We left Amman at 745am for a one and three quarter hour drive to Jordan's northern border with Israel. Australian eucalyptus trees line the roads through the mountains of Moab. Eucalypts were planted in Galilee in the 1930's and served to eradicate the scourge of malaria by soaking up the swamps in which mosquitoes once multiplied. The Al Baqa Valley, which holds the largest Palestinian refugee camp of almost 400 000 people, stretched out to our right. Palestinians make up three quarters of Jordan's population. They have the right to work and to vote. As the Jordan Valley opened up before us Jerusalem's white buildings were visible on top of the not too distant Judean Wilderness. In the Lower Gilead region we travelled through Salt City which is located on the ancient trade route to Jerusalem. Many Old Testament events occurred in these foothills. We saw Tel Succoth where Jacob lived with his family and flocks (Genesis 33:17) and passed by Pella where the Jews fled Emperor Titus' Roman troops in AD 70. A turn to the left would have taken us to Tishbe, Elijah's town (1Kings 17:1) near the brook Kerioth where he was fed by ravens. The Jordan Valley is part of the Rift Valley that extends from Turkey to Africa. This is seismic scenery. A tremor every four seconds is said to relieve the pressure on the tectonic plates. But how can the pressure above ground between people with centuries old grievances be relieved? There is a one hour time difference between Jordan and Israel yet differences far deeper than time separate the countries located in and around biblical Canaan. I recalled how at the moment of Jesus' death there was an earthquake.'The earth shook, the rocks split and the tombs broke open. The bodies of many holy people who had died were raised to life" (Matthew 27; 51-52) and again at his resurrection (Matthew 28:2). Only the crucified and risen Jesus can de-stress this place and its people for only He deals with our disobedience and breaks down the dividing wall of hostility (Ephesians 2:14-17). This land needs the love and life of the Lord Jesus. Greenhouses fill the valley like a sea of plastic amidst forests of fronded palms. Our exit from Jordan and entry into Israel was both smooth and sacred. Today is Passover. The immigration security official jokingly asked if I'd remembered to bring bread. I had of course. The Bread of Life travels with us everywhere on our expedition. Our first stop with new guide Ronnie Cohen was Beit Shean. The excavations at this northern city are exceptional. We could imagine colonnaded street shops selling their wares to Syrians and Samaritans. Their sanitation system, although not private, was advanced for that age. Marble columns, imported from Turkey and southern Europe, still stood along the original basalt boulevards. The theatre seated 7000 people; its shade awnings made from the sails of Roman ships. King Saul fought the Philistines on Mount Gilboa where he and his sons were killed and later beheaded. Saul's head was hung on Beit Shean's city wall (1 Samuel 31:10). It became a Decapolis city - the only one on the western side of Jordan. The city's Greek name was Scythopolis and the area was famous for growing flax used to make fine linen clothes for fashionable people. Under General Pompey Beit Shean became a Roman city and later became a Christian Byzantine city until destroyed by an earthquake in 749 AD, Excavations only began in the 1960's. Leaving Beit Shean we headed towards Mount Gilboa in Samaria, entering the Jezreel Valley that stretches from east to west and contains the plain of HarMegiddo (Armageddon). After lunch at a Kibbutz we viewed a restored synagogue floor and viewed a film showing its significance for Jewish community life. Heading south on Route 90 for Jerusalem we passed through the West Bank. To our left was 'Adam' where the Jordan's flooding flow was stopped so Joshua could cross into Canaan (Joshua 3:16). How fitting that Gilgal lay to our right, since today is Passover and it was at Gilgal that Joshua, having entered Canaan as we have done, celebrated the Passover (Joshua 5:10) The desert is now blooming as prophesied in Ezekiel 36. Flourishing table grape vineyards, cut flowers for export and six varieties of date trees abound in this area. We saw an archaeological site dated to the time of Archelaus, one of Herod the Great's sons (Matthew 2:22). It was his removal by the Romans that precipitated the appointment of Pontius Pilate as governor of Judea. After passing Jericho, the 'city of palms' and the last stop for pilgrims heading up to Jerusalem even in the time of Christ, we ascended from below sea level to Jerusalem 2600ft above. We recalled the parable of the Good Samaritan as we drove parallel with the first century Jericho road. A hut has been identified as the 'inn' but in reality it is only an abandoned Ottoman police station. The story of the Good Samaritan is, after all, a parable. It's important to let the Biblical texts define Biblical sites. Arriving in Jerusalem we stopped at Mount Scopus on the Mount of Olives to survey the city - old and new. Mount Scopus was the lookout post for Titus' Tenth Roman legion before the city's destruction in 70AD. Jerusalem has been destroyed and rebuilt 17 times in 3000 years, the last time by Suleiman the Magnificent in 1565. The first buildings erected outside the old wall were built in 1860. The British mandate decreed that all of Jerusalem's buildings must use local stone hence the city glistens when the sun shines on its summit. Today dust blown in from North Africa obscured the sun and created a dulling haze over the Holy City. How much more should believers shine as they live in the Son and not obscure God work?'
In the same way, let your light shine before others, that they may see your good deeds and glorify your Father in heaven.' (Matt 5:16)