The day began at the ungodly hour of 4:30a.m., because we had a 5 a.m., bus ride from Jerusalem up to Jericho. It was dark and we were barely awake, but arrived just as the sun was rising. We walked an uphill path that brought us to the ledge of the Valley of Darkness. We read Psalm 23 and the Story of the Good Samaritan as we looked out over the valley that figures so prominently in these pieces of scripture.
We had morning Eucharist on the mountainside just after the sun came up. We took in the breathtaking views and paused to reflect. While there we bought items from a Bedouin family.
From there we drove into Jericho and stopped to look at a sycamore tree. We read the story of Zacchaeus, who climbed a sycamore tree in Jericho because he was shorter than the others gathered to hear Jesus.
Next we took a tram ride up the side of the mountain, and then walked a steep stone path, to reach the fourth century monastery Monastery of Saint George that is built into the mountain believed to be the site of the temptation of Jesus.
In the afternoon we had to stop at an Israeli checkpoint to continue on to Nazareth. This ancient city was the home to Mary, the Mother of Jesus, and the place where Christians believe the Angel Gabriel appeared to Mary. It is also the place of Jesus’ boyhood. Many of the mosaics and icons at a Greek Orthodox Church depicted Mary encountering Gabriel at a well while she was fetching water. At the Church of Annunciation we saw the stone ruins that are believed to be the home of the holy family.
After that, we visited the Basilica of the Annunciation, which is entirely dedicated to icons of Mary from around the globe. While there, we were pleasantly surprised when the pipe organ started playing, “Here comes the bride,” and a wedding procession began.