Saladin has always been a historical person I haven been fascinated with. He isn’t talked about much, but ever since watching the movie Kingdom of Heaven; I became very fascinated with him. While visiting Jordan on my first solo travel trip we happened to visit Kerak castle, one of the few Crusader Castles left in the middle east. Saladin conquered this fortress, and after visiting – it made me all the more impressed by his strategy. There is a surprising bit of hidden history about this castle and the surrounding area that many do not know though.
The History of Kerak Castle
After World War I, Kerak was ruled by the British until the Emirate of Transjordan was established in 1921. It’s amazing that this castle and small town have been predominantly Christian since the crusades, even with the country’s majority Muslim religion. This is something I did not realize, although Jordan is ruled by the Islamic Laws, they allow Christians to practice their religion within the country as long as they don’t try and proselytize.
I also learned that wearing a hijab in Jordan is more of a cultural norm, even Christians wear a hijab. I have compared it to women – how when we wear our hair straight we are seen as well groomed, if it is frizzy we are looked at unkempt or too lazy to do our own hair.
If you stand at Kerak’s highest point, you can see what a strategic position it has, it is set on a hill with steep ramparts that I think would even make Jack and Jill sweat. No wonder it took Saladin 3 years before he was finally able to overthrow the crusaders who defended this castle for so long.
Be sure to see the classic Crusader architecture, with the Roman style vaults, long stone corridors. If you look at the upper levels of the castle and see the darker looking stone, these are from the Crusader period, while the whiter limestone is actually from the time of Saladin.
The most exciting part was the upper courtyard, where you can actually stand in and see a CRUSADER CHAPEL! With all the mysticism surrounding the Crusader period, due to Dan Brown’s famous Novels like Angels & Demons — it was so exciting to be standing in that spot.
The security guard, Mohammad, was trying to flirt with me down the halls of this castle. He attempted to scare me, and it worked, with the spooky flashlight under the chin trick. I screamed a little when in any other setting I would have hit him…hard. I think when you are in ancient ruins like this, everything seems more mysterious and creepy….especially the dungeons….that was too creepy to take a photo (and too dark).
Other Crusader Castles Nearby
Speaking of the Dead Sea, at the top of this castle, you can peer over the Mountains and actually see the Dead Sea. There are also several other Crusader Castles in Jordan you should really check out while you are there, this includes Montreal Castle, and Vaux Moise,. There is also Shoback castle with its secret tunnel 🙂 and also interestingly fell to Saladin a year after Kerak! I never got to see the last 4 castles mentioned, but there will definitely be on my list when I go back to Jordan.
Traveler Tip: Kerak castle is also a great stopping point on your way down to Petra & Wadi Rum.
So be sure to stop by Kerak, and experience a little of what it was like to be among the Crusaders, let your mind contemplate about what it was like to be confined to the cold stone castles & how much dedication it must have taken to stay there — which would have required a lot of devotion on my part to be confined to one place. Happy Travels, Happy Tales and see you on the Flip Side.
How To Get To Kerak Castle
To get to Kerak Castle it is 1 hour 46 minute drive, driving there is easy (except in the bigger towns) because the roads are pretty empty. If you enjoy driving on winding and narrow mountain roads its fine. The roads are fairly well maintained and tarmaced just be careful around mujib road to Karak from Madaba.
Any rental car office will have a rental car or a car with driver. You will have to check on your VISA requirements while in the country to see if a guide/tour guide/tourist police escort is required within the country– depending on the size of your group. Prices range from $30 without driver — to $100 with a driver (minimum starting prices depending on how good you can negotiate with them). Rental companies available in the area are: Budget, Reliable, Hertz, National, Europcar. There is a lot to see on the way there including the Dead Sea, Madaba, and Lot’s cave.
Best Time To Visit Kerak Crusader Castle
When considering visiting Jordan, especially Kerak and the Dead Sea, its best to go there in Early March/April or in Sept/November because it can get VERY hot, around 104-115F during summer months & there isn’t much shade/cover.
Reading Time: 7minutes A boy flying a Palestinian flag near Jewish Settlements[/caption]
Despite Palestinian’s being supported by forces of Syria, Egypt etc… By 1949 Israel forces controlled 70% of the land of Palestine & had pushed well past their borders established in the U.N. plan of 1947. When the 750,000 Palestinians who fled due to fighting tried to return to the now Israeli State, they were permanently barred by the Israeli government. The descendants of those refugees number around 7 million. Given the tensions, and the recent Genocide, I can see their point of view of wanting to be overly protective of their people. I also see the Palestinian view of frustration, because no matter where you are in this world, home is still home, and never being able to return would be very heart breaking. To this day there are millions of Palestinian refugees that have a very hard time finding decent jobs & many more still living in refugee camps in the Gaza strip, west bank, Lebanon and Jordan. The Jewish people needed a refuge from the storm of World War II & a safe place to be able to heal; but in giving them that, a large number of Palestinian refugees was created.
[caption id="attachment_3693" align="alignnone" width="4608"] Jewish Men praying at the Wailing Wall in Jerusalem[/caption]
As the Israeli state became more established, there was segregation, there were rights denied to Palestinians who had stayed — including privileged housing that is and was denied to them, but allowed for the Jewish people. This gave rise to the 6 day war, where Israel was able to seize the Golan Heights from Syria, the West Bank from Jordan, and the Sinai & Gaza strip from Egypt’s control; the Israeli State now controlled all of Israel, including the Holy Sites within Jerusalem.
