Thursday, July 24, 2008

Brief Note from Revadim

Heather told me people were noticing our "absence" from the blog - just as Israel was more in the news than usual. Well, we are fine, but terribly pressed for time. I'm writing this at midnight, and must wake up at 4:45 for this week's last day on the dig. And then it's back to Jerusalem for another weekend of adventures.

Today was a big day on the dig as Area D (we are working in Area E) uncovered many wonderful pots and bowls, including one with metal tools inside from the time of David and Solomon. Wow, was everybody excited.

And we've had a good week in Area E as well, much earlier in the Early Bronze Age, about when the pyramids were being built. Vonnie and Erika both found little pieces of metal, like needles. We've heard that Vonnie's was not bronze, but was probably copper. First time metal has been discovered at this early level of Tell es-Safi.

Last weekend, our greatest adventure was wading through Hezekiah's water tunnel, and seeing the uncovered remains of the Pool of Siloam where Jesus did his famous healing.

Now I must run get a few hours of sleep. We pray for so many of you and recognize that God is keeping His loving hand on each one.

Thursday, July 17, 2008

Two Weeks of Digging

Here's a photo from Wednesday, July 16. We are just at the end of our dig day with lunch and pottery washing to follow. Actually with a shower and a long nap to follow the washing, too.
I had one of our dig partners take this photo so we could share it with the on-line readers of Biblical Archaeology Review (BAR). Why? Because we were the blessed recipients of a dig scholarship from BAR's parent organization, the Biblical Archaeology Society (BAS). They covered 1/3 of the cost of volunteering at Tel es-Safi.

It has been an amazing time. We have learned so very much by actually being on the site and participating in the process. Sometimes as we scrape away, or brush up the last dust in our work area, an advanced class will be taking place and Vonnie or I will be able to listen in to the technical discussions. And in the evenings, we have lectures on archaeology. Last night we listened to the doyenne (the grand lady) of Philistine archaeology. 89 year old Trude Dothan (pronounced truduh dotawn) shared what she had learned at Tell Miqne/Ekron years ago, a site actually on the property of Kibbutz Revadim.

We are feeling much more "in shape" this second week, but perhaps taking a few extra naps is part of the cause. Or perhaps we really are adapting physically.

During the last two days I have found two mysteries (that piece of decorated pottery in the first photo is one of them.) and worked on solving the puzzle. (Archaeology is FULL of mysteries.) While digging down in two different places, I have discovered pottery that "shouldn't" be there. Late Bronze Age pottery should not appear in Early Bronze Age levels! So, I've been digging and cleaning to help the professionals look for a garbage pit and a foundation trench, dug during the Late Bronze Age period, that would have allowed LB pottery to reach EB levels.

Vonnie has been working on an alley (three feet wide) and sifting her diggings looking for whatever people threw out onto the "street". Sometimes she finds nothing. Other times she finds tiny fragments of flint, shell, bone, and of course pottery.

Today, in a locus (a small dig area) that I had previously lowered, our German volunteer discovered several pieces of pottery that had broken and been buried together. They even got the official photographer to capture it. Finds are really the luck of the draw!

Tomorrow we return to Jerusalem. Vonnie asked me to let you see the inside of Hotel Hashemi so you could imagine us upstairs above the Suq Khan al-Zeit (the narrow market place that follows the ancient central street of Roman times, the Cardo.) The photo was created using Autostitch demo and has some distortion, but it sure captures the drama.

Now I must run find Vonnie for tonight's dinner!

Monday, July 14, 2008

People who have touched our lives: Benzi

Benzi:  Many of the people at this dig are young Jewish University students.  They are astonishing in their beauty, brilliance, and character.  We have been deeply impressed.  One of the young men on our team in Area E is called Benzi – short for a name that means "Son of Zion".   He has dark curly hair cut in a way that makes it curl up around his skull cap and form a halo around his beautiful, gentle face.  He reminds me of someone who could play the part of the beloved disciple John in a Biblical movie.  He and Daddy were assigned to be partners, and they worked together most of the week, enjoying wonderful talks while they moved loads and loads of dirt.

On Friday morning, Itsak, our area supervisor, came in his quiet way and invited us to a "short break".  We all gathered around him, and he said he wanted to thank the students who were completing their assignment and would be leaving us, and to thank them, he said, we were going to have cake.  We sat down in the dirt, broke the cake into pieces, and ate together.  Benzi spoke up and said, "I had a dream."  Everyone wanted to know what he had dreamed and so he began, "I dreamed that Ole and I were digging in our square and we hit something that sounded like wood.  We worked and worked trying to dig it out.  We were so excited, we didn't even go to breakfast.  It took a long time to get it dug out, and when we finally did, it was a treasure chest!  Itsak told everyone to gather around while we opened it.  That took some doing, too, because the lock was…" he paused, looking for the right word in English, "Frozen!" "Rusty" Stuck!" everyone suggested, wanting him to get on with the story.  "Yes," he said.  "We finally got it open…."  Long pause.  "What was in it?" (Many voices.)  Benzi took a long breath, "It was empty." "Oh,h,h,h,h,h,h…" (Unison groan.)  "But", Benzi brightened.  "There was a note inside that said that the real treasure…."  (Another pause.)  "was the friendship we have found as we have worked together."  And everyone burst into applause.

 This week we are missing Benzi  and the others who went home.

People who have touched our lives: Ana

Stories of People who have Touched our Lives:  
Ana:   Daddy and I went to the little Post Office here at the Kibbutz to mail some postcards to you.  There is a little red-haired lady who is in her seventies who runs it.  You know how Daddy is, he asked her about some photos she had on the wall, and she told him about them.  Then she said, "You come sit down.  I have story to tell you.  Story about me."  And she pulled up some chairs for us close to her desk.

