Exploring the Judean Desert

Yesterday I joined an Abraham Tour group form Nazareth that ended in Jerusalem. I was able to stop at Yardenit, the baptismal site on the river Jordan again. It is definitely one of my favourite places in Israel. There were many people there this time! The parking lot was full of tour busses. Four people from my group were baptized in the Jordan river. It was so special to be a part of! Because I had already done it this trip, I didn’t go again but I was able to stand in the water and witness the others.

I am now in Jerusalem, ready to explore Israel!

Today I went on a Jeep tour through the Judean Desert, and it was absolutely stunning! It seemed to go on forever. Everywhere I turned was another view that took my breath away! We drove to the top of Mount Azarel. It was busier than normal because of the holiday with cyclists, and families.

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We saw Mar Saba Monastery carved into the hill. We stopped there and made tea (in the middle of the desert!) Along the way we saw so many camels! There were at least 20 just roaming around, some of them on the street in front of us, we had to stop until they crossed. We stopped at St. Josephs Monastery, another one carved into the hill. They’re in crazy locations because thats where the water was when they were built!

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Our last stop was Wadi Qelt Spring where we got to swim. There were locals there BBQing and hanging out. There were little fish nipping at our feet where we stood in the water. We headed back to Jerusalem in the late afternoon.

I signed up for a Shabbat dinner where I’m staying. Because Nazareth is an Arab city, I haven’t really experienced any Jewish culture since I’ve been here in Israel, so was very excited to be in Jerusalem for Shabbat. Clara (one of my roommates from Germany) and I went down at about 7:30pm to help prepare the meal. We jumped in with a guy named Jon who was preparing meatballs. We prepared those, and then waited until dinner started. They explained a bit about the meaning of Shabbat, lit the Shabbat candle and said a prayer in Hebrew. There was a glass of wine for each of us, but coming from a Pentecostal church I assumed it was symbolic (ie. grape juice) but it wasn’t! That was a bit of a surprise.

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The food was amazing! It was served buffet style by the volunteers. Like the arabic dinner I went to, I tried a bit of everything, which meant my plate was overflowing! Everything was so different but so good (especially the meatballs!) I was stuffed. A wonderful first day (back) in Jerusalem.

Pamela

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