Israel now was able to govern those Palestinians that they had fought for decades. Then in 1978, Egypt and Israel signed the Camp David Accords, and gave the Siani Peninsula back to Egypt. This was very controversial to many Arab states, but over time the other Arab states were able to come to peace with Israel even if they never formally signed a peace deal.
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The Gaza Strip and the West Bank were intended to be areas where Palestinians were allowed to live and raise their families. When I visited Israel, it seemed that the Palestinians were boxed in with barbed wire and from friends I have living there, the living conditions are not good at all. There is rationing of power, water, infrastructure and resources. While on the Israel side, the Jewish people have managed to turn it into a thriving Metropolis that attracts thousands of visitors and tourists every year.
The Palestinians were not happy with the Israeli rule, and the Israeli & Palestinian conflict ensued. The Palestinians began to fight back, including with acts of terrorism; backpack bombs, bombs in Maternity wards and buses– none of this was going to help with peace talks for either side. The Palestinians who were struggling against Israel wanted to end the Israeli occupation entirely. The fighting was very brutal, at one point Israel actually began to invade Lebanon (1982).
[caption id="attachment_4246" align="alignnone" width="3000"] Police fences were randomly placed throughout the city in Jerusalem for precaution[/caption]
Unfortunately, the State of Israel, has started putting Jewish settlements inside the Gaza strip, they partition those areas off, and when the Palestinians complain, they are hushed quietly but also forcefully at times (according to reports). Because they are backed by the Israeli army, they have allowed them to come into Palestinian sections and destroyed hundreds of homes, orchards and agricultural lands. If there is resistance by the Palestinians, they are punished with raids, arrests and assassinations. Some assume that this is an attempt to make life so hard for the Palestinians that they will be too afraid to resist, or they will just leave. Why would the Jewish people want to live in these areas at all? Some chose to move to these settlements for religious reasons, some for political reasons, and some… just because the housing was so much cheaper than the housing near all the Holy sites throughout Israel. By placing these settlements within the Palestinian occupied lands, it will make it much harder for the Palestinians to ever have a Palestinian state. Currently the settlers have been numbered above 700,000. In 1987-1999 was the first Intifada, or the first Palestinian uprising; the Israeli’s lost several hundred and the Palestinians over 1,000. About this same time that this was happening in the West Bank, Gaza created its own army called Hamas; a group of violent extremists that felt they were defending their ‘state’. By 1993 it was clear from the destruction and devastation on both sides, that a peace deal would need to be made. This is when the Oslo Accords was signed by leaders on both sides. This accord was suppose to be the first step in Israel withdrawing from Palestinian lands, and potentially allowing a Palestinian state. This was when the Palestinian authority was established and allowed Palestinians a little bit of authority to govern themselves in certain areas. Members of Hamas launched a series of bombings to try and sabotage the process. Because of this, the Israeli’s began to protest the peace talks, and called the Israeli Prime Minister of the time Hitler and a Nazi. After the 2nd round of the Oslo Accords was signed, the Prime Minister was then shot to death by a far right Israeli in Tel Aviv.
[caption id="attachment_4184" align="alignnone" width="4000"] An Israeli flag flight near the traditional site where Jesus Christ was believed to be Baptized[/caption]
By 2000-2005 with the failure of Camp David II summit, Palestinians began to give up hope for peace. The Palestinians rose up with the Second Intafada or uprising, and this one ended up being MUCH more violent than the first Intafada. This conflict produced 1,000 Israeli deaths, and 3,200 Palestinian deaths. This uprising change the tone of the conflict for Israeli’s, they became much more doubtful and skeptical that the Palestinians actually wanted peace, and not just their total destruction. This is when all the walls, checkpoints, and increased Israeli military presence came into Israel to not make peace, but manage the violence and protect its Jewish citizens.
[caption id="attachment_4185" align="alignnone" width="4000"] Barbed wire along the road to the Jordan River, where Jesus Christ was believed to be Baptized[/caption]
This left the Palestinians feeling that peace will never come, and are feeling the growth of an ever increasing Israeli occupation through the settlements. Israel ends up withdrawing from Gaza, Hamas then gains power, ends up splitting from the Palestinian authority rule in a short Civil war. This is when Israel places the Gaza strip under a massive & suffocating isolation, because of all the violence originating from the Gaza strip. Unemployment in the Gaza Strip rises up to 40%, and living conditions have deteriorated even further with nearly 1.8 million Palestinians living within a 25 mile by 7 mile wide area, and an estimated 1.1 million Palestinian refugees between the Gaza Strip and the West Bank.
[caption id="attachment_4216" align="aligncenter" width="704"] The Area of the Gaza Strip Compared to Los Angeles in the United States[/caption]
In the West Bank the Israeli government is still putting up settlements, and the Palestinians are getting increasingly frustrated by this… which then leads to violence and riots. Because of the continued and long history of war, and violence, most Israeli’s have become apathetic to the situation; and the government manages the conflict to the point that most Israeli’s don’t know about it. There are brief periods when the violent groups will rise up, and the deaths that occur from this violence are largely Palestinian (due to US backing of the Israeli Army).
So as you can see, on both sides, there are extremists that use Violence to derail peace. It is a thin line that both leaders must walk in order to make peace talks both happen and take effect without risking their own lives & keep the area relatively stable. Until BOTH sides are able to be at peace, and not seek for the opposing sides total destruction… peace will not happen, only relative stability.