"I grew up in Bosnia," she told us.  "We were very happy there, but when the war started, we knew we were in danger.  (Of course she was talking about World War II and Hitler's plan to destroy all the Jewish people.)  "I was 11and a half when the soldiers came to our town.  I had a little friend I played with who was from a Catholic family, and she begged her mother and father to try to save me.  Those brave, good people thought of a way.  "There was a Catholic orphanage in our town, and they took me there with my sister who was 8.  They gave us new names and a new identity.  We had to learn a story about our parents who, supposedly, were Catholic and were from another town and had different names and had been killed.  They told me that I was responsible for my little sister.  I had to help her remember not to tell the truth or call me by my real name.  They told me that if she was sad, I would need to comfort her so she wouldn't cry.  I remember wondering what if I were sad.  Who would comfort me so I wouldn't cry.  These kind people thought of a way to save my mother, too.  They made her a kitchen worker in another orphanage, and finally, they were able to give her a "transfer position", and she became a nursery worker who took care of the children in our orphanage – so she was caring for us!!  But no word of recognition, no hugs, no special treatment.  We had to pretend she was just a caretaker that we didn't know, but, at least, she could see that we were safe and well, and we had her near taking care of us!  These kind people were not able to save my father, though, he was taken off the street and sent to Auschwitz.  He may still be alive, but I never heard from him again.  But the reason I wanted to tell you this story, is that I think when you go to Jerusalem you will go to the Holocaust Museum there.  In one area, they have children's playthings displayed.  When I was in this orphanage, I decided to make a set of playing cards to play gin rummy.  I wasn't artistic at all, but for some reason, I decided to decorate each card in a different way.  I was able to keep those cards, and now they are displayed in the museum."
Daddy and I were both very moved by her story, and we hope to go see her cards at the museum next Sunday wen we go back to Jerusalem.  We figured out that she is just exactly Uncle Merrel's age.

Stories from Israel

Since it's been several days since I've written to you, I have many stories to tell you again.  Don't feel bad if you have to read them a few at a time.

Surprising sounds:  Last Wednesday morning, not too long after sunrise, our group was hard at work in our Bronze Age dirt.  I had gone to the bottom of our area to get my bottle of water from Daddy's backpack and was just stepping back under the sunshade when I heard a deafening roar like an enormous explosion.  The noise didn't stop but kept on roaring.  I looked back over my shoulder, and saw a white cloud, kind of like a mushroom cloud, rising from behind the hills that form our horizon.  It kept getting bigger and bigger with frightening speed.  I looked at the others, and everyone was frozen.  Daddy asked, "Do you know what that is?"  "We have no experience with anything like this."  Daddy was the first one to venture a guess:  "Oh, the Israeli military is testing a sustained missile.  They fire it into the ground and test how long it keeps exploding underground."  No one else had a better idea, so we all decided he must be right.  Finally, the noise stopped, and eventually the cloud dissipated.  We had heard on the news the day before that Iran had tested a missile that could reach Israel, so we imagined that this was Israel's answer.

Later, Daddy and I were walking around our hill to the breakfast area when we heard another roar.  The roaring went on and on, but it was a very different sound than the missile roar.  At first I thought it was a motorcycle revving its engine to get unstuck from mud, but then I realized it was some kind of animal in distress.  I could not imagine what could be making such a huge, strange noise – like an elephant or a dinosaur roaring or 100 donkeys braying at once.  As we came around a bend, we saw the noise:  a baby camel crying its head off and trying to get away from the post where some Bedouin men were struggling to tie it up.  Finally, the men got it secured and gave it something to eat, but it kept crying every now and then – almost like it was calling for its mama.  After everyone left it alone and we all went into the breakfast tent, the baby stopped crying and lay down.  Several times throughout breakfast, it would start crying again.  We had to finally go back to work, and I never did hear where it had come from or where it went.  It disappeared.  I suppose the Bedouin men knew what to do with it and took it to its mama.

“Jerusalem Below”

Galatians 4:25 26 "But the Jerusalem above is free; she is our mother."

Back from our first weekend in Jerusalem, we can testify that the Jerusalem below is definitely not “free”. Of course I’m making a pun with what Paul wrote; he was not writing about financial cost. Whether the two kinds of freedom are linked or not can be debated, but we got another dose of what it means to be a tourist, and it reinforced how valuable the tourist season is to those who live in the Old City of Jerusalem.

We will never forget our visit. It started rather shockingly! We finished working on Tel es-Safi/Gath around the usual 1 pm, and were told our bus that takes us to and fro would wait around 20 minutes and take us on to the local bus stop if we wanted. 20 minutes! We had to finish storing our suitcases, put on something a little cleaner than our dig clothes, and make it to the bus. No way for a shower. “That’s how we travel in Israel. There will be showers in Jerusalem.”

So we arrived in Jerusalem, dirty, tired (let me emphasize TIRED) and got off the bus at the entrance to the “Wailing Wall”. With directions from our friend Jonathan (pronounced Yonatawn) we found our way into East Jerusalem and onto our first street. There we asked for directions and a young man said he would guide us.

And sure enough he did. Right to the door of Hashemi Hotel. And then he wanted 100 Shekels (around $30.00. This time we said NO. We paid him a few shekels and went into the hotel, but he was angry with us.

This hotel is run by devout Muslims who post signs everywhere stating that there will be no smoking in the rooms, no alcohol on the premises, and no unmarried couples allowed in a room together. We had to show our passports to prove we had the same last name (a marriage certificate would be helpful if a couple chooses to keep different last names!) and, when we said we had been married 38 years, they promised us the “honeymoon” room.

As plain and simple as it was, it was the perfect retreat for two exhausted, first time “archaeologists.” And the rest of the hotel had some wonderful features. Best of all was a roof-top with a view of the lower city. Wow!

We were amazed to watch Orthodox and Hasidic Jewish families streaming through the Old City to the “Shabbat” services at the Wall. We were so hungry we didn’t join them until they were streaming back, or stopping to perform Shabbat dances (men only) at an intersection. It was night when we made it back to the Wall and read the Shabbat rules that forbid photography.

We have learned from personal conversations with Jonathan, from signs posted on the Wall Square, and also from paintings we saw the next day, that one of the oft-repeated prayers at the Wall is that God will open the way to rebuild a third temple. There is even a Temple Institute whose mission is to have all the particulars in readiness, including priests who are themselves ritually pure, to start the services. This event may yet happen, although no one can calculate the cost if Islam were brought to the place where they were to abandon their third holiest site. A greater miracle would find a way to let both faiths have their holy places on Mount Moriah.

Sabbath morning started rather late, I can assure you. We ended up visiting the “Garden Tomb”, which is a delightful place to meditate on Jesus’ death and resurrection, and also the Church of the Holy Sepulcher, which has so many layers of religious practice and even property-line conflicts, that it takes real imagination to see past the crowds and ornate structure. But even there we found a small corner and read the Matthew version of Jesus’ death and resurrection. And we were moved. We will treasure our time “alone” on that Sabbath morning.

