After our breakfast in the hotel, we headed to the tomb of Lazarus in the town of Bethany. Our guide Shafiq explained that the burial cave probably wasn't his tomb because it would have been one for a wealthy man, which Lazarus was not. Instead, he is probably in the cemetary area. However, we ventured down the steep stone stairs to a tiny enclosure that could fit about 10 people. The passageway was also very narrow and fit for short-people only. Even though it probably wasn't the correct grave site, it was still fascinating to see a first-century burial space with niches carved for offerings and incense.
Then we headed into the Jordan Valley to the 2,000-year-old ancient ruins of Qumran. On the way, we observed many Bedouin communities, nestled in the desert valleys with a few donkeys, camels and goats grazing the few shoots brave enough to grow on such dry desolate land. The town of Qumran housed
the Second Temple and is also the site where the Dead Sea Scrolls were written and later discovered.
The hills are littered with caves among the hills.
We had a traditional meal, this time shish kebob, along with the same salads or corn, lebne, hummus, olives, slaw, etc. and pita bread. It was citrus season so we had the sweetest oranges for desert along with mint-muddled lemonade. We went shopping at a place that makes traditional blown Hebron glass. Some rode a camel that was conveniently located outside the restaurant. However, I feel the camel was mistreated as it was muzzled, kept trying to bite its masters and wasn't treated with love. I felt sorry for it.
From here, we traveled to the River Jordan, where many were getting baptized. Father Bob blessed us and had us renew our baptismal vows on the shore. The water is very muddy; however, most of us collected a bit of it in water bottles. We were on the Israeli side and had to stay there. But we were able to wave across the river to those in Jordan on the other bank; in fact, Father Bob led us in singing alleluia and they echoed our song from across the river.
We then toured the ruins of Jericho and saw parts of the wall around it. The desert has many hills around it, including the hill of "hell," and a monastery high up on the mountainside. A tram was taking people to this place, but we did not go. Instead, we walked among the unearthed ruins of the town.
Finally, we had the chance to float in the Dead Sea, the lowest and saltiest spot on Earth. People were smearing the black mud from the bottom on themselves and then washing off in the algaed water. Again, a man with a camel awaited riders or those who wanted to take pictures. However, this man was very loving to his camel, petting and kissing him. I had a chance to talk to him. He said he was a Bedouin and that it took a two-hour camel ride to reach the tourist destination. He said that his family of 17 lived together, with the "Sities" (grandmothers), etc. The children rode to school on donkeys, which took one hour to get into the town of Jericho. The were educated at home until age 10 and then sent to school for a few years, if I understood his broken English well.
Then it was back to the hotel for dinner. I had to have knaffe for dessert. It was delicious.