[caption id="attachment_4194" align="aligncenter" width="488"] A flag and Menorah are proudly displayed atop an Israeli buidling[/caption]
The Israeli occupation on Palestinian lands (according previous accords signed), cannot peacefully last much longer. Whatever we see come next will be much worse, it is a struggle on both sides of each one wanting the other’s destruction.
I don’t know what the right answer is, and I have friends on both sides of this conflict. I have to be careful of what I call the land there. If I’m talking to my Jewish friends, it is ‘Israel’; if I’m talking to my Palestinian friends, then its ‘Israeli occupied Palestine’.
[caption id="attachment_4197" align="aligncenter" width="679"] Dome of the Rock in Israel a Sacred site to Muslims[/caption]
Now I feel I have a better understanding of why there is a need for the barricades, barbed wire etc…. on both sides. All in all, it just makes me sad. Its not just about religion, its about both sides wanting to protect their lands, people, and children. I do not personally feel the US should solely be involved in this, especially if they have something to gain through some export from Israel. I don’t really want to get into that political portion of this conflict.
All I can do is listen to both sides, encourage peace, pray for it & try not to ruffle anyone’s feathers by talking about my opinions on the matter.
Don’t let this conflict discourage you from visiting Israel though, it really is incredible to be a witness to thousands of years of history & see for yourself what Israel is today. Much love to both sides, and may God bring you both peace in this time of heartache and turmoil.
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**The purpose of ‘Ramadan Made Simple’ is to educate, not offend. To those who are of the Muslim faith, feel free to comment and help educate us all, and Rhamadan Kareem to you**
From all the movies I have watched of Muslims bombing Americans, treating women poorly & the mysterious secretive nature of the religion — to be honest I started to become afraid of Muslims & those who wore Hijab’s. So me, being who I am, set out to face my fears and educate myself on what the truth was. I don’t like to give into the mainstream media, and I’m not a ‘follow the crowd’ kind of personality.
As fate would have it, I started working for a Muslim doctor in Las Vegas, and ended up rubbing shoulder with his friends & colleagues who were also from the same religion. He was actually from Pakistan, and after 2 years of working for him & with a nurse who converted to the religion, I learned a lot & my perspective radically changed.
Bottom line, they are human beings, who find passion in their religion that gives them a sense of community – when many do not treat what they believe with much respect. No matter what religion you come from, there will always be the ‘few’, who skew the perspective of the ‘many’. Being a member of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints (aka: Mormon, as the public calls us- see LDS.org for more on this), we also have a problem with this aspect and many assuming we are part of the “Sister Wives” – which couldn’t be further from the truth. I think this is why I wanted to learn more, because I know how it feels to be misunderstood, and have people assume things about me that aren’t true.
Quiet frankly, it is hurtful & makes me feel more isolated when people don’t bother to ‘seek first to understand’ instead of just Ass-uming. So after several years of observing, learning, reading (yes, even read ‘The Koran for Dummies’ lol)
What I Learned About Rhamadan:
1- It Is Deeply Religious
It is a deeply religious time for them, which is celebrated as a family. And follows the Lunar Calendar, which means it is a few days earlier each year. This year it begins on 5/27/17
2- Preparation Is Extensive
Days of preparation happen beforehand, each country is different in what they prepare but typically involves special dishes rich in calories and electrolytes that help sustain them throughout the day. (Below is Harrira, a traditional soup made for Rhamadan that is a Tomato base with spices and is very very delicious)
3- Timed By The Sun
Rhamadan begins and ends with the phases of the Sun and coincides with their calls to prayer. The Morning prayer of Fajr (must eat & hydrate for the day BEFORE this prayer); and Maghrib (eat til you are sick, and celebrate the day with family & friends). For local times on call to prayer (for education, I found this App for Iphone and Samsung)
Fajr: it is a prayer & intention of the heart, you fast to show your obedience to Allah (God) and submit your will to his for your life.
4- Why is it required?
Rhamadan is one of the 5 pillars of Islam, or one of the 5 major lifetime commitments that they believe is required by God to be rewarded for in heaven. It is also the Lunar calendar month in which the Quran (their Holy Book) was revealed & in a way is a world-wide celebration for showing God how much the appreciate the direction it provided them.
Note: If you read about when their Prophet Mohammad was inspired to found this religion & belief system, it was in a time of a lot of turmoil – where women were sold, bought, killed. Pagan beliefs were rampant & it was a call to leave that aside and live life as a higher law and it ended up saving thousands of lives within the region because of its founding.
My Soap Box:
Whenever a life is saved, I am deeply grateful to whatever source helped to save it. Working in the medical field and seeing the frailty and emotional struggle with physical ailments; consoling those who have lost a loved one — it takes a lot out of me emotionally.
So realizing this bit of history, made me particularly grateful to their Prophet Mohammad for providing an avenue in which lives could be saved during its founding. While I know that their are lives lost in the current situation with terrorists and bombings, this is not the first time that lives have been lost in the name of religion. Christians have slaughtered those of the Jewish faith, Romans caught Christians and put them into gladiator pits and drug them behind chariots for sport and their are centuries of people doing this over and over and over….in the name of religion.