We ended the day walking most of the Via Dolorosa backwards (this is the traditional route Jesus took from condemnation to crucifixion) and out the Lion’s Gate (or St. Stephen’s Gate) on the Kidron Valley side of the city. We passed the Garden of Gethsemane (closed by this time) and walked up toward the Mt. of Olives ridge. We watched, and photographed, the sunset setting behind Islam’s Dome of the Rock, and the lights start coming on in the city, before walking back to our hotel.

(Sunday evening, back in Revadim, we learned that two policemen were attacked at the Lion’s Gate on Friday evening. The prognosis is good for only one of them. There are unimaginable levels of pain throughout the populations in Israel, the West Bank and beyond, and still many display the most wonderful hospitality.)

On Sunday we did some shopping. My, Oh my! Suffice it to say that bargaining is not my forte, and there will be stories to share. It was almost indescribable, but it will be fun trying someday.

We actually, finally, found our city bus and got to the main station, and then got right on a bus that dropped us off at the Revadim stop. And a kind driver took us the last distance to our headquarters. And we both slept well last night before our early morning start to week two at Tel es-Safi/Gath.

Thursday, July 10, 2008

Taking a Break

Life at Kibbutz Revadim and dig-site, Tel es-Safi, is SO full and busy that we are running out of time! But it is going so very well.

Today we dug from 6 am to 1 pm (as usual), then washed pottery (as usual), and then had a field trip to Askelon (Asquelon), and then had an end-of-week BBQ with the team, and now must get all our belongings packed for storage over the weekend, or to take with us on our trip to Jerusalem Friday night. Plus we need some sleep before wake up at 4:30 (as usual) or sooner.

We have decided on this first weekend to Jerusalem not to take our computers, so if we communicate, it will be at someone else's computer. Perhaps we'll discover we need to have one along but this first time, we'll go light.

We probably won't be posting anything more until next week. Bear with us as we learn how to navigate this busy month.

Blessings on all,


Wednesday, July 9, 2008

Life on the Kibbutz and the Tel

Yes, we are having the same sense of awe, mentioned in your comments, as we touch the pottery that someone used 4500 years ago! Today I was chipping away the mudbrick that surrounds the stones of the short wall in the area where I'm working, and I was wondering about the person who built this wall so many thousands of years ago. Was he a young married man building it for his bride, or was he one of the city fathers improving a common area where people came to grind their grain. I felt sad to be undoing his work. I didn't find anything of significance today, but Lauren and Zvi found a complete jug big enough to hold about a gallon of milk next to a stone oven they had been excavating. It had been tipped over, and the top was slanted down, but even the handles were intact. Inside the jar they found a lot of organic matter that they guessed might be wheat or barley--unrecognizable after all these thousands of years. Lauren and Zvi are on our team of eleven that is working on area E. (Lauren is a precious, earnest young Jewish girl from Philadelphia and Zvi is a local dairy farmer who just comes to help because he is fascinated. He grew up and farmed in Ohio until 1959 when he and his wife moved to Israel. Our claim to fame now is that we have an alley running through our site, and they have brought in a special archaeologist to work with us as we begin to excavate it. The reason they are taking such care with the alley is that they imagine people threw their garbage out there, and we will find lots of interesting things packed in there.

I must tell you that the leaders are doing everything possible to keep us safe and well. They have erected huge black sunscreen canopies over our work sites that help enormously to keep us out of the sun. Every half hour they enforce a break to drink water. This afternoon for the first time, we had to do pottery washing. Each piece is placed in a box that corresponds to the area where it was found. The leaders look over each box for anything that might be significant. I was happy to see that they were excited about my rim because it had some primitive looking letters drawn in the clay before it hardened. It looked to me like an M and a Hebrew G. I said it stood for Mrs. Goliath, but of course, Goliath wouldn't be born for many centuries after that jug was used.

I found out, too, why there are some meals when we don't have butter for our bread. Ole's rabbinical student roommate has been educating us. We are being served kosher meals, and dairy products and meat cannot be mixed. When meat is served, we have no butter and no milk for tea or coffee. He also pointed out that when we have dairy products we have blue trays and white dishes with blue designs on them. When we have meat meals, we have brown trays and plain white dishes. The silverware for the dairy meals has a hole punched in the end of the handle to assure the eater that this silverware has never been used for meat. So interesting.

Well, it's time for our lecture. Tonight we are listening to the archaeologist who will be helping us with our alley. He is teaching us how to deal with bones we find -- because they are expecting to find lots of bones in our alley. I'd better go pay attention!

Tuesday, July 8, 2008

First days at Tel es-Safi

Is it possible? Thursday is about to begin? It's just 5 am, and we must be on the bus in 20 minutes. And last evening Jonathan (Yonathan) and I stayed up till 10:30 discussing Jewish halakic (sp?) laws (clean and unclean).

My battery recharger is not working through the 220 adapter, so I'm not getting many photos, but here are a couple from our first days. And Oh my! They have been full! What with early morning digs, afternoon and evening lectures, and already one field trip, there's barely time to keep up with everything. We are thoroughly enjoying it, however.

They have assigned Vonnie and me to work in Area E where they have excavated for 8 previous seasons. We are digging down into what is called the Early Bronze period, at the same time as the pyramids were being built. So when we dig up the rim of a pot, as Vonnie did, we think about the fact that it has been buried for around 5,000 years! Before even Abraham! For "newbies" like us, that's impressive.

Our field trip took us to Samson's hometown. And to the town, Beth Shemesh, where the Ark of the Covenant came home, pulled by two cows, after destroying the Philistine idol of Dagon. Most impressive.

Well, I must run. God be with you all.

Monday, July 7, 2008

Dead Sea Float, Masada and Tel es-Safi

Hello to everybody! As the photos show, Vonnie and I have enjoyed floating on the dead sea and also visiting Masada, only twenty minutes away.

It is true, what they report, that it is almost impossible to sink in the Dead Sea. It is so dense with salts (not just table salt) that it's like wearing floaters all over one's body - or like wearing a wet suit without a lead-belt to counter the bouyancy.

It also surprised us by being so warm, and so softening to the skin. Vonnie described it as being in a giant hot-tub with bath salts. It was good to have fresh-water showers waiting by the sea shore and then to relax on the lounge chairs. Truly the most restful we've been on our trip.

The next morning we hired a driver, recommended by the hotel, to take us to Masada and Jerusalem. However, when he inquired further about where Kibbutz Revadim is, he offered to take us there instead of Jerusalem for only a little more money. So that's what we did.

