Some completely unexpected joys today, from the typos at breakfast in the Holiday Inn (see photograph below), to a visit to Bethany beyond the Jordan, the reputed site of Jesus’s baptism, where I saw a heron snaking its way through remnant marshes, and then Mount Nebo – where Moses is meant to have seen the Promised Land before dying, knowing he would never find his own way there.
We also saw the sites of historical places with deep historic resonance, among them Jericho and Moab. After the surrounding semi-desert, the sight of the oasis around the Bethany beyond the Jordan site was profoundly refreshing, though the scale of the irrigation was indicative of the pressures that are increasingly strangling the Jordan River.
The smell as you entered the site was a strange mixture of water, damp soil, disturbed earth and cement. Perhaps it had to do, too, with the current haze. Certainly the air smelled thicker. But the closer you got to the river, the fresher the air seemed.
I was profoundly moved by seeing the river, though I can’t help but see the Abrahamic religions as complicit in the destruction of nature. The sense that the only worthwhile destination for human life was some version of the afterworld or Heaven radically undervalues our living planet – with implications that are only too clear.
Meanwhile, the levels of plastic in the environment here beggar belief. As we approached Madaba there was one open waste tipping site that was spreading plastic debris across the mountains all around.
More positively, we visited a social enterprise backed by the Queen Noor Foundation where they produce mosaic versions of everything from the Tree of Life to images more reminiscent of Andy Warhol on a bad day. Lovely, dedicated people. And the history of mosaic-maing in the region is impressive, including the 6th century mosaic map of Jerusalem and the Holiday Land, which we saw in the small church of St George.