This does not diminish the pain or the loss experienced by those that have lost their lives in the battle against terrorism; it is a cruel, hateful & heart-breakingly evil thing that is happening in and to our world. But the best way to battle that, at least in my opinion, is by education, reaching across the isle and showing forgiveness, spreading understanding not spewing words of hate that further isolates us from our fellow human beings. History is going to keep repeating itself until we as the human race can stop labeling, self labeling, identifying others as ‘bad’ ‘wrong’ or ‘crazy’, just because they believe something different than us. #endofsoapbox
5- Practicing Discipline
They feel that abstaining from food is a way to practice discipline and restrain for the human desires of this life. Muslims believe (similar to Mormon beliefs) that the body is a vessel that was given to us by God to allow our spirits (or celestial bodies) come to Earth and be tested with all the associated trials that come with being human. (We are spiritual beings having an earthly experience, not the other way around). So in a way, it is their way of proving to God that they are focused on improving their spirituality & hope (if done correctly & with true intent of the heart) that he will accept their fast. In accepting their fast, they will be rewarded when their life is over. It is also a way for Muslims to appreciate all that God has given them, to feel what it is like to be hungry and thirsty all day; so as to soften their hearts to the hungry and sick. Which strengthens empathy, which in my opinion is something we definitely need more of in this world of ours.
6- Are There Exceptions During Rhamadan?
There are those who are exempt of course!
Children generally don’t participate until they hit puberty, but because most of them want to be ‘a grown-up’ they end up at least doing a meal or two with their family.
Those on menstrual cycles & women during childbirth
The elderly or those with health problems
My thoughts: totally reasonable, and glad there are exceptions honestly, and after researching it, these individuals have the option to just go and feed the poor one meal a day for each day of the fast to substitute for what they can’t do themselves.
7- There Are Six Things That Make Fasting Invalid
Intentional Eating or Drinking
If someone eats or drinks due to forgetfulness, a mistake, or coercion, then his fast is still valid and should continue to fast.
If you choose to eat or drink, for any reason, then your fast will become invalid.
My thought: reasonable, as a Mormon we fast once a month at the beginning of the week, with the same idea.
If one is overcome by the urge to vomit, and vomits unintentionally, then he should continue to fast.
My thought: well who would want to eat anyway if they are vomiting.
If someone chooses to vomit, for any reason, then his fast will become invalid.
My thought:if they are vomiting intentionally, well they likely need a lot more help and should get the reason for vomiting intentionally looked at (ie/ Binge and purging is a serious issue that should be addressed by a Psychologist and Nutritionist)
Intentional Sexual Intercourse
If one has sexual intercourse while fasting, then he must perform kaffaarah, expiation of the sin. (Fasting continuously for sixty days or if unable then one should feed sixty poor people).
My thought: women will love this idea, lol, but if you think about it, sex puts your mind into a dirty lustful place. So if the idea is to clear the mind and have it more in-line with the thoughts of God; well abstaining from sex is likely not the best thing to be doing during your Holy month.
Menstrual or Childbirth Bleeding
The fast becomes invalid during menstrual or post-childbirth bleeding. Even if such bleeding begins just before sunset, the fast of that day is invalid and the day must be made up at a later time.
My thought: this was a little irritating to me, mostly because I hate my menstrual cycle and don’t feel women should have to fast longer because they are on the cycle. But on the flip side of this thought, its likely better to not fast when you are on your menstrual cycle and just delay it, because you are likely to already be bitchy & then to add Hangry on top of that — well there would be no more Muslim men left if they had this deadly combination. Just my opinion, take it or leave it. Regarding Childbirth, I totally agree, no woman should be fasting when growing a human being in their belly; it would be harmful for the child.
8- The Three Day Festival Is Amazing
The Holy month of Rhamadan ends with a 3 day festival (massive amount of food and several parties) called Eid el-fatir. And who doesn’t love a party 😉 In the end I came to appreciate a small part of what makes up Islam and its people, and have learned so much from my friends who are part of this religion.
I haven’t met one Muslim yet who hasn’t been warm, kind, inviting, and patient with me and my questions (which at times I know were slightly rude and racist– my apologizes).
Taking Time To Understand
So as with anything in our lives, if you are afraid of it, seek first to understand — and in the end you will be able to make a very personal & educated decision on if those fears you had were founded or not. It is ok to disagree, it is ok to get angry at the attacks that are happening by these terrorists & protect your lives/livelihood and families; but its not ok to lump an entire religion into one package.
So my takeaway? Its a month of reflection, giving thanks, abstaining from our animalistic human natures & coming closer to our divine nature. Developing our spiritual selves, helping those that are less fortunate & remembering the history of how human kind was drastically changed by a book called the Quran.
I have tried the ‘give up something for lent’ & now after studying and reading all of this (ok and participating in some of the parties associated with this), I might just have to give it a try in my own way. Focusing on my spiritual side and realizing that I am a spiritual being having an earthly experience.
I hope that this article has been informative to those not of the Islamic faith, and I truly hope my Muslim friends feel I have given honest opinions in a way that has not offended them or what they believe, to you I say Rhamadan Murbarak & Rhamadan Kareem 🙂
Rhamadan Murbarak (Congratulations its Rhamadan, or congrats on the month of blessings for this month)
Rhamadan Kareem (Have a generous Rhamadan, or generous in the way of have generous blessings from God this month)
Reading Time: 9minutes Capernaum (Kfar Nahum) was established in 2nd century BC, it was strategically located on the main trade route between Damascus and Egypt. It was here where the Roman toll booth’s were, on the road or near the harbor that they collected taxes on your goods as you would go from one town to another. In the time that Jesus lived here, there were approximately 2,000-4,000 inhabitants of mostly fisherman, farmers, and merchants comprised of mostly conservative, devout Jews.