We spent 2 hours at Masada, the Herodian palace fort used as a last-stand by the Jewish rebels of AD (CE) 68-73. A few hundred of the rebel soldiers held out with their families and other refugees for almost two years until Romans breached the walls. Rent the movie and get a Hollywood version. It is truly an astonishing place up on the high bluff. We took the gondola for speed instead of climbing the "Snake Path" that winds up to the gate. And then we went through their new museum. It was a wonderful presentation.

From there our driver took us back past our hotel at the Dead Sea, up into the Negev, past his Bedouin village where he has his estate. (Apparently a very nice property.) And then we went directly to Kibbutz Revdim.

We toured the dig last night and started cleaning our sites for excavation this morning. More on this later. But for now, know we are well and digging in (pun intended) to Israel.

Saturday, July 5, 2008

At the Dead Sea

Aqaba to Dead Sea, Israel

Happy Sabbath – and Happy 4th of July! By the time it gets this dark in the USA, the fireworks will be lighting the hearts of all who treasure our American freedoms. What a great privilege it is to live under a constitution that has made our country unique for over 232 years.

Tonight we are in the Tulip Inn, 150’ above the Dead Sea. We watched the sun linger on the high, desert bluffs above us, and on the mountains of Jordan that we visited a week ago. Then we joined all the families in the dinning room, many of whom were welcoming the Sabbath with special ceremonies.

As we ate a few more slices of fresh watermelon, Vonnie commented that at least we had watermelon on the 4th of July!

Our trip was blessed of God. Between sewing Vonnie’s hat back together, or trying (and failing) to repair the telescoping handle on my suitcase, we didn’t leave Aqaba until noon.

All the room cleaners in Jordan are male, and you’ll notice the young Egyptian who surprised us with towels folded up into swans and a heart after we came back from breakfast.

Our taxi driver took us to the border where we paid our exit tax, and then walked ourselves and our luggage across what felt like “no-man’s-land” to the Israeli border checks.

I should mention that our driver, upon discovering we were Americans, gave it his best shot at influencing our vote in the upcoming USA elections. His was a parting political comment echoing many in Jordan, saying the common people of all countries, including Israel, Palestine, Egypt and America could be friends, sit down and drink tea together. It’s just the kings of those countries that want to make war. (So very interesting to see how our nation’s leaders influence even the common people.)

When our passports were about to be stamped with an Israeli visa (free in Israel), I remembered to ask for a visa on a separate piece of paper. This way the doors remain open for us to visit Islamic nations in the future (?) whereas the Israeli visa in the passport guarantees hassles or rejection. Pastor David Cox, teaching in Amman from Union headquarters in Beirut, made it clear how hard it had been for him to do his work in Muslim countries with Israeli visas in his passport from years before.

When we finished processing at Israeli Customs, a new taxi driver took us first to a bank ATM for Israeli shekels, and then to the bus station. He told us he was afraid we wouldn’t be able to go to the Dead Sea by bus because it was the Preparation for the Sabbath and buses don’t run in the afternoon. It was almost 2:00 pm. By God’s grace we were on time! Barely! But we were able to jump on the last bus nevertheless. The bus was full, and most were headed to Jerusalem, but we got off by the hotels at the Dead Sea after a couple of hours going through the desert.

I must let Vonnie describe the driver who offered to take us to our hotel, only to be verbally confronted by the Israelis who recognized he was gouging us good. His response to them was classic!

Vonnie now:

Ole has turned this over to me to tell you a story that still has us chuckling. We had been riding the bus for several hours through the barren desert of the Negev when we came to the Dead Sea. Quite a little resort town has sprung up here by the water with Palm trees decorating the rows of hotels. We jumped off the bus, Ole pulled our luggage out of its belly, and it roared off.

Before we could blink, a taxi van drove up and its driver asked where we were going. “How much would it cost for you to drive us to the Tulip Inn?” Ole asked. “Thirty shekels,” the driver answered and started scooping up our luggage and throwing it into his taxi.

A beautiful young lady who was waiting at the bus stop stepped forward and asked, “Did he say ‘thirty shekels’?!” “I think so,” I answered. “How much should it be?” “Well, it’s only five minutes from here. I would think only five shekels!” she said loudly. And then all the people at the bus stop chimed in agreeing with her, expressing disgust that the taxi driver would cheat us so brazenly.

In between loads of luggage, the driver would hiss at them to be quiet and mind their own business, but they kept remonstrating with him to be fair with us. Suddenly the driver finished loading luggage and darted at the young girl saying, “Shut your mouth!” and then, with both hands motioning like jabbering mouths, he wove through the crowd, fingers in their faces, chanting, “Yip, yip, yip, yip, yip, yip, yip, yip, yip, yip, yip, yip, yip………..” until he had driven the young girl back to a seat on a bench and forced the others into silence. He pushed us into the taxi, leaped into the driver’s seat still yipping, and zoomed off. I noticed the people at the bus station were kind of grinning, so I guessed they weren’t too traumatized.

Finally, he was able to compose himself, catch his breath and explain, “Jewish people! Always have to talk, talk, talk, about how you should drive for free! Five shekels!!!! Let them do it for five shekels!! If you want to buy something from a Jewish person, the price will be high, but they want to buy from you for nothing!! They bring fifty people on a tour bus and want you to carry all their bags for free!!!!! For free!!!!! I say I will drive you. I will carry your bags, but if you don’t want to pay, carry them yourselves!!!!! “ And on and on he went, still fuming when he got to our hotel (truly only three minutes away.)

He grabbed our bags and had them all in the lobby before we could breathe twice. Suddenly, he was sweet as pie. If we should need a taxi to take us to Bethlehem, to Jerusalem, to Masada, etc., etc., …. here was his card. I asked him where he was from, and he said, “I am Bedouin. This is my land, my home.” He took our thirty shekels and drove off, and that was our introduction to Israel.


Well, Vonnie had to wake me up to finish this J. But it reminds me how impossible it would be to do this kind of log if we waited until the end of our three months. It’s hard enough day by day to put down a few vignettes!

Again, Shabbat Shalom, and Happy Independence Day.

PS Internet problems at the Tulip Inn must wait until Shabbat is over to be repaired. If you see this before Sunday, it is because we found an internet cafĂ© or some such. I’ll also take this opportunity to mention the night photo, again from our balcony. It was the clearest we have witnessed the Dead Sea area, and one can easily see the Jordanian lights on the far shore. If you enlarge the photo, you can also see the dim lights up in the Jordanian mountains. We don’t know which city this might be, but we may well have been there a few days ago. Perhaps it is Madaba, near Mt. Nebo, and we were there.

