Our destination for Saturday (the final day for Dawn and me) was Petra, recently named one of the seven “new” (meaning currently existing) wonders of the world and, according to BBC, “one of the 40 places you have to see before you die.” An absolutely spectacular historical site, it did not disappoint.
On Friday we were up early for our trip into Jordan. We passed through the various border checkpoints without incident and drove through miles of desert until we reached the beautiful area of Wadi Rum, also known as the Valley of the Moon. It was here that Lawrence of Arabia based his operations during the Arab Revolt of 1917-18 and I can certainly understand why.
The Seven Pillars of Wisdom, named in honor of the book written by T. E. Lawrence.
Today was our last day in Jerusalem and our first stop was the spectacular Dome of the Rock mosque on Temple Mount. It is the oldest existing example of early Islamic archictecture, and was completed in 691 CE. It stands on the site of the Second Jewish Temple, which was destroyed during the Roman siege of Jerusalem in 70 CE. The outer walls are made of porcelain and the designs mirror the octagonal shape of the mosque.
The reason we decided to tour Israel this year was because our longtime friends, Joe and Marilyn Bentley, were serving a term as directors of outreach at The BYU Jerusalem Center for Near Eastern Studies. This was the day we would get to visit with them.
The next day we packed up our things, left our hotel on the Sea of Galilee, and headed south toward the Dead Sea. We were already below sea level, but we headed even lower—in fact to the lowest place on earth that isn’t under the sea. The temperatures as we descended, but fortunately we never experienced unbearably hot weather. It got into the 90s on this day, but that was the peak.
Our first stop was at Masada. Most people have heard the story of the people of Masada; it has been the subject of TV documentaries and even a miniseries starring Peter O’Toole.
Our first stop on Sunday was at Bet She’an, a city of great historic importance, sitting at the junction of the Jordan River Valley and the Jezreel Valley. It is one of the oldest cities in the ancient Near East and was first settled five to six thousand years ago. It became a crossroad of commerce during ancient times. Archeologists have been digging in the area for some time and in the process have revealed a fascinating insight into the life of the Greeks and Romans as they controlled the city in the centuries before and after Christ. At that time Bet She’an was the capital of the Decapolis cities.
This street must have been magnificent in its day.
Day Two of our tour (at least it was Day Two by my count) was Saturday, the Jewish sabbath. By prior arrangement our group had been given permission to hold a Sacrament Meeting in a boat on the Sea of Galilee—a very cool idea and, as it turned out, it was cool indeed. When we awoke the skies were overcast, but by the time we had finished breakfast and reached the dock it had begun to rain. We were told that this was extremely unusual for this time of year, but what are you going to do?
Our rustic Galilee boat. Some brought umbrellas; others didn’t.
We just returned from a wonderful trip to Israel and Jordan. In the next series of posts I’ll try to depict our travels through the photos we took, hoping that each picture will take the place of a thousand words.
Above: The ruins of the old Roman seaport of Caesarea, just north of modern-day Tel Aviv, where Cornelius was converted by Peter and King Agrippa said to Paul,
“Almost thou persuadest me to be a Christian.” (Acts 26: 19-29)