Today we departed Amman and descended down the mountains to the Jordan River. Our archaeologist tour guide, Waleed, was able to explain how recent excavations prove the Jordan River was once flowing in what is now Jordan. A church was excavated there by his professor (pillars pictured here).
We saw the original location of the Jordan River at the time of Jesus and renewed our baptismal rites at that location. Then we walked down a path to the location of the current Jordan River. Pilgrims dipped their feet in, afraid to take the extra step that went down farther than we could see. We sang "Come to the Water", "Healing River of the Spirit" and "Alleluia" as we were sprinkled with the water of the Jordan River.
Pilgrims from around the world were there celebrating with us, on the Jordanian side and the Israeli side of the river. Many groups took videos of us singing because we sang with such joy, excitement, and volume! It was some truly Spirit-filled singing!
We then went to the border to cross back over into Israel. We were told it would be an easy switch. It was NOT. First our bus overheated and broke down for (luckily only) 10 minutes or so. Jordanian men came running from everywhere to help us and quickly cut some pieces and repaired it so that we could keep moving. We made it to the border, said goodbye to our bus driver and guide and began to walk through passport control to make it to the other side. Quickly one pilgrim realized her bag was missing. After a few minutes of terror and calls back to Amman, we realized that another one of our pilgrims took the wrong bag and was already through security. At the same time, Fr. Kelly was sitting in 'timeout' with Israeli security for taking a picture of the border from the bus 10 minutes prior (timeout pictured here). Again, at the same time, another pilgrim accidentally told passport control that she was traveling alone instead of with a pilgrimage group (a red flag for Israeli security) and that began an endless amount of questions until a fellow pilgrim mentioned that she was with our group. Now at the back of the group we had another pilgrim pulled aside for having metal in their knees. And at the same time, two pilgrims left their bags on the Jordanian side xray machine and walked through to the Israeli side without realizing their bags were on the Jordanian side. Thankfully Katherine went through last and was able to pick up all the bags and wait for everyone to get through before she went through. By the time she made it, Fr. Kelly was freed, as were the other pilgrims getting questioned and checked. We all breathed a sigh of relief as we saw Kevork, our Palestinian Christian guide, and Muhammad, our Palestinian Muslim bus driver, who welcomed us on the other side with hugs and smiles.
Kevork and Muhammad brought us to Jericho for lunch, a drive by view of the Sycamore Tree which Zacchaeus climbed to see Jesus, and a quick stop to view the Mount of Temptations, where Jesus was tempted by the Devil. Quick stops helped us get to our beautiful hotel by 3pm, allowing for naps, swimming in the pool, drinks at the bar, saunas, and turkish baths. Jericho, inside the West Bank and run by the Palestinian Authority, is a vacation spot for many Palestinian families. It is hot year round and felt like summer! Fun Arabic music was playing at the pool and we listened to the call to prayer while relaxing with glasses of wine made by the Salesian Sisters in Bethlehem/Beit Jala. It was just what we needed after moving non-stop for a week. Tomorrow we stay in the heat to visit Masada, Qumran, the Dead Sea and check into our
hotel in Bethlehem. Today we celebrate the half way mark of our pilgrimage!