Today was a day spent on the bus a lot, with about half as much walking as the past days – 3.52 miles to be exact. I was thankful for the pretty calm day because it’s given me, and my body, time to recuperate and relax. Nevertheless, we were still on the go all day long!
It’s kind of a weird sensation…
We do so much in one day that the beginning of the day feels like a couple of days ago. Our tour guide, Yossi, is making sure we are making the most of our days is the Holy Land.
Our day started with another early rising – 6:00 am with a 7:00 am departure. The first visit of the day was with someone who had a common bond with all of us – Harding University! We visited Dale Manor; Dale is a professor of Hebrew Bible and Archaeology at Harding. For four weeks of the year, he makes his way to Israel and works as the assistant director of a program that unearths the hidden treasurers of this ancient land. Dale was very welcoming and happy to see us; we were equally as happy to see him and see his work.
The next stop of the day was at a place where very few tourists visit. It’s a village whose name escapes me, but I like to call it the village of peace. It is the only place in the country where Jewish and Palestine-Arab citizens live together in peace. The small village, tucked away on a hill side, is laundered with greenery and flowers of all sorts. At the bottom part of the village is a building that looks sort of like an egg called the place of silence. This odd shaped building also has great acoustics, so guess what, we sang a song! The video is up on my Facebook page.
After the village, we made our way back across Jerusalem to the part of Israel that is desert. The dry, rocky, mountainous area is very desolate, with only a few small tribes living in its valleys. We hiked to a lookout point, where Yossi played his flute. As we headed back down, several locals tried to persuade us to buy some of their goods – head coverings, necklaces, bracelets, etc. A man tried to convince me to buy a head covering, but I kindly told him I had no money. That wasn’t a lie either, I had left my money on the bus! He told me, “No, no, no, it’s okay, you just take to bottom of mountain.” Confused, I just followed his instructions and left the head covering at the bottom of the mountain. As we started to pull away, the man came running to the bus, claiming someone from our group had stole his head coverings! He was, of course, talking about me. I was very uneasy and worried, but our tour guide explained everything to me, and I left the bus to go show the man where I had left them. After he realized I wasn’t a thief, he apologized and was very nice. Nevertheless, it was a very unsettling experience to be accused of theft by a local tribe member who looked like he could really do a number on me!
My rocky desert experience was followed by a much needed lunch and dip in the Dead Sea. The Dead Sea is the lowest point on earth and is filled with minerals and a high sodium content. It’s a strange sensation because the high sodium content makes you float effortlessly! And interestingly enough, if you swallow the water, you have to be rushed to the hospital! It is very dangerous! The mud at the bottom of the sea, is not completely dangerous, though. The mud is used as an exfoliate in many beauty products, and we used it, too. I can actually tell a difference in the softness of my skin!
We visited the city of Jericho next, which is the oldest city in the world! We got to see the old ruins of the city and visit a nifty little gift shop!
I’d have to say that we saved the best for last today. We visited the Jordan River where one of the girls in our groups was baptized; talk about powerful! After some beautiful singing and the baptism, we went for a swim. Rope swings topped it all of. I loved spending this fun time in this peaceful and meaningful place with such a great group of people.
In our reflection tonight, a girl mentioned in Genesis where it talks about God’s spirit resting over the waters, and how His spirit was so present today at the river. And it certainly was. It was such a moving, but also fun time, and it ended today on a high note!
Tomorrow is our full day in Israel and of this trip. We’re visiting the Sea of Galilee before heading back to Tel Aviv where we’ll stay one last night. Thursday morning our flight leaves out early for the good ole United States of America!
I wouldn’t say that I am homesick. I’ve been able to keep up with my family as much as I needed, but I am very ready to be back in my country where we are so blessed to live freely as we chose.
I’ll post more later about my overall reflections of the entire trip. But for now, the back of my eye lids are calling my name!
Until next time, keep smiling!