Vonnie and I had a wonderful worship service this morning in our room after breakfast. Isaiah 58 was our source text. In the paraphrase we used this morning, Peterson wrote in one spot, “Quit blaming the victims”. Now there’s a challenging command, especially in the context of the everlasting Arab/Israeli conflict, but also in our day to day lives.

Thursday, July 3, 2008

The Red Sea is BLUE

Get out your Bibles. Look up Ezion-geber. You'll find this is where Solomon launched his fleet to get the gold of Ophir. This is also where Jehoshaphat lost his fleet after a prophet told him he had made a wrong alliance. Ezion-geber is for all intents and purposes, Aqaba where we are! In two of the passages, it also lists Eloth (now Eilat, Israel, where we will go tomorrow.) And when the Israelites left Ezion-geber, they travelled through the wilderness of Zin, or Kadesh.

Well, it sure felt like we were traveling through some kind of wilderness on our way from Petra to Aqaba! Amazing formations in the distance and lots of trucks coming from the port. (I took some photos for Gaby.)

We extended our stay by one day so we could go snorkeling, and today was the day. As the pictures show, it is an amazing blue arm (gulf) of the Red Sea.

Yes, we both got in the water and both loved it. My mask didn't fit very comfortably, but in spite of looking like the great white whale, I enjoyed seeing the amazing schools of tiny fish. It was like swimming in a giant aquarium! And the coral formations were wonderful, too. One was a brilliant blue. With no underwater camera, you'll just have to believe me :-).

Just as much fun were the people on board our four hour cruise. One couple from Portugal, our age, were a delight. He spent 6 years at sea as an engineer and learned his English there. She stuck with Portuguese. Quite the travelers!

The rest of the group seemed to be from Israel, but were mostly Arabs / Palestinians instead of Jewish citizens. The young family in the last photo was from Nazareth and had driven to Aqaba in 5 hours. That's like driving to Tacoma from Milton-Freewater! Just shows how distances are different over here. They left 6-month-old twins at home with two grandmothers to care for them! Their mother is a special-ed teacher finding it really challenging to do her work at school AND have twins when she gets home in the evening.

The boat also had a glass bottom and took us over a sunken ship. Very intriguing. (Why do disasters fascinate us?)

One of the ship's crew pointed out a big Hilton Hotel on the far shore just on the Egyptian side of the Egypt/Israel border. And the mountains of Sinai extended on south.

One other story: Yesterday evening after a walk on the beach front, we spotted a barber and I decided to get my first sabbatical haircut. Vonnie returned to the room to try out the "sink and bathtub washing machine". My barber spoke little or no English but seemed to understand my wishes. However, he had one surprise for me. I watched curiously as he pulled off some thread from a spool and came toward my face. Suddenly he was uprooting extraneous hairs from my ears, around my eyebrows, between my eyebrows, and on my cheeks - defining my week-old beard. I still have no idea how he could use that thread to snag short, short hairs! I DO know that it HURT!

When an English speaking customer/friend saw that I was wincing (crying?) he asked if I wanted the barber to stop. I laughed and said No. He told me this is how they do it in Aqaba and I told him that I was in Aqaba to experience things I couldn't at home, so please continue. By the time it was over, we were all laughing. I asked him, How much? He said "Whatever you want" in the best English he could. I checked my understanding with the friend, and he confirmed that's what he meant. I have no clue how much it costs locally, so I gave him the equivalent of what I pay in Walla Walla. And Vonnie thought it was such a good job, both on the hair and the beard, that we stopped today and gave him another tip. He was all smiles, as were we.

Vonnie once again found us wonderful housing for Friday night and Sabbath. We'll be on the Israeli side of the Dead Sea. It took a LOT of work on her part to learn how to call to Israel from Jordan.

Oh, the "washing machine" seemed to work. We will start our next adventures with fresh clothes in the suitcases. (Where are the laundromats?)

Wednesday, July 2, 2008

Our week in Jordan plus tweezers

Vonnie’s Observations

Since I haven’t written for days, and I have so much to write, I thought I would break it up into little vignettes so that you could read one a day or something so you wouldn’t get bored:

Tweezers: Daddy says I should tell you about an incident that occurred as we were trying to board Royal Jordanian at Heathrow Airport in London. As we were approaching security, there was a preliminary checkpoint manned by two young Jordanian men. I asked for a zip-lock bag for a couple of tiny bottles of lotion that I had forgotten in my cosmetic bag. As I was fishing for the lotion, the young man grabbed my bag and looked through it. He pulled out my tweezers and with one swift motion, dropped them through a trap door at the end of his counter. I shrieked, “What have you done? Those are the best tweezers I ever had!! Take them out!!” He was so startled that he pulled them out and showed me how dreadfully sharp those tweezers were, slicing them across his neck to indicate that I could definitely decapitate someone with them. I snorted in derision, and he grinned kind of sheepishly, but dropped them back into his trap door insisting, “Very sharp, very sharp.” I screamed “Nooooooo!!!” and covered my face with my hands in horror and grief. He stared at me in bewilderment and confusion and opened his trap door and showed me the huge collection of scissors and nail clippers in his bin saying, “See, many in there.” “Take them out. Take them out,” I begged. “Those are the best tweezers I ever had!” So he fished them out again but only to explain to me that if he gave them back, I would only be arrested when I went through security with such a weapon. He was confiscating them for my own good. “Let me try,” I begged. “Please let me just try.” But he dropped them into his bin again and dismissed me with a firm, “I’m sorry. Not allowed!” But he hadn’t reckoned on the determination of a Scottish woman deprived of the most expensive tweezers she had ever bought! I marched over to the older man at the next checkpoint. He was dressed in a very impressive uniform and was enthroned on a platform that lifted him above the riff-raff he supervised. I pointed back at the young whippersnapper and cried, “He took my tweezers!” “What!” roared the big man, “Tweezers are allowed!” “Tweezers are allowed??” I repeated. “Yes, tweezers are allowed!” “Oh, thank you, thank you!” And back I went to the young man to report. So he opened his trap door, fished them out for the third time but told me that I must show the supervisor how dreadfully sharp these particular tweezers were. I promised I would, and I did, and he pronounced, “Allowed!” And that’s how I still have my tweezers.