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There is very little Archaeological evidence to support that Gentiles lived in this town at that time. In Bethsaida there is much more archeological evidence that Romans and Gentile influence, a Roman garrison was actually stationed nearby. A Roman centurion actually paid for the synagogue built for the Jewish community. Peter’s house was actually in this same area, and over the years several worship houses were built on top of this, but virtually all were destroyed in the earthquake of 747 A.D. Peter’s house was not rediscovered again until the late 1800’s. The Franciscans acquired the ruins in 1894, and ultimately built a monastery and church over the site of Peter’s house. Peter’s house was actually pretty significant in Christianity, due to the fact that Peter’s house is commonly where Jesus would stay while he was in Capernaum as he did not hold or own a home of his own. Actually most of the miracles & hearings happened in Peter’s house, or rather Peter’s mother-in-law’s house (since it was tradition for people when they are married to live with their parents).
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Capernaum was a small Jewish community, so there was no need for reading and writing. This likely means that Peter was illiterate. Now think about what Jesus tells him, ‘through small and weak or humble things that the Lord can make them strong’. Interestingly enough, Matthew the Publican (or Tax collector is from Capernaum).
If you were to come into Capernaum the first thing that you would notice is the smell, it was a fishing village. There were fish that were dead or dying, women smoking the fish, children running in and out of the water, men mending nets and casting nets — so in essence it takes a village to catch enough fish to sustain it and its occupants. The fishing boats were usually out all day long, and Capernaum would have been a chaotic and active with this work. The houses were usually covered with boughs of palm leaves and mud for a type of stucco. (Remember this for when you read the story of the men breaking the roof to lower a man into it).
Lunch was in a little café by the side of the Sea of Galilee, where we had fish that was caught just like it would have been in Jesus time. It was a little hard for me to see the fish’s head and eat it and peel the skin off myself, but it was good because I was so hungry anyway.
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It was in Capernaum that Peter, James and John are asked to be fishers of men, where he teaches at the synagogue. There were many miracles that occurred here, so much so that you could call it “The City of Miracles” here is a list of Miracles that occurred in the town itself with corresponding scriptures.
Healing of Nobleman’s son (John 4:46-54), Calling of Andrew, Peter, James and John, miracle of catching fish (Matt 4:13-22; Luke 5:1-11), Savior’s family comes to visit (John 2:12), Teaching in the synagogue (Mark 1:21), Casting out unclean spirit (synagogue)(Luke 4:31-37), Healing Peter’s mother-in-law (right after casting out an unclean spirit)(Matt 8:14-17; Mark 1:29-31), Healing all manner of people (in Peter’s house, right after healing his mother-in-law)(Mark 1:32-34); Forgiving and healing of Paralytic (in Peter’s house?)(Mark 2:1-13; Matt 9); Calling of Matthew (Mark 2:14-17; Matt 9); Eats with publican (Matthew), Pharisees question him (Mark 2:16-22); Eats corn from fields nearby on Sabbath (Probably near Capernaum)(Mark 2:23-28; Luke 6:1-5); Heal’s a withered man’s hand (in synagogue)(prob Capernaum)(Mark 3:1-6; Luke 6:6-11); Taught by the sea side (Mark 3:7-9); Questions of fasting (Luke 5:33-39; Matt 9), Healing of Centurion’s Servant (Luke 7:1-10); Raising of Jairus daughter (who also happened to be a leader of a synagoge)(Matt 9:18-26; Mark 5:21-43); healing of two blind men (Matt 9); Casting out devils from a possessed and dumb man (Matt 9); Bread of Life Sermon (synagogue)(John 6:22-71); Paying trubute/catching fish with money in its mouth (Matt 17:24-27); Question about who is the greatest among the Apostles (Mark 9:33-37); Heading towards Capernaum when Savior walks on water (John 6:17-21); ?Healing of demonic boy? (Mark 9:14-27); ?Sending forth of teh 12? (Matt 10)
But I think my personal favorite was when Professor Brent L Top told us the historical significance behind healing the woman with the ‘issue of blood’ (Mark 5:25-34). The issue of blood was actually a term in that time that referred to Menorrhagia, and in this instance was from the time she was in puberty until now. Under the Law of Moses, a woman is ‘unclean during menstruation’– this means that she could not worship in the synagogue, she could marry or have children, be a wife, an have posterity…..but she can’t. People are thronging in the narrow streets of the city. As Jesus is walking through these narrow streets, everyone is touching him; and yet all the sudden he turns and asks “who touched me?” Why wouldn’t she just approach him like the rest? Because she is already a social outcast, and so she stays on the edges and then reaches out and touches the edge of his garment. It is important to note that in ancient times there is a hem along the bottom of the traditional garment that represents the Abrahamic covenant— this actually represented posterity & fertility. So for this outcast woman with the issue of blood to touch the hem of his garment, is actually quite significant. The fringes that come out from under the shirts of those Jewish people we see in modern time, those are actually reminders of the same thing, the Abrahamic covenants. So when she touches him, he immediately feels the ‘virtue’ leave him, but this word virtue actually means power, so he felt his ‘power’ leave him and turns to ask who touched him. So just the hope of the promise of touching the blue hem along the garment to partake and have children according to the Abrahamic covenant. All of us have hopes and dreams, the woman was hopeless because she would not have blessings and because of her faith, Jesus promises that those hopes and dreams be fulfilled.
