Thursday, April 22, 2010
Last Sunday we traveled to Jericho for a branch activity. The official activity started at noon, but before that several families with young kids made a stop at Banana Land--a tiny, but surprisingly fun amusement park. It opened a few years ago and is frequented by Arab families from throughout the West Bank.
We all loved the bumper cars.
But our favorite was the pool.
Banana Land is no Lagoon, but we all had fun for a few hours.
The official branch party started at noon. We all gathered for lunch at a large tourist complex near the ancient tel of Jericho.
From atop the restaurant you can see all the bus loads of tourists visiting tel Jericho (rising from the parking lot) and eating/shopping along with us.
We then rode a cable car over Jericho to the Mt of Temptations.
The mound in the center of the photo is the site of the ancient city of Jericho where the walls came a tumblin' down.
At the tram terminus, half-way up the mountain, we all met to introduce ourselves and to recount some of the biblical stories that happened in the area. The purpose for having the branch activity in Jericho was so that Palestinian Arab members of the church who live in the West Bank and are thus unable to cross into Jerusalem for our Sabbath meetings could finally fellowship with some other Mormons. It was a great day.
The tram stops near the monastery of temptation, but it is not opened to visitors on Sunday.
Happy children (ice cream helped) on the way down.
That was the end of the branch activity, but some of us stayed to visit tel Jericho. Joel, who is on a quest to see what will be the oldest thing he can touch, was excited to see this 10,000 year old tower. Too bad there was no way to climb down and actually touch it.
The south end of the tel, with some of the walls of ancient Jericho. The ancient city was surrounded by a double fortification of walls. Rahab the harlot and her family may have lived in a home between the walls which would have made it easy for the spies to escape over the walls.
On our way into town we passed this smiling merchant beckoning us to stop for a drink. At the end of the day, his smiling face still beckoned and so we stopped for some great fresh squeezed orange juice. His name is Daud (David) and he and his wife have 17 children.
We then stopped to see the very sycamore tree (I jest) that the short publican Zacchaeus climbed so that he could see Jesus over the crowd of people. I can still hear my mother reciting a poem from my childhood: "Zacchaeus was a wee little man and a wee little man was he...."
This past week the students spent two days of field trips walking the route of the last week of Jesus' ministry. Our first stop was Bethany. There in the beautiful gardens of the Church of Lazarus I was impressed with this grape arbor.
John 15:5: "I am the vine, ye are the branches: He that abideth in me, and I in him, the same bringeth forth much fruit: for without me ye can do nothing." Great biblical imagery.
On the second day Marie and the kids (out of school for Israel's independence day) joined us mid day to visit the Pool of Bethesda where Jesus healed a man on the Sabbath and then further infuriated the Pharisees by commanding him to take up his bed and walk--carrying on the Sabbath is not allowed.
We then enjoyed an hour of singing in the wonderful Church of St. Anne.
The Jerusalem Center terraces are in full bloom with roses. This is our balcony
The sunset on the last night for the winter semester students.