Madaba: On Friday, June 27, our driver took us to Madaba, a village south of Amman.
The Bible talks about the plains of Madaba, and sure enough, the terrain opened up into fields of vegetables and grain and grazing goats and sheep. (I have been fascinated by the Bedouins—here pronounced Bed-ween’-- who pitch their tents throughout the city of Amman, herding their goats and camels along the sides of the freeways and streets. So picturesque. Here on the plains of Madaba, they were everywhere.) This was the area where the Moabites lived in the Bible – where Ruth left her family to follow Naomi back to Israel. We went to an ancient church where archeologists had recently uncovered a mosaic floor that had been plastered over. The mosaic told the story of Jesus’ baptism, and it had a map to the exact site on the Jordan River – so the traditional site has now been changed. The people of Madaba specialize in mosaic art even now, and we went to visit a government subsidized “factory” where handicapped women are employed to make beautiful mosaic art to sell to tourists. We couldn’t afford it, and anyway it would have been difficult to take home, but we were fascinated to watch the women at work, chipping stone into the tiniest pieces and gluing it in place temporarily with flour and water paste. When they had it perfect, they would use permanent cement.

As we drove through the village of Madaba, I was dazzled with the streets of the bazaar, thronged with people in native dress, shopping. I asked to stay there while Daddy and our driver went to the museum. Once again, I loved connecting with the women in their black robes and scarves (not burkas). I took lots of pictures of shoppers and shops (some with live chickens for sale, some with dead goats hanging by their heels, some with burlap bags of lentils and grain.) It was Friday, so at certain times, the loudspeakers on the tops of the mosques would broadcast the service complete with passionate sermons. I could catch a few words like “Ibrahim” and “Mujahidin”. The shoppers didn’t seem to be listening.

Mt. Nebo and the Baptismal site: From Madaba, we drove up, up, up to Mt. Nebo, where Moses was given a view of the promised land before he died and was buried by the angels. Of course, we believe God raised him and took him to heaven. As we neared the top of the mountain, I gasped as the land suddenly feel away from the side of the road, and I could see a terrifyingly barren wilderness. It was so hot, even on top of Mt. Nebo, that I could imagine how desperately the Israelites would need the shelter of God’s cloudy pillar. I was surprised that so many of the famous Bible sites (like this) are in Jordan rather than Israel, and the Muslim people revere them just as much as we Christians do. I struggled to grasp that I was standing right where Moses stood. The day was a bit hazy, but our driver said that on a clear day, a person could see all the way to the Mediterranean Sea at the farthest coast of Israel.

From Mt. Nebo, we drove down, down, down into the Jordan River Valley. Our driver had to stop at a checkpoint where soldiers asked to see our passports. Our driver explained that this area was so close to the Israeli border (the Jordan River is the border) that it was heavily guarded on both sides. We stopped at a little visitors’ center and waited in a souvenier shop for a “bus” to take us closer to the river. Our group consisted of a Polish couple with a little girl and two Russian young people traveling together through the middle east. The girl spoke excellent English and told us that they had only two dinar left and were hitchhiking back to Amman where they had a youth hostel reservation. After more checkpoints and soldiers, we stopped at a rock-lined trail bordered with olive trees on both sides. Our guide hurried us along the trail for half a mile or more until we arrived at a green stream about twenty feel wide. This was the traditional site of Jesus’ baptism for many years. We could look across to the West Bank of the Jordan, which, since 1967, has been Israel. After a few minutes, our guide hurried us on down the path to the corrected site. Suddenly a soldier appeared and escorted us to the site. We could look across and see guard towers on the Israeli side and a huge building the Israelis were building as a visitors’center. There was a huge stone baptismal font where we dipped our hands and anointed our faces with the cool water. Daddy went down to the river and dipped his feet in the water. Our young Russians jumped in and went swimming, and the soldier watched them like a hawk. After a few minutes, he said something to our guide who abruptly told us our time was up and we had to leave. I struggled to escape the current reality and travel back in time in my imagination so that I could immerse myself in the spiritual richness of being in the very spot where the dove landed on Jesus’ shoulder and the Voice from heaven affirmed Him as God’s beloved Son. It was difficult, but Daddy helped me by reminding me that when Jesus was baptized, there were Roman soldiers and ethnic stresses, too. We fished our Russian friends out of the Jordan, our guide relaxed, and we headed back to the bus. We asked Mustafa if we could give the Russians a ride back to Amman, and he agreed. We took them to a horribly rundown building in the old part of the city—a fascinating part. Mustafa stopped the car, and insisted that we try a Jordanian dessert – warm goat cheese with sugar and spices on top. Yummy! I think I wrote about that before.

Sabbath in Amman: Daddy was so passionately determined that we must go to church. I asked God to help me understand why it was so important to him, and I remembered that he had preached a sermon at the “shock and awe” beginning of the War on Iraq that tried to imagine what the pastor of the Baghdad Adventist Church would preach on the last Sabbath before the War. I suddenly realized that Daddy was hoping to find those Iraqi Adventist brothers and sisters who had suffered the terror of the US bombing. I think he has written about his very emotional meeting with the very pastor who preached that last sermon. Amazing! He is now the pastor of the little church in Amman where we attended. The service was very inspiring, given in English by a visiting Conference minister, and translated into Arabic by this young pastor. We were invited to a potluck at the “Care Home” that the church runs for needy women. Such delicious food! And I was able to visit with a wonderful Circasian woman (a Muslim) who was visiting the church with her Adventist stepdaughter who teaches in New York City but was visiting her Jordanian step-family for the first time. Her Jordanian father (husband of the Circasian woman) had died a year before when he was cleaning his rifle and it went off and killed him. Daddy has posted a photo of me visiting with the woman. She was in such grief over the loss of her husband who was like an angel in her eyes. They had been married for 15 years, and their two boys were with her, ten and twelve. She had such a beautiful spirit, was very well educated, and we talked and talked about religion and politics and families and roles, and we found ourselves true soul mates. Her step daughter was lovely, too. She had never seen her father since her parents divorced when she was about seven. Her father had begged for her to come, but her Puerto Rican mother had been afraid to let her go to Jordan – understandably. It seemed very tragic, but I could see true love and respect between step-mother and daughter that was bringing healing. I will never forget my visit.

In the afternoon, we went to the Citadel, an amazing hill in Amman where an entire city from Roman times and before has been unearthed by archaeologistgs. The Jordanian Museum of Antiquities is located there. It is so unassuming, quite simple and very run down, but filled with treasures like the Dead Sea Scrolls!!!!

