilee|
|Monastery of Temptation|
We have stopped by the cable car station, from where little gondolas take you up to a restaurant and from thence to the monastery. But we did not do this. Instead we forgot for a short while that we were pilgrims not tourists, as from the wayside stall we bought jewellry, refreshed ourselves with freshly pressed orange and pomegranate juice, and were hugely entertained by our bishop taking a camel ride!
Tired after a long day, we make our way to Tiberias for our stay on the shores of the Sea of Galilee...