Last night was our first in the amazing Old City of Jerusalem where we are staying at the Christ Church Guesthouse. On top of the normal challenge of trying to sleep when your body's clock is set ten hours earlier, there was all kinds of commotion outside our windows in the wee hours of the night. At breakfast this morning we found out that the city gates had been shut down, preventing anyone from entering or leaving the Old City as a security measure in light of the huge crowds of Orthodox Christian pilgrims expected to converge on the Church of the Holy Sepulcher for the annual Easter Eve Service of Holy Fire. You just never know what adventures are going to confront you in this unique city!
Pam,. Luke, Taylor and I, along with our new friend from Australia, Malcolm Potts, managed to convince the officials to let us out of the city and we headed north to Nazareth by way of Jericho and the Jordan Valley. We visited two new promising sites for the group to experience later in the trip .
The first was Nazareth Village, an archaeologically accurate reconstruction of a first century village the way it would have looked and functioned in the time of Jesus. It was great and will be a nice add to our trip plans. We also found a lovely park at the top of Mount Precipice, a commemoration of the cliff where the Nazarenes tried to throw Jesus to his death. It offers beautiful views of the Jezreel Valley and will be a great place to eat lunch.
We decided to make our way back to Jerusalem using the western route which follows the ancient Via Maris, the major trade route that connected Egypt and the Middle East via a coastal highway. It was a beautiful drive and got us back just about the time the city gates were being opened up again. We were delighted to welcome six more of our group members who joined us for dinner and a stroll around the Old City. Things are still exciting here as people are gearing up to celebrate Orthodox Easter tomorrow. We are tired from the jet lag and lack of sleep so hope to do some catching up tonight. The five of us will be heading out again on another scouting run tomorrow before the trip begins officially at dinner time. I will report more of our adventures when we get back ...