This was very significant for me, I remember being very moved by this story. Not only did I have my own ‘issue of blood’ as a teenager, that luckily was corrected thanks to modern medicine. But I am now also 33 years old, have a great career, have dated a lot, but somehow it never ends up working out. I feel that my hopes and dreams are slipping away for my own dream of having children and a family. Most of my friends are now married, some divorced and remarried, I look at pictures of children on Facebook and it makes my heart ache ever so slightly. I try to push this feeling off as, ‘don’t be jealous’, but I also need to acknowlege that it is a real feeling, that the loss I am beginning to feel is real and not just based on jealousy. In my religious culture, the women get married VERY young, so being 33 now I’m sort of a misfit and in my own way, feel a little like an outcast as well. So I identify with this woman completely, on so many levels. If there was a way to heal some of the more painful things I have felt over the years, if there was some person that I could just be near that would erase all of that, I would do whatever I had to- to heal the broken heart and my fading dreams. Now I don’t want you to think that I am depressed and focusing my life on this, I have a wonderful career where I get to care for and heal people myself. I work in the Medical field and it brings a sense of fulfillment and healing when I can heal others physical ailments, its like a portion of my emotional ailments (aka fading dreams and broken heart) that are buried so deep are slowly being healed as well. I don’t know if I will get married or have children, I don’t know that ‘it will all work out’, I feel like slapping people who say ‘oh you still have time’ — one thing I do know is that I’m happy with where I’m at right now, I have dealt with these demons (aka heartaches) & know that God will shape my life in such a way that I will always be able to feel my soul is fulfilled in other ways. Even if the ways that he directs me to fulfill my soul are not the ways I would have thought or wished, I know he will take care of me & help me survive & flourish until the end of my days on Earth. Next we go to The Church of Primacy of Peter…. [gallery ids="1403,1401" type="square" columns="2"]
At this point in Peters life, he has been witness to the resurrection and all the miracles and the life of Jesus Christ. In my own way, I think of this as a great movie or tv series of sorts…. you get into the story, into the characters, and then all the sudden the funding for the series is cut. Or think about if they were opening a Disneyland or some other theme park near you, and you see it being built, the send out commercials on TV you are excited, your kids are excited — then the whole theme park is blown up or destroyed in an earthquake. Or you just built a house, your down payment is settled, and you have all your furniture bought and ready to move in; then find out your best friend betrayed you and took your matches and lit your house on fire. I think of Peter at this time, how he must have felt, the guilt of betraying Jesus, maybe feeling slightly unworthy to carry on the cause, maybe felt like it was all over now that Jesus was gone, maybe trying to lay low so that the Romans wouldn’t come for him next. So Peter ends up doing what he knows how to do best, he goes back to fishing….. While he is fishing, he is interrupted by a figure on the beach calling out to him, “children have you caught anything?” The stranger said to cast the net on the right side of the boat. This is the same sort of incidence and likely a deja vu moment for them & suddenly the recognized that this was no stranger, this was their Savior. Peter ends up leaping over the side of the boat, and swims to shore. Jesus then asks Peter, “Do you love me more than all of this? (meaning fishing)” Peter responds yes of course, and Jesus asks him 3 more times, and here we see Jesus in his mercy allow Peter to love him 3 times. In a way I think this was a tender mercy for him, in denying him when he needed his support the most, and now he allows him to love him 3 times — I like to think that this is the first time we see Jesus offer the Atonement for all this is had been and all that it will be, to one of his Best Friends and Disciples. Then Jesus asks him, why he is there? I imagine him saying to Peter, why are you here at the same place, at the same shore…fishing? If Jesus wanted fish, then he could get them. He is likely asking, ‘I need you to feed my sheep, I need dedicated Apostles, those who will labor/teach/love/serve loyally about me and my gospel’. He is asking Peter to go out, and nourish the souls of those who believe and continue to believe in him. Its about gathering his children. It is here that Jesus ‘calls’ Peter to lead his Church at that time and era; and Peter finally gets it, its about protecting and preaching– and for the rest of Peter’s life, we see that he is never the same after this event.
Next we go to Bet Shean…. This is a ‘house of security’, it dates back to 1468 B.C., what you see today began in 1986 — $20million was spent on this site to preserve it. Now it is the best preserved Roman and Byzantine period city in Israel. Interestingly only about 10% of the city has actually been excavated. Its sister city is Jerash, across the Jordan River. The population of this city rose to about 40,000. It was destroyed in the great earthquake of 747 A.D. Located on the fault line of the Great Rift Valley. Beth Shean has significance in both Old and New Testaments. It became known as Scythopolis, 18 archeological strata have been identified ranging from 4000 BC to 8th century AD.
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Old Testament Significance: The city was assigned to Manasseh (Josh 17:11), but the Israelities could not conquer it because of the iron chariots of the Canaanites (Josh 17:16; Judges 1:27). When Saul dies in the battle with the Philistines, they take his armor and puts it on display in the town’s temple of Ashtoreth and hung his headless body on the city wall (1 Sam 31:10-12).
New Testament Significance: Capital city (and largest) of the Decapolis–which included Damascus and Philadelphia (Amman). It was the only city of the Decapolis on western side of the Jordan River. It is mentioned three times in the New Testament (Matt 4:25; Mark 5:20; 7:31).
