FRIDAY, 12TH NOVEMBER
Off again to a blinding sun at 8am and down the Jordan Valley taking in the ‘Baptism Site’ – created by the Israeli Govt. since they declared the actual site a military zone near the Allenby Bridge a prohibited zone. Then on down the barren valley stopping at the (Greek Orthodox) Monastery of S. Jeronimus (near the Allenby Bridge) and then on to the desert hilltop fortress of Masada. How the place had changed since I was here in 1998! The facilities for visitors now equal to its status as a World Heritage Site. Always, though, moving for its history as the final place of resistance by a Jewish garrison against the Romans. But was their suicide (recorded by the Roman convent Josepheus Flavius) ethical?
Then back to Jericho noting the water-mark of the Palestine Exploration Fund in 1911 (?), now many metres above the Dead Sea where we had lunch in a Palestinian restaurant. I ha d a sense that the difference between what was offered there and what we had experienced in the (Jewish) Galilee was beginning to be noted. After lunch we drove to see the Tree of Zaccheus, now enclosed in a building site paid for by the Russians as they develop a new church and museum (?), the Monastery of Quarantine and the ancient walls of Jericho, excavated by the redoubtable English archaeologist, Kathleen Kenyon.
Finally we drove down back to the Dead Sea so that people could bathe in its waters. And what a tale that was! I was moved by the way people who had a fear of water found they did not drown. A small but significant move.
All that happened as the sun set and after 45mins we set off for Jerusalem. The expectation built up about our arrival was dashed by the reality of living in Arab East Jerusalem. Dirty, noisy and crammed with people (hwy isn’t it as pleasant as the Galilee run by the Israeli’s?). So we disembarked in the run-down East Jerusalem Bus Station (ah, how many buses have I caught from there!). But the ‘Golden Walls Hotel’ proved an oasis of beauty in the apparent squalor of the city. So après-dejuener enabled me to answer questions focussing on the situation here until we all retired to bed …