2011
04.27

SYNOPSIS:

A visit to the Mount of Temptation in Jericho and a visit to Qumran, the site of the discovery of the Dead Sea Scrolls.

No more walls in Jericho.  They must have all fallen down at the blow of the horns as the story in the bible (Old Testament) tells us.  It is most likely the oldest known inhabited town, with a history of over 10,000 years.  There is not much to attest to that today.  But the sound of the name drew me and so I went to see the Mount of Temptation, another attraction of biblical (New Testament) importance.

It did not seem fair that Christ had to walk all the way up there to be in the desert for 40 days and I could just board a modern cable car which got me to the top in a few minutes, all the while enjoying some spectacular views.  Up on the mountain were a bunch of souvenir stores tucked into natural caves, and several terrace restaurants overlooked the valley, blasting infectious “Habibi” music (popular Arab dance music).  Dozens of young Palestinians enjoyed the view, sipped tea and smoked the nagileh (water pipe) on this hot week day.  This seemed to be a popular excursion spot and not cheap!

For the few more serious visitors – seemingly Christian tour groups who had come for a day trip from Jerusalem – there was a path with plenty of steps to climb to reach the final destination:   A Greek Orthodox monastery built to honor Christ’s fast and temptation in the desert.  This is my third “hanging” monastery on this trip.  Several monks still live in a dormitory literally overhanging the cliff.  And a chapel is built into the mountain.  That’s about it.  A Greek priest gave a short sermon to a group of Greek visitors and a Russian group had come with its own priest holding a service in a side chapel.   I was the odd one who had come alone and understood nothing.  But I looked around for a bit, soaked in the atmosphere and descended for a cold drink onto the terraces before taking the cable car back down.

If you have a car, you can visit a few more sites in this area of secondary importance.  But with public transportation I was limited and decided to use the remainder of the day to go to Qumran.  Taxi? Taxi?  Taxi?  No, taxis are expensive and I decided to approach a group of three visitors asking if I could share a taxi with them.  They had their own car and took me back to Jericho.  Taxi?  Taxi?  Taxi?  I was looking for a bus, but this time I was stuck in this Zone A, Zone B, Zone C dilemma.  There was no bus going to Qumran.  I had to get to the road where an Israeli bus would come through the Palestinian territory, or go on a detour.   I chose the taxi.  The transition was seamless, lucky me.  This bus does not come very often; about once an hour, I was told.

In Qumran I came across a tour of ecumenical English-speaking Christians attending a program in Bethlehem called Tantur, guided by an excellent guide.  I tagged on to their group.  I simply could not resist.  Often I run away from guides as they are making up half their stories, but this one knew his stuff and in great detail.  Ultimately, I hitched a ride home with them in a wonderful, comfortable, air-conditioned bus.  When it came to the check point, we were just waved through!  Wow, not even a passport check.  That was my fifth border crossing and a new experience yet.

It turns out that the guide is an independent one for hire.  Here is his information if you ever are in Israel and can afford or want an excellent guide:  Allan Rabinowitz,   goatpath@gmail.com

There is not that much left at Qumran, but Allan brought the remains to life filling in historical facts, addressing geographical features, and interpreting the evidence looking at the “big picture”; just wonderful.

I got my first glimpse of the Dead Sea which lies at the foothills of Qumran like a big, quiet, dark blue-green mirror.  No boat on it, no sign of life.  No people.  Just a shiny surface.  Further down are resorts and beaches.  I am sure we will go there when Maria, Jack and David arrive.

The road from Qumran  to Jerusalem passes by one of the most controversial Jewish settlements, fenced in with barbed wire and cut off from the Palestinian land by check points:  Ma’ale Adumim.  Over 30,000 people live there since the 1990’s and it is hard to imagine to relocate a community like this should political borders be redrawn in a two-state solution.

Bedouin camps punctuated the otherwise barren, brown, rolling hills along the road and between Jericho and Qumran, and I saw a huge herd of camels herded by Bedouins.  There are only a few of the traditional black square Bedouin tents.  Many of the dwellings seemed to be slapped together from wood, plastic, or aluminum scraps.

In Jerusalem I headed to my chosen falafel stand for my daily dinner:  A falafel – what else?  It gets a bit boring, but it’s the only way I can save some money on a day like this.  It is unbelievable what you spend in Israel on anything from food to transport to entrance fees to overnights.  On average you have to count on American prices plus 50-100%!  And falafels are the most filling and most healthy food around here.  Why not.

Good night.

3 comments so far

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  1. To Elida- that lecture on parasites sounds fascinating. Who knew that the little buggers could help bring down a city!

  2. We went to a lecture this past week on parasites and the speaker said there is a theory that Jericho fell easily because the people were so weak and did not have the strength to fight because of a parasite that was in their water. They have recently found that up to eighty percent of the people living around the Aswan dam in Egypt are now infected with a parasite found in its waters that was never there before the dam was built.

  3. ok, this is going to sound weird and is very funny but I’ve always heard that the Dead Sea is so stagnate and thick with salt that you could float a chess board on it and play a game while in the water. So If you would…..
    I know, I’m asking alot, LOL!
    David will love this challenge?