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I had misconceptions about those of the Islamic Religion – if I’m being honest. I was nervous to go to Jordan, I had heart horror stories about the people of Jordan and how men harassed women tirelessly. Yet, once I was there I learned more about their culture, way of life, and personalities – my opinion changed. Before I get ahead of myself though, let me start from the beginning.
Booking My Trip To Jordan
My first Solo travel was to Jordan in 2014. I had started to become very unhappy and burnt out being a Physician Assistant in Las Vegas. I was working 7 days a week 10-12 hours a day with every other weekend off. I didn’t feel like I was drained at the time, but I just felt like one of those workers on the assembly line that was treating patients and sending them home. The job started to lose its joy, I was fighting with my roommates all the time. And finally decided that life was too short to live so irritable and unhappy, so I started looking up cruises.
I have been on a cruise before and loved it, but came across this website called Cruise Lady, and this white haired bubbly looking lady popped up on my screen with a deal on a Land Tour through Jordan & a religious tour through Jerusalem. The wheels started to turn, and I ended up booking by just putting a down payment down first (I think it was around $300) and then calculated when they were going to leave (a year from the time I called), they gave me the option of paying into it like a bank account until the trip was payed for. There was a single supplement of around $500 for both Jordan and Israel, but it was worth it.
In the end I was able to get a ‘bunk mate’ and get that price decreased as well. Total for the trip, transportation, professional guide in Jordan, and a Professor with a Masters (or Doctorate) in Middle Eastern Studies, and the Cruise Lady herself and her Husband — was about $2,400 without my flight. So I put away around $200 a month towards the trip and saving for my airfare and was able to go on the trip. I used Delta, as it was easier for me to navigate their site, and I hadn’t had a good experience with American Airlines or Southwest Airlines; and I knew Delta partnered with Air France, which I haven’t had a bad experience with to date.
I have their Delta Skymiles program and wanted to get the perks with that too. I made the arrangements, made sure my flight was on time and timed it so that the flight arrived about the same time that the other members of our group arrived. I spent 28 hours in Airports…….and remember getting to Atlanta after a Red Eye flight & then couldn’t get into the gate because I had an 8 hour layover there from Dallas and they do not allow you to go through the gates, especially for international flights until 4 hours before the flight is suppose to take off.
I ended up sitting by the Wheelchair area—- in a wheelchair, put my sunglasses on and got my baby blanket I bring on every international flight, set my alarm for 4 hours and fell asleep. When I woke up and started going through Security again, I think I was stopped at every security place and asked to dismantle my carefully packed backpack (which was so heavy),
Traveler tip: don’t pack a bunch of wires into your backpack….apparently it looks bad on the luggage screening screen.
Interlude in France
The flight from Atlanta to France wasn’t terrible, I met a man from Chad whose brother was in France and he was meeting him to go to his mothers funeral in Chad. Such a sweet guy, he ended up helping me get onto the train in France to head into the city for an 6 hour tour of Paris.
Every step of the way I was helped onto the train, into the city center, and back onto the train. It was overwhelming doing that for the first time solo – but I did it. Getting there at 6am was exhausting but there is no better feeling than standing in front of Notre Dame with the entire square to myself….well and a bunch of Pigeons.
A taxi driver even took me around the entire city pointing things out, the major sites of the city. I tried to pay him, but he refused! He wouldn’t even take a tip! I tried to insist, and then just asked, “….but why?” — he gave a coy smile and said, “em…Welcome To Pariee”. This is the moment that I fell in love with the people of France and with traveling. It still makes me tear up a little thinking about how nice he was to me.
This was also my first lesson in not taking what other people say as truth. I had family members who had a much different experience while in France – and came with a cautious approach to the people there. Yet my personal experience was so vastly different, I learned very quickly to form my own opinion about certain travel spots.
Arriving in Amman – Meeting the People of Jordan
On arriving at the airport in Amman Jordan, I found my travel group, with our guide who was a white haired fireball of fun. She had all of our Visa’s to travel in the country and I have to admit that standing there in the airport seeing mostly men in the airport in their traditional headscarves and garb, made me feel a little out of place. I was glad that I had decided to join a guided tour in the end.
We arrived at the airport around 11pm Jordan time, and by that time I had been in airports for more than 28 hours. Our guide got us through the security, which was the heaviest I have ever seen in all the places I have traveled. We boarded a bus, and there was an armed cop who was our escort, which was different. We arrived at our hotel in Amman safely. I was so grateful to have my own room, I don’t think I even showered, but plopped onto my bed after lugging the luggage up the stairs, and fell right to asleep. I may have cried a little before actually falling asleep because of sheer fatigue.
The first thing to mention is our security guard, it was my mistake that I didn’t notice how gorgeous he was in the beginning. His name is Mohammad, like several other million people in this world, I found out later that this is not his full name, but a name he uses in public.
It is interesting how they name their children in Jordan, they are given a first name, then take on their fathers name as a middle name, and their grandfather’s name as a last name or additional middle name. I took the picture of him & his blue eyes with his dark hair outside the Hippodrome in Jordan. He was very quiet and reserved and polite man, with a cute little crooked smile. He was embarrassed to have me take his photo, but I’m glad I did in the end. He told me later, he was uncomfortable because the police are not suppose to allow foreigners to take their photos while in uniform, and his commanding officer had been talking to him at the time…..Oops……
Public Space Interaction
While our guide told us about the Hippodrome and its history of Rome, chariots, and jousting games. I soon became distracted with the little boys and girls that were running amuck throughout the area, apparently a school outing.
