Israel Day Five – Jerusalem to Sea of Galilee

Yet another incredibly rich day of learning. It began with a text-study at Pardes Institute of Jewish Studies, where Jamie Salter helped us explore the Zionist movement through biblical texts and writings by Theodor Herzl and Ahad Ha’am.

Then we drove to Kafr Adummim, a settlement in the West Bank, about 15 minutes outside of Jerusalem, where a young Israeli woman welcomed us and talked about her hopes for a peaceful future for Jewish and Arab Israelis and Palestinians. From her perspective, there’s no alternative to real proximity between the groups in shared neighborhoods, schools, and towns where people get to know each other from a young age; but the opportunities for that to happen are decreasing rather than increasing. She didn’t express much confidence in the current political process, though, but rather in the many, often small efforts by individuals and groups that organize cultural programs, children’s camps, etc.

Our next stop was Qumran, famous among Bible scholars for the discovery in 1947 of the oldest known manuscripts of all Old Testament writings (all except Esther and Nehemia) and other texts. We had lunch there and enjoyed the spectacular view of the Dead Sea and the mountains of Jordan.

From there we drove to Kasser Al Yahud, the spot on the Jordan where according to Christian tradition Jesus was baptized by John, the same spot where according to Jewish tradition the Israelites crossed over the Jordan River into the promised land and where the prophet Elijah ascended to heaven. I was glad to see the Jordan with a little more water flowing than in the recent past when agricultural water use had reduced it to a polluted creek. Apparently the Israeli and Jordanian government agreed on a restoration plan that was successful.

We continued to drive northwards along the Jordan Valley, through Tiberias, to our final destination, our hotel on the shores of the Sea of Galilee.