Thursday, April 17, 2008

Journey to the Jordan 3: The Ruins of Beit HaArava

After the Six Day War, the soldiers began making makeshift memorials to those who died in defense of the kibbutz back in 1948. Eventually, the bodies were found in a collective grave, and a small memorial was built to the fallen.

In the distance, a group of John Hagee Christian tourists at the graves of the fallen.

Some of our tour group at the sign pointing to the grave.

The grave stone.

The soldiers were a bit unhappy about being distracted from their normal soldiering routine to cater to a bunch of tourists and cleared us out after a few minutes.

"Eeeh okay. Please to get on the bus now!"

Actually, there's one more point of interest in the above photo. That small tuft of trees directly over the head of the soldier who is to the left is Beit Hoglah, a small outpost where Machon Meir guys volunteer and where I spent a shabbat once.

Our next stop was about five kilometers to the north. For Christians, this is the spot where their religion's Jewish founder took a dunk in the Jordan river, so it's surrounded with Christian monuments. Across the river is the Hashemite Kingdom of Jordan, which has poured money into renovating these memorial spots, to give tourism a boost.

This spot had special meaning for the John Haigee group (at the water's edge.)

In fact, this is approximately the location of the crossing of the Jordan river from Har Nevo (Mount Nebo) on the east side to Gilgal in the west. In fact, unlike at the Sea of Reeds (Red Sea,) in this case, the entirem nation crossed over all at once. Unlike other Tanachic references to Beit HaArava and Yericho as specific locations, the Jewish encampment under Yehoshua at Gilgal is a reference to a large area, which it would have to be to hold the entire nation of Israel, at that time numbering approximately 2.5 million including women and children.

The Jordan river, placid and wide. Relatively wide.

Yours truly in front of the Jordan.

Unlike the crossing of the Yam Suf (Red Sea) the miraculous crossing of the Jordan River did not involve a split, but the water in the Jordan reversed course and exposed dry land for a significant section of the river's length. The Kohanim (priests) entered the river first, at which point the river turned back, and all of Israel passed over. Each tribe took with them one stone from the bottom of the Jordan river, making a pile of twelve stones as a monument to their crossing at the encampment of Gilgal.

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