Today we visited the exact site where Jesus was baptized. The geologists and archeologists all agree that they have found the exact spot. Of course the Jordan River doesn’t flow there any more because it has meandered around. However, they have found enough evidence that science and religion agree. That is special and doesn’t happen often. We all walked to where the Jordan River flows now and touched the water. Also pretty cool!
However, the politics of the day sort of stole the scene. Until the year 2000 you could not go to the Jordan River. The entire area was laced with mines. Even today the path leading to the river is fenced so that you don’t stray off. We walked through the high fence, now cut open, that once kept people away from the river. The center of the Jordan River is the border between Jordan and Israel. There is a barricade about the center of the river. If you wade into the water from the Jordanian side you can only go half way and likewise from the Israeli side. There are soldiers every where. Before we walked down to the river we were told not to talk to the people on the other side. If they say, “Hi,” just smile and nod, but do not talk to them.
Then we drove to Mount Nebo where Moses spotted the Promised Land. From the mountain you can see the Jordan River Valley and all the way to Jerusalem. Finally I can understand better why he called it Promised. They spell his name Mousa. One of our New York group, told our guide that they spelled Moses’s name wrong. No, I think it is us who spell in incorrectly.
Being an American Story: One of our group, Uta was born in Germany and moved to the United States when she was ten. Her parents lived through the War in Germany and those people just think differently than we Americans. Anyway, Uta, at age ten, went to a friend’s house in America and she was served lasagna. She went home and wanted her mother to make it. She described what it was like, and she and her mother set out to give it a try. Her mother could not read English and Uta says, at ten, she didn’t know the recipe was on the box of noodles. Anyway it was a disaster. The whole family started to eat it and then smiled and said, “This is America. We don’t have to eat this, and threw it away.” I think there are a lot of lessons for us in this story. We are so lucky.
Tomorrow is our last day. We leave for the airport at 9:30 p.m. tomorrow evening and our flight is supposed to take off at 12:10 a.m. We should land in JFK around 6:00 a.m. It is a thirteen hour flight so you can see there is a time change there. We leave for Orlando at 8:30 something if all goes well and should be in Orlando around 11:30. This is hoping all flights are on time. See you all soon.
We are in our day room at the hotel in Amman getting ready for our flight home. The tour company was nice enough to get us a hotel room to kick back in prior to our 12:10 am flight. When we left on this trip, we wondered if we could ever top Antarctica. Well this doesn’t top it, but it does equal it in an entirely different way. When we go to Europe we think that is old compared to the United States, well Europe is as new to this area as the US is to Europe. In Europe we visit places 2,000 years old; in this area we visit places 10,000 years old. This area is the beginning of civilization as we know it, and we were able to take a walk through ancient history. We also got a much better insight into the continuing conflict in the Middle East from the view points of Israelis, Egyptians, and Jordanian citizens. I think one of things that amazed us the most is how close everything is. We ate outside last night in Jordan on a deck overlooking the Dead Sea and could see the lights of Jerusalem, Jericho, and the infamous West Bank.
When we were getting ready to leave on this trip, we got numerous questions as to why we would ever want to go the Middle East and weren’t we concerned with our safety. As to why, because we have never been here, and we have always wanted to go to the Holy Land, and there is so much historical significance to Israel, Egypt and Jordan. As to safety concerns I have always said we stand a much better chance of dying in a car wreck on I-95 than we have being injured by a terrorist. Because tourism has such a major impact on the economies of Israel, Egypt and Jordan these countries cannot allow anything to happen to any tourist. This is why we had armed guards in Egypt, and in Jordan had to go through numerous check points manned by the Jordanian Army. A lot of this has to do with Jordan bordering Iraq and Israel. We never felt threaten at any time on this whole trip even when we were met at the Cairo train station by 30 armed guards and Egyptian Intelligence. All of the people we have met in Egypt and Jordan have been extremely friendly and helpful. They were very quick to engage us in conversation, wanting to learn more about the US, and enlighten us on the Israelis Palestinian conflict. Our guide in Jordan, Naim Abu Eid, is Palestinian and hearing his very strong point of view was extremely interesting. The people in Israel were helpful in a more reserve stand offish way. But then every day is a day of survival for the Israelis citizens, so it is understandable why they have a reserve attitude.
For anyone considering visiting the Middle East, we highly recommend it. But the important thing is to do it while you are in good health and mobile. We would walk 3 – 4 miles a day up and down hills, over uneven ground, and the day we went to Petra we walked six miles. The whole area is completely un-handicap friendly. To make the sites handicap friendly would detract from the very things we came to see. People we talked to prior to coming here told us everyone in their group got the Pharaohs revenge and stomach problems when visiting Egypt. I think that we can now safely say that we did not get sick; however we really watched what we ate and only ate cooked foods. We are both dying to have a big salad and a huge grilled steak and that is very high on our priority list when we get home.
Thank you for putting up with our e-mails, we hope you enjoyed them half as much as we enjoyed writing and sending them. Now that this trip is over it is time to start finalizing plans for our upcoming trip to Austria, Hungary, Germany and the Czech Republic in June.