Wednesday was a free day; a lot of us went to Yad Vashem, the Holocaust History Museum, where photos aren’t permitted. It contains so much evidence of the darkest side of human nature that I wouldn’t have wanted to take photos anyway. I’m old enough to remember seeing film of the liberation of Belsen when it first appeared on tv and it’s been etched on my memory since my earliest childhood. I wish we could say that nothing like it will ever happen again, but we only need to watch the 10 p.m. news to know that the seeds of genocide are still deep in human hearts.
On Thursday, St. David’s Day, we transferred from Jerusalem to Nazareth for two nights. We travelled via Jericho, where our guide showed us a sycamore tree – the same kind of tree that would have been climbed by Zacchaeus, the chief tax collector who wasn’t tall enough to see Jesus. [Luke 19: 1-10] I’ve always loved the story of Zacchaeus, partly because I’m small but also because I was a great climber of trees in my youth.
From Jericho we travelled north beside the river Jordan, stopping at the place where it’s believed Jesus was baptised by John the Baptist. Here you can look across at the church on the other side of the river, which is in Jordan (the country, not the river).
The river Jordan is much smaller than it used to be; our guide told us there was more water in it on the day of our visit than he’d seen for years. The problem is caused by water being taken from the river for industrial and agricultural purposes, and it’s also affecting the Dead Sea. There are serious concerns about the shrinking of the Dead Sea which the Israeli government is trying to address.
It would be easy to cross the river Jordan, as you’ll see from the photos. However, the spot we visited, which is within the West Bank (i.e. mostly occupied by Arabs but under Israeli military control), is only accessible by going through a military checkpoint. The land around it is a waste land, apart from a few ruined buildings, and it is in fact a minefield.
Still travelling north, before reaching Nazareth we climbed Mount Tabor, where Jesus’s Transfiguration is supposed to have taken place, and looked down on the Jezreel valley before exploring the Basilica of the Transfiguration.
Guns are not allowed in church.