After we wandered for hours, we walked to the entrance and were pleased to find a taxi and a driver who had his little four-year-old son with him. He agreed to take us to our hotel. The concierge at the hotel had told us not to let taxi drivers charge us any more than three dinars for a trip around the city. We had to argue with every one. This man offered too take us here and there for extra sightseeing, but we just wanted to go home. At our hotel, he asked for twenty dinars (about $30 US) We expressed our shock, but he said he had been sitting at the gate of the Citadel for an hour waiting for us, and so we needed to reimburse him for that time. Daddy convinced him that we hadn’t asked him to wait there for an hour, so he said, “But I have my baby. Please give me extra money for the sake of the baby.” So we gave him eight dinars, and he very grudgingly accepted it.

Petra: On Sunday morning, we checked out of our fabulous hotel in Amman, almost in tears thinking that we wouldn’t ever see these delightful people again. Mustafa had sent his nephew to drive us to Petra. He was a wonderful young man who is looking for a special wife. (He hopes to marry Zorah, and I promised to find out whether she is married or not.)

Along the way, he asked if we would like to visit a Bedouin man that he knew. We assured him we would. He took us to a cave high on a mountainside. The inside was beautifully furnished with gorgeous rugs hanging around the walls and on the floor, and beautiful brocade sofas lining the walls. A young boy made tea for us and invited us in. He brought an ancient wooden case from somewhere, and opened it to reveal an astonishing collection of antiquities that his Uncles had found in and around a nearby castle built by the Crusaders. We gasped at Roman coins and seals, Byzantine clay lamps and bronze knives – like things that we had seen at the museum the day before!! Suddenly his Uncle appeared, a fascinating man who was willing to sell these antiquities. Daddy was worried because he thought they belonged in a museum, but eventually he chose a few of his favorite pieces and purchased them. It was a scene from a movie or a dream. We could hardly believe we were really experiencing something so exotic. The Bedouin welcomed us so warmly. Such hospitality!

We arrived in Wadi Musa about two o’clock, unloaded luggage at our hotel and our driver took us down the hill to Petra. We bought tickets and started walking downhill toward the Siq, a crevasse that cuts through the brilliantly-colored sandstone mountains of the area. A people called the Nabataeans used the Siq as an entrance to a secret city they had carved out of the mountains on the other side. The Romans had discovered it and used it, and then it was used by subsequent populations. (Daddy has probably told you the history.) As we walked along, I was in awe – not so much by the sandstone carvings, although they were astonishing, but by the Bedouins. There were hundreds of young men with camels, donkeys, horses and fabulously decorated carriages offering transportation through the Siq and beyond. Such exotic sights!! Daddy has sent photos – only a few of zillions we took, and we could have taken zillions more. It’s a magical world. I kept trying to put into words my awe at God’s artistry. He used such color, texture and lighting to create scenes of breathtaking beauty wherever we looked. We walked for hours until we found an archaeological site manned by a team from Brown University. We were so fortunate to meet an older couple who had been heading up the dig since 1968. They said that nothing had been unearthed when they started, and the Bedouin were living in the many, many caves on the hillsides. There were no hotels or restaurants, only a few stone huts in Wadi Musa. They offered us a ride in their jeep, and we accepted only because I was getting a blister. Their offer disappointed several young Bedouin men who had been negotiating with us for transportation by donkey.

The next morning, we filled our water bottles at Moses’ Spring, across the street from our hotel. Many native people came to get water while we were there. This is known as the spring that came from the rock Moses struck with his rod at God’s command. Daddy has sent a photo of the rock. With our water (and wearing tennis shoes instead of sandles this time) we headed into the Siq again. This time, we were hoping to reach a fabulous carved building called The Monastery that required climbing 850 steps carved into the mountain. It was 8 kilometers from the gate. As I walked, all the Bedouin boys we had met the day before pressed us to ride their donkeys. They would take us all the way to the Monastery, even up the stone steps, for only 50 dinars apiece!!!!!! You can imagine my Scottish reaction!! I kept telling them I needed to walk because I was too fat. They kept using logic worthy of Teo to argue with me in the most charming way—insisting that I could never make it. They plead with Daddy to hire a donkey for me because he might make it but his wife could not possibly get more than halfway up. I told them all that I wanted to walk as far as I could, but maybe later I would be too tired to walk back, and then I would talk with them about a ride.

After an hour or two of walking, we reached the bottom of the 850 stairs. We made the awesome climb, and around every bend, there was another breathtaking view – including one area toward the top where we could easily have fallen into a horrifying crevasse with a drop of thousands of feet. (You must see Daddy’s photos.) We reached the Monastery at about 6 PM, as the sun was slanting its lovely low rays across the face of the rock. The shadows made the details of the ancient carving so beautifully clear. We were relaxing on sofas (yes!!) outside a Bedouin cave where one could purchase cold sodas. We were almost the only ones there. Daddy, crazy as he is, asked the young Bedouin man who lived there, whether it was possible to climb to the top of the Monastery itself!! I begged him not to be so foolhardy and presumptuous. He paid no attention to my wisdom, and the Bedouin was only too happy to guide him up the side of the mountain and onto the pinnacle of the Monastery itself! I kept the camera on him, and got some fabulous shots of his grand achievement. When they got down, the Bedouin man asked if we had been to the viewpoint. He guided us to another place where one could sit on the very edge of a ridge and see the entire Great Rift Valley below, Israel another way, and on the top of a nearby peak, a little house or shrine marking Haroun’s Tomb (Aaron’s Tomb.) Awesome!

