Today we completed our Jordan package and began our Palestine of Jesus course at St George’s College in Jerusalem. The first step was to leave our hotel in Eilat and make the 4 hour drive north to Jerusalem.
As we drove the landscape initially reflected the rugged terrain of the Aravah in the south of Israel.
Eventually the landscape softened a little, as we reached the southern tip of the Dead Sea. It was still dry and barren, but not so harsh and rugged.
The drive took us past Masada, En Ged and Qumran as well as couple of the remaining beaches where it is still possible to swim in the Dead Sea. The loss of water has led to a 50m vertical drop on the water levels since around 1900 when the Palestine Exploration Fund recorded the lake levels on this rock. (The PEF mark is just visible about midway between the two black lines.)
After a short lunch break at Almog, soon after leaving highway 90 and turning west onto highway 1, we were on our way towards Jerusalem. Our first glimpse of the golden roof on the Dome of the Rock was a special treat for those making their first visit, and a ‘welcome back’ sign for those of us who have been here before.
After settling into our rooms at College we went for an informal orientation tour of the Old City, during which we stopped at a cafe for Khanafeh; a Palestinian sweet that is very popular to celebrate special moments.
We made our sway back to the College for the opening service at the Cathedral, followed by a reception, dinner, and our first session of the new course.
For many of us the day ended in prayer as we said Compline together on the flat roof of College building. The night air was cool, but refreshing. It is good to be here.