We have reached the border with Jordan and have been told our two hotels here in this country have been upgraded. I've loved the hotels so far, so I am truly impressed.
As with all border crossings, patience is a must. First, Rafe and Good-Deal, our driver, remember? register. Rafe wears a big red sticker and is only allowed to the far end of the Israeli side. When we and our luggage are unloaded, he returns to the Israeli side.
Security is tight. Our luggage and bodies are scanned, we are subjected to an iris scanner, and are given an exit visa. Remember now, we haven't even left Israel yet.
We are told no photographs, but I suspect a few were covertly snapped. It could be too much of a temptation for some.
Good-Deal is allowed to drive us over into the Jordanian side.There, we wait with our luggage and have our passports checked and rechecked, and finally meet our new guide, Hansom. A new bus driver and bus arrive. It's not clean, nor does the air conditioning work, but we are moving after a long wait.
So, we are now in The Hashemite Kingdom of Jordan. There are billboards of the king everywhere, in varying forms of dress from traditional to sporting. We go to one check point, pick up a police officer who is to travel the whole way with us, (actually, I think we lost him around Petra. I'm not sure when, though), and then we return to the original border.
But we're off to the Jordan River again! This countryside is not as clean as Israel and we learn that Jordanians keep their houses clean and the land beyond them belongs to someone else, so they ignore it. Some of our group find it disturbing. Also, we are told after a stifling and short bus ride, we will get a new bus that has A/C.
We see camels and Bedouins for the first time. The camels have their front feet tied with a short rope to stop them from running away. Bedouins are tent-living, migrant farmers who have learned to grow crops in the Jordan valley. Hansom turns on the bus's wifi but nearly everyone tried to get on at the same time. I gave up. Not that patient or savvy.
Hansom reports that Jordan has about one million Syrian refugees, although the websites report less. Naturally, refugees live in abject poverty, helped mostly by the UN. It's hard to witness. Beside me on the bus, my husband is asleep. We have long, busy days and he's not the only one to nap. Besides, he has been a part of the UN and seen Muslim countries before.This is nothing new to him.
We have finally arrived at Jesus's Baptism Site! I am very excited!
Even here, security is evident. But it's still awesome. And while the river has changed over the centuries, this spot has been excavated and is close to a spring, and because of the archeological evidence, all experts agree that this is where John baptized Jesus. To shield pilgrims from the sun, a covered walkway has been built, and young bougainvillea now try to help shade us.
The Jordan River meanders, forming and forgetting small oxbow lakes, and reminds me of the Assiniboine River in Manitoba.
As we stand overlooking the spring fed pool close to the river as it winds today, I can very nearly see Jesus walking down into the water.
It's in a little gully, and I can imagine all the people standing up on the banks, peering down in awe:
And the Holy Spirit descended on him in bodily form like a dove. And a voice
came from heaven: "You are my Son, whom I love; with you I am well
pleased." (Luke 3:22)
We walk a little further on to the river as it is today. We are literally only feet away from Israel. We were told there are armed guards there, but I don't see them. The water is murky, muddy and fast moving, and the Israeli shore, not so far away, is more elaborately built than the shaded deck on which we stand. Reeds sway in the current, and if I had not known we were in Jordan, I would have thought we were standing on the Nile, expecting to see the Pharaoh's princess order a reed bassinet out of the water.
It's very hot out, and as we watch pilgrims on the Israeli side get baptized, we can see the mountains behind them where Jesus went for 40 days of testing. I could stand all day and stare around me.
On our way back, I see many ornate churches, even a huge one still being built, and, of course, mosques as well. Gold domes and onion tops, stonework and palm trees and oppressive heat. So incredibly different than our small corner of Canada.
Next blog with feature our own visit to Mount Nebo. See you tomorrow.