Since the sun was nearly setting by now, we thought we should get started down the mountain so that we wouldn’t fall into the crevasse in the dark. About two-thirds of the way down, we met Mohammed, one of the Bedouin boys who had negotiated with us. He was so relieved and amazed to see that I had made it that far! “Hello, my friend!” he called, and pressed a lovely colored rock into my hand. “For you!” “Mohammed!” I said, “I can’t believe you waited for me!” “I told you I would carry you back to the gate,” he said. “Many people are waiting for you.” “They are?” I exclaimed in amazement. Another boy came close to me and whispered, “When you told many to wait for you, you make problem!!” As we came around a bend, I saw Mohammed’s donkey waiting, and then about six other boys and their donkeys appeared. They all began shouting and trying to convince me that their donkey was the first one I had promised to ride. The rest of the way down the stairs, we were trying to keep out of the way of boys and donkeys who were arguing with each other over whose donkey was best able to carry this fragile old lady. Fauzal and his supporters told me that if I rode Mohammed’s donkey, I would definitely fall off and break some part of myself like an Australian lady who had fallen off earlier in the day. Mohammed and his supporters shot back that if I fell off, all I would have to do was call the police. They were so adorable in their earnestness and businesslike logic that I couldn’t help laughing in delight. Daddy, though, was worried and took it more seriously. The rest of the way down, emissaries of one or the other of the boys would come alongside me and urge “Ride with Fauza. He is good man and has good donkey. You will have good ride.” Or “Ride with Mohammed. Fauzal is crazy boy. Very bad boy. You don’t want ride with him.” By the time we got to the bottom of the stairs, I did realize how serious it was, and I was sorry I had unwittingly “made problem.”
We tried to solve it by saying we wouldn’t ride anyone’s donkey. We would walk, but we would give each of them 5 dinars. They were shocked and insulted. “We don’t take money for no work.” Okay, then, Ole would ride Fauzal’s donkey and I would ride Mohammed’s, and they would each get ten dinars. Fauzal accepted the money, and he tried to give Mohammed 10 dinars, but with great dignity Mohammed explained that he did not believe in “Breaking Business”, and since I had chosen Fauzal, I would have to ride his donkeys along with my husband. Gravely he said “Nice to meet you”, bowed and turned away. I felt very sad that I had disappointed anyone, and I wasn’t in the mood to ride, so I strode off through the darkness with Daddy’s walking stick to steady me, and he rode with Fauzal on the two donkeys. Behind me, I heard Fauzal talking with Daddy about why I wouldn’t ride. “You know why she won’t ride?” Daddy asked him, thinking to explain my sadness and frustration at the dispute. “Because she doesn’t listen!” Fauzal answered with conviction. “Well, that, too,” Daddy agreed. I couldn’t help bursting out laughing. We said “Goodbye” to Fauzal at the entrance to the Siq. We walked through by the light of luminaries (candles placed in paper sacks weighted with sand.) It was awesome to look up at the sky showing between the stone walls and see brilliant stars outlining the Big Dipper! By the time we got back through the Siq and up the hill to the gate, we were exhausted. The gate attendant told us we had walked 16 kilometers – mostly uphill.

We are now in Aqaba, reading your mail, paying bills, doing laundry and catching up on our writing. We are ready now to head off to the Red Sea for snorkeling. We love you!

Tuesday, July 1, 2008

Tuesday morning, July 1, 2008, Vonnie read the story of Jesus’ entry into Jerusalem on the back of a donkey. I heard it very differently having just ridden a donkey the evening before in Petra. OK, I guess I’ll start with the beginning and the end of the story.

Through a combination of tiredness, a hot, hot day, a late brunch, shopping in the tourist shops, we finally reentered Petra around 3 pm, hoping the heat would not be a killer. We were still concerned for the young Jordanian soldier/policemen (I can’t yet tell the difference) who had a seizure right outside our hotel. Everyone speculated it was a heat injury and we didn’t want to join him in the hospital.

Once through the Siq (the long, narrow entry cleft) we were confronted with the Bedouin donkey and camel boys wanting us to use their animals for our day’s activities. By now they all knew us from the day before. And we had to make a decision: I proposed immediately finding the staircase up to the “Place of Sacrifice” and thus be done with all the ride-sellers. Vonnie had her heart set on “The Monestery”, also up many stairs (800 plus), but the boys had donkeys who could take us up there, so it was a constant refrain of “maybe later”.

Well, “Maybe later” was transformed by many into “Yes, I promise to ride your donkey later” and by the time we were half-way down the 800+ stairs, half a dozen boys were begging, urging, beseeching, cajoling, arguing, pushing each other, disparaging one another’s donkeys, etc. etc. in an effort to cash in on “Sir and Madam”.

Finally, I ended up on a donkey and Vonnie kept walking and one boy went home with much more cash than the ride was worth, for he was forced to turn back and let us proceed on foot through the night into the Siq. Why? Because Monday evenings are “Petra by Night” and those who pay for the entertainment walk in silence through the Siq lit by luminaries (candles in paper bags), no donkeys are allowed to leave fresh droppings. So, Vonnie and I walked out while those who paid walked in. It was an awesome experience in itself. At one spot, the Big Dipper appeared between the cliffs above us.

Well, back to Petra and the ancient ruins. We obviously decided to walk the 8 kilometers or so up to “The Monastery”. Past the entry temple, all the other rock-cut tombs, out past the colonnades and the temples unearthed by the couple from Brown University. Then we finally found the path that led towards the stairs. Sure enough, there were MANY stairs, some walking beside terrifying ravines, trail conversations using English, French and Arabic, and finally arriving at the top. Wow! The sun was at a wonderful angle. We found a place to sit down at the Bedouin refreshment stand and admire the view. When I spotted some stairs beside the tomb, I asked the young man in charge if I could climb up to the top. Vonnie didn’t like the thought at all! But he was more than willing to take me, plus two Italian young ladies, plus two Algerian men (who spoke the French) on up. As the photos show, we made it – and the guide, “spiderman” himself, shocked us all by making it to the very top of the spire! What a view!

The others stayed to watch the sunset from up there, while I descended to find the Bedouin Chief of Police remonstrating with our “guide” for taking us up there. (But not to severely.) The Chief invited Vonnie and me to walk a few more minutes to the overlook over the Great Rift Valley, where on a clear day, one can see both “Palestine” (no one speaks of Israel) and even the glint of the Mediterranean Sea. On the way they pointed out Aaron’s Tomb on top of a nearby peak, and although Vonnie stopped to rest her foot, I joined them briefly on the cliff-top. Again, Wow!

Thankfully, Vonnie’s foot seems to be strengthening and it is fine today.

Well, this morning, two exhausted travelers barely packed up and left our room by the checkout time of noon. We walked across the street to Moses’ Spring and filled our water bottles with water that has flowed since Moses struck the rock (or so local tradition tells). It is wonderful that this spring is totally un-commercialized. The water is free to everyone. Truly this is Freewater – in Jordan, not Oregon. After another brunch at the Red Cave, and some last purchases, we found our taxi driver to take us to Aqaba. He loaded us up, found a fellow driver to go with him, and off we went down to the Red Sea. Tonight we are safely in our room, now working in the lobby, and planning to get wet with some snorkeling tomorrow.

Israel’s Eilat is in plain view. The mountains of Egypt’s Sinai peninsula create the horizon, and the coast of Saudi Arabia is just a few miles south. Four countries use these waters, and as our driver said, “Things are very sensitive here.”

Well, we will leave Jordan the day after tomorrow with dozens of invitations to come back and bring our family and friends. Such friendly people.