The Baptism Site: Cannonball!!!

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On our last full day in Amman, we took the Madaba, Mt. Nebo, Bethany, and Dead Sea tour. Madaba is the 1/2 Christian 1/2 Muslim city we visited a few days earlier with the Greek Orthodox church that contained the oldest map of Jerusalem in the form of a 1500 year old mosaic.

We already saw the church and didn’t want pay the entrance fee again so we took a stroll and checked out a mosque nearby.
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We then went to a free Jordanian cultural museum that depicted famous scenes throughout Jordanian history. I liked the classic depiction of a Jordanian living room.

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Then we went to Mt. Nebo.
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Per Deuteronomy 34:1, “And Moses went up from the plains of Moab to Mt. Nebo, to the top of Pisgah which is the opposite of Jericho.”

Essentially, the Bible (and Torah) says Mt. Nebo is the mountain Moses climbed late in his life and where God showed Moses the Holy Land just before his death. Moses may or may not be buried on/near Mt. Nebo depending on who you ask – a recurring theme in religions we’d see time and again later in Jerusalem.

From the churches subsequently built on Mt. Nebo, they’ve found other 1500 year old mosaics as well.
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At the top of the mountain on a clear day, or especially at night we were told, you’d find Jerusalem somewhere over there.
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Pope John Paul II visited here in 2000
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Moses-Style
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Then we visited Bethany Beyond the Jordan, the general area where most scholars and Popes believe John the Baptist baptized Jesus and where Jesus first began his ministry.

The area is known by many names but has been recorded throughout history for nearly 2000 years. Per Matthew 3:13: “Then cometh Jesus from Galilee upon the Jordan, unto John to be baptized by him.”

In 1996, archaeologists found the baptismal pool who few dispute to be the spot where John the Baptist performed at least some of his baptisms.
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At least five churches have been built on top of each other over the past 1500 years here, leading many archaeologists and historians to believe this is THE spot where John baptized Jesus. The churches’ altars would have overlooked the baptismal pool.
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However, the exact spot where Jesus was baptized is still a matter of debate. The Jordan River used to run very close to John’s pool but has shifted several hundred meters since the time of Jesus. It used to run through here.
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The River Jordan now looks like this.
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Whether Jesus was baptized in John’s pool or in the River Jordan, likely we’ll never know. Most believers however want to be baptised in the River Jordan according to tradition, so you see the faithful taking their holy dip in the actual river itself.

This woman just got out from her Baptism on the Israeli side of the river.
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This woman was in our tour group. She changed into the baptism gown and everything. The water is filthy by the way.
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But what a peaceful experience.

And then there’s me, looking on.

Waiting.
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Well, you know I’ve said this before: When in Jordan, right?

Ready?
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Set.
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CANNONBALL !!!
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Honestly I wish I could end this post here. I’m sure Kiran will never get a better series of photos of me so long as we both shall live.
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But we also felt swimming in the Dead Sea which was quite an experience, so we thought to share that too.
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The Dead Sea lies 400 some meters below the sea level, and is so salty that entire sheets of salt precipitate out of it just underneath the shore.
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You are SO buoyant in the water you’d have to make a real effort to drown. I floated like this without any effort whatsoever.
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Lastly for my contribution to the Jordan blogs (Kiran to post Petra/Wadi Rum soon), you know I have to touch on politics to balance all the religion. We were on a tour in Jordan and everyone in the car was having a great discussion about how the Arab-Israeli conflict is about the leaders and the politicians, not about the people. People, we all agreed, can generally live peacefully next to one another, at least until politicians get involved.

I imagined aloud a world where there was peace in the Middle East, where people could travel throughout the countries much like we traveled throughout Southeast Asia. I hear Syria in incredibly beautiful. There is so much to see in Iran. Lebanon used to be the Paris of the Middle East I think … everyone couldn’t agree more.

In our tour were two Australians: One Australian was of Turkish descent, the other was Egyptian. Our driver was Jordanian. Kiran is a Canadian-American of Indian/Pakistani descent. I have blue eyes. Now that I write this, I realize I was the only non-Muslim in the car. In any case, I think we were all feeling pretty good about ourselves, that so many of us from different backgrounds could all envision and be hopeful for a better future in the region.

Then the taxi driver said he heard that most people in America actually didn’t like Bush (GW) and asked me what I thought of him. I said I think he goes down as one of the best American Presidents ever. The conservation in the car fell predictably silent as you can imagine.

A little while later, our taxi driver announced to us that there weren’t any planes that hit the World Trade Center. He said it was actually the Jews playing tricks with the television, and really the Jews just blew up the buildings to start a war.

Then I realized it may be a long time before people flashpack throughout the Middle East like they do other regions in the world.

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