With an early morning departure from Petra, we headed north along the King's Highway or Sultan's Highway and later traveled some on the Desert Highway. Our first stop for touring was Madaba, the home of the art of mosaics. We visited the Greek Orthodox church that contains a mosaic map of the Holy Land from the sixth century. Pilgrims would stop here to find their way before continuing to Bethlehem and Jerusalem. The mosaic served as their GPS.
We then traveled the short distance to Mt. Nebo. Because Moses dishonored the Lord in the desert by striking the rock in anger to get water rather than just speaking to it, he was not allowed by God to enter the Promised Land. But God did direct him to go up to this mountain and He would show him the land from here, to see it from a distance. (Deuteronomy 32:48ff) What an amazing view. The sky cooperated so that we could see houses in Jericho, the mountains around Jerusalem, the Dead Sea, and the mountains of Samaria. It gave us a different perspective and made it clear how the Israelites traveled as they would enter the land promised to Abraham. From the top of Mount Nebo to the Jordan Valley is a decent of over 4000 ft. Just ask the folks about the bus ride down!
We ate lunch at a local Christian restaurant. At one point Madaba was almost a 100% Christian town. Now it is about 3% Christian. By support of the government and the royal family, Christian are free to worship and practice their faith in Jordan. The reason for the decline here is that most of the families from Madaba have moved to Amman for better work. We ended our time around Madaba by visiting a foundation that makes mosaics by employing a number of handicapped workers. They showed us the process, both old and new, of making the mosaics. Depending on the materials used, it could take up to 2-3 months to complete a project.
It was then on to the Dead Sea. It had been arranged for us to use the facilities of a nice hotel and spa on the sea. We walked past the preparations for a wedding that was to take place on the beach at sunset, mudded up, and entered the water to float. Some made the full commitment; others a partial, and a few served by watching our stuff. We had a blast.
An hour drive and quick check in, clean up and dinner, and we were honored to have a new friend come and share about his ministry in Jordan. He helped us see from a different perspective about having respectful conversations with others about faith and life.
Tomorrow we cross into the land near the same place the Israelites did and meet up with our friend and guide, Nir Nitzan.