I had always had this skewed view of Muslims that soon began to change the more I interacted with them and observed them. The girls there were fixing their head scarves, giggling to each other, glancing at the boys and giggling, take selfies, texting on their phone…..just as I had done when I was a child. The boys were totally oblivious of the girls, leaping and jumping over the ancient stones, and ruins that lay strewn about, jabbering in Arabic, and what I assume were heated discussions about Barcelona’s latest soccer match.
I enjoyed seeing the ruins here, they were not fenced off like those in Rome and the natural beauty of the wild flowers, wandering goats and the beautiful sunshine likely contributed to my complete enjoyment of the grounds. I think having these things so closely integrated to something with so much history allowed my mind to wander and realize I was standing among things that were bigger than I was.
Our Next day was in Petra, I was so close to riding my Camel and seeing one of the Seven Wonders of the World I could hardly sleep the night before. We took a bus to Petra (which is actually the city, not the name of the tombs themselves) and stayed at a Bedouin camp. In my mind camp always means tents, no running water, and in particular a camp in Jordan I assumed I would be getting a total body sand scrub down by morning. But to my surprise, we pulled up to very modern looking buildings with a gym and everything…..can I say happiness?
My room was lovely, it was a little cooler in the evenings than I expected, and despite how long I let the water run I couldn’t seem to get it to a warm level. But I was in Petra, and realized I was fulfilling my dreams, and for the first time I felt proud of the person I had become and for overcoming the fear of coming to Jordan. I put a sweater on and walked out to the courtyard after failing miserably trying to take a hot shower. I sat there looking at the stars, and appreciated the sounds of running water and livestock making their bleats and bahhh’s as they settled in for the night.
Now visiting Petra was such an experience. We arrived at the gate, paid our dues, and one of the uniformed guards asked me if I was single….. ‘ummmmmm, YEAH!’….I thought in my head, as I giggled and kept walking, he came after me and was polite but relentless, and he said, “I will give you 1,000 camels if you would agree to marry me. I am being very serious”. At first I thought it was a joke, and I was thinking, ‘how is it that when I travel I get hit on by every male I find attractive, but at home I am plagued with thoughts of insecurities and self deprecating thoughts because I don’t look as good as the next girl’.
It was nice to play coy and be embarrassed by all the attention……little did I know, that was just the beginning of the marriage proposals I would get that day. American women, especially in Petra are known for their, ahem, loose morals……so consider yourself warned.
The Treasury of Petra
As we walked through the canyon towards the Treasury, I couldn’t help but giggle to myself. I was walking through sandstone canyons with beautiful colors & hundreds of tourists…..just like Las Vegas…..where I was living at the time. So basically I just traveled 7,457 miles and paid hundreds of dollars to come back to something that looked exactly like Las Vegas. We learned about all the history of the canyons, how they were used to trap armies and enemies in their walls. The treasury which was built and guarded by the Nabataens, who worshiped Gods, Goddesses and animals. Well I had no clue who the Nabateans were, and I will be quick to assume my readers don’t either. Well according to Wikipedia, lets educate ourselves:
were an Arab people who inhabited northern Arabia and the Southern Levant, and whose settlements, most prominently the assumed capital city of Raqmu, now called Petra, in CE 37 – c. 100, gave the name of Nabatene to the borderland between Arabia and Syria, from the Euphrates to the Red Sea. Their loosely controlled trading network, which centered on strings of oases that they controlled, where agriculture was intensively practiced in limited areas, and on the routes that linked them, had no securely defined boundaries in the surrounding desert. Trajan conquered the Nabataean kingdom, annexing it to the Roman Empire, where their individual culture, easily identified by their characteristic finely potted painted ceramics, was adopted into the larger Greco-Roman culture. They were later converted to Christianity.
So there you have it…. Now onto the treasury, the jewel of the area….. and where I met my favorite little Arab girl. I swear she was the best sales lady, and couldn’t have been more than 12. I felt like I was being hounded by the little children in Mexico selling the gum packets again, except this time, she was selling handmade jewelry.
The jewelry pieces were small polished colored rocks held together by string used to sew clothing together. She made sure to show me how the rocks reflected in the light, and said over and over how she would give me a good deal like any other. I couldn’t believe how good her English was. Our guide said that most of the Bedouin children and people in the area knew several different languages because that is how they make their money.
I feel like this little saleswoman, could smell that I was a person that loves unique jewelry. Well I got suckered in and thought she did such a good job selling it & telling me I needed to appreciate the high points of the pieces that I ended up paying her double of what she was asking.
The Girl and the Scarf
She was so excited that she told me how beautiful I was, and that if I was going to wear a scarf I should wear it on my head, and she proceeded to tie the scarf on my head like the traditional Bedoin and Jordanians do.
Apparently everyone ties it on their head differently, and people can tell where each person is from by how they tie the scarf on their head. Well the other members of our group when crazy with pictures, I felt like I was stealing the glory of the Treasury away by interacting with this girl. She showed me and 1 other member of the group around the immediate area and even brushed off my butt and legs after I crawled into a grave (totally legal there by the way, and it ended up being a lot creepier than I anticipated). She then had to go back to work, and said she needed to make more money that day to help feed her family. So I asked her for a hug, I gave her a big hug, and didn’t even mind her musty tobacco scent. I wanted