Jordan River. The sun came out and we had a service of reaffirmation of our baptismal vows. At the same time Ethiopian Christians we’re celebrating in song. The white robes were common. We also saw people at the Church of the Holy Sepulchre anointing their same robes on the rock of preparation that was believed to have been used to prepare Jesus’ body. This is to identify with Jesus in his life and in his death. The Apostle Paul wrote, “I want to know Christ in the power of his resurrection and in the fellowship of sharing in his sufferings, becoming like him in his death and so, somehow attain to the resurrection from the dead.” Some people in our group went down into the water. Rich and beautiful.
Bethlehem is only 6 miles from Jerusalem, but the journey is interrupted by a checkpoint when passing through the barrier. This wall was erected to decrease the occurrences of suicide bombings and other acts of violence and terror. You can read the sentiments of the Palestinian people in the grafitti posted here. Bansky is an unknown artist who has a couple or three notable 'tags' on the wall, and he has purchased a hotel in the shadow of the wall boasting the "worst views in the world". He named it "The Walled Off Astoria". Across the street is a patio table and two chairs with a painting deptciting a break in the wall with a field of flowers and a view of the city. There are green fields on the other side, but are not accessible to these people. There are no green spaces for the children to play, and one playground for 5,000 people in the Aida Refugee Camp which is 2 km. North of the centre of historic Bethlehem.
The wall is longer than the Berlin Wall, and we walked along about a kilometre of it on our way to a ministry centre for the empowerment of women called "Noor" which in Arabic means light. Islam was our host and she explained their work and what they were serving us for lunch. More on that in a blog following this one.
Plotting our approach to the city. May tackle the metro system with a couple from the UK. Great breaker and we are ready to ADVENTURE, mindful to be back at the hotel for a tour group meeting.
Paul was scanning and sending some documents when our ride arrived. Our dear friend drove us to YVR on a sunny day, 7 degrees C. All went well on our flight and I enjoyed white wine with my risotto with Joanne dining across the aisle. We both had empty seats next to us. Small mercy. Then SLEEP! Loosen shoelaces. Place plugs in ears. Cover eyes with a black headband with pads over each eye to block out all light. I am a committed sleeper! I finally went under and slept for about 3 1/2 hours. The smell of coffee woke me up and I enjoyed a "continental" breakfast of a child's-sized croissant, cheese, and a spot of yoghurt, all in plastic. My wooden spoon was in a paper wrap. We arrived at Heathrow @ 11:15 am, ahead of schedule.
Now at the gate waiting for our Egypt Air flight to Cairo. We hear Arabic spoken and men dressed in robes and caps. Our flight departure is delayed due to a late in-bound. Joanne slept not a wink, so she has been using my shoulder as a perch for her pillow and sleepy head. We have learned that our flight from Cairo to Tel Aviv has been postponed a day, arriving now the same day as Lori R.
More later, God willing.
DAY SEVEN. Now in Aswan, on a boat, tied to the dock. We arrived here from Abu Simbel yesterday at about 330. We travelled by small bus (there are 12 of us plus our leader) for about four hours each way. Joanne and I were up at 4 am and on the road by 5, We had a boxed breakfast and stopped along the way to eat and to get a coffee. The weather was perfect with a breeze off the reservoir behind the Aswan dam, Lake Nasser. The monuments to King Ramses 2 and his wife Nefertiti were moved from the area below which was flooded to their present resting place, It is an impressive story how this was engineered and executed in the early 1970’s after bringing the crisis before UNESCO in the 60’s, following the flooding of the reservoir following the completion of the dam. By the time the work began, there was 4 feet of silt covering the rock work. Our guide told us that this silt is what renewed the farmland along the Nile and with the dam in place, they began to use chemical fertilizers. With this came impacts on people’s health and our leader’s father has a cancer linked to this.
Aswan’s economy is based on tourism. That is very evident in every aspect of our movement to- and -fro. Elephantine Island is just off Aswan and that is where a colony of Nubian people life. They have their own schools and medical clinic. There are no cars and the ‘roads’ are very narrow and it is a very quiet place. I will add photos is the internet is robust enough to upload them. Still figuring this out as upload capacity is very slim. Egypt is a bit of a dry run for Israel in learning how to best communicate with words and images.
“La shukran”, is said repeatedly as we encounter people trying to sell us things and to take our picture and…. Translated it means, ‘No, thank-you.’ We took a motor launch to a botanical garden planted by General Kitchener iin the late 1800’s. It was lush and tranquil. The boatman was our host the night before at a dinner in his home. Intrepid Travel likes to give the travellers a chance to experience the culture of the place so a family hosted us and served a very generous meal, with Uncle and son singing and drumming for us. Uncle lives in Australia and is here on a three-month holiday to complete his ‘dream home’ on Elephantine Island. The draw of ‘’home’ is powerful. There were smiles and singing and laughter. So nice. We had a number of dishes cooked in a tangible or mental stewing post. There was also breaded fried chicken. We began with a minted lemonade. All was excellent. Sunset is about 5:20 so we walked in the dark with a smiley-faced moon lighting our way. It was a short ride back to the river boat and I-was in bed by 9:05, after starting the day at 4 a.m.
NOW DAY 8 (Day two on the Nile).
Motoring down the Nile is a treat, a rest and an adventure. We spend as much time on the top (sun) deck as possible, even at night with multiple layers as the breeze is often stiff. I love the way that the crescent moon forms a smile, perfectly level - another reminder that I am far from home since it never looks like that on our evening walks. The constellation Orion is on his side, which is amusing since I know this winter time constellation well as standing-up straight, remembering from age 10 or so, walking home from the local ice rink and seeing ‘The Hunter’ in the night sky.
We were up on the deck early today (9 a.m.) just following breakfast. A number of ‘cruise-mates’ went to Edfu temple early this morning but not our group. We docked at Edfu sometime in the night and that is a major reason I wear earplugs - unexpected interruptions.
I have learned that the tourist trade in Edfu is tightly controlled by a cabal, and the transportation to and from the Temple of Edfu, 30 minutes one way, is solely by horse and cart. Understandably this is a major income-stream. There have been many reports of harsh and inhumane treatment of these animals, and for that reason, Intrepid Travel does not go the Temple. This was not a hardship since we were up late the night before at the Temple in Kom Ombo, a rare ‘double temple’ honouring the crocodile god Sobec and Horus, who is the son of Osiris and Isis (not easy keeping the many gods here straight…).
There were a number of mummified crocs on display. Our guide said, “They worshiped what they feared.” They believed that if they practiced right worship with generous offerings, that this would afford them protection. I have been thinking about this statement. Contrast this with the prophet Zephaniah’s message: “The Lord has taken away your punishment, he has turned back your enemy. The Lord, the King of Israel, is with with you; never again will you fear any harm.” (3:15)
Since Emmanuel is with us we have no reason to fear.
And hear what the Apostle John has to say (I John 4:18): There is no fear in love. But perfect love drives out fear because fear has to do with punishment. The one who fears is not made perfect in love.”
What a profound contrast! The goal is not obedience or worship out of fear, but out of love, in a loving relationship with our Creator-God; Father, Son and Holy Spirit. This is the Good News, surely! And to consider the phrase, “the one who fears is not made perfect in love.” ‘Complete’ or ‘perfect’ love is who Jesus is and what Jesus modelled. This is the way of true humanity, to be in relationship with God and with neighbour. How can we deepen this in our fellowship so that people might say, “See how they love one another!”