Friday, June 19, 2009
Today was Friday and no classes so we hit the road and traveled north. Well, first we started south-west down to the Jordan River valley near the bridge over to Israel. Close to the Jordan River we turned north and began to drive up through this fertile valley where Jordan grows vegetables and fruits. We drove right through the area the children of Israel would have camped before crossing the Jordan to Jericho. I'm sure the owners of this land are wealthy but it appears many of the people who live and work here and not too well off. All the way along the 50 miles or so were villages with road-front shops where you could purchase anything.
We stopped at Dayr 'Alla (the site where the extra-biblical Balaam inscription was found that is now in the Amman museum), saw the Jabbok where it comes down to the Jordan (close by is the ford of Adam mentioned in Scripture), and then stopped at Pella. Pella is one of the Decapolis cities and is the place where early writers said the Christians of Jerusalem fled before the destruction of Jerusalem by the Romans in AD 70. I got greeted by the "guardian" of Pellas with a "kiss" on both cheeks because I had had tea at his place two years ago and bought a few coins from him too! A glass on mint lemonade, some interesting conversation, a great overview of the site from the balcony of the resthouse (with places in Israel such as Bethshan, Mt. Gilboa and even the top of Mt. Tabor visible in the land across the Jordan) and then a hot walk around the actual site with Roman, and Iron age ruins and also one of the earliest Canaanite temples ever discovered.
Then up the Jordan until we reached the Yarmuk River which flows down from between the Golan Heights (Israel) and up the river Syria and the side of the river we were on which was Jordan. Along this stretch we probably went through about 6-8 army checkpoints.
A long winding climb up to the top of the mountains of Gilead and there is the Decapolis city of Gadara, whose region is mentioned in Matthew 8:28. Again, like Jerash, this city has two theaters, a long (2/3 of a mile?) Cardo paved, column-lined street, and many ruins in the midst of archaeological restoration. The interesting thing is that most of this city is not made out of the common white limestone but rather the black basalt (volcanic) rock found especially in the Golan region where there are a number of extinct volcanoes. In the distance is the Sea of Galilee where I sailed on a boat just one month ago!
Finally a late lunch at that great international restaurant "Popeyes Chicken!" in Irbid (another Decaplis city but no time for a visit to the Tel), (by the way Layth, the young 4 year old boy whose home we ate at knew all about Popeye, spinach etc. because he sees the cartoons on TV here!)
Then back along the highway to Amman with a quick side trip where we saw the great city of Jerash from the heights of the mountain NE of it.
Since our return around 4:30 pm I have spent 4 hours preparing for Monday's class (I think I'm prepared for tomorrow [Saturday] classes) because I know Sunday will be an interesting and busy day after preaching in two churches (more about that on Sunday night)! Now the local mosque is calling Muslims to pray over the loud system. A great reminder for me to pray to our God through Jesus who visited the Decapolis region in his ministry. I'm not sure if you have been counting but I think we have now visited 5 of the Decapolis cities since I have been here to Jordan (and Bethshan for #6 but that was a month ago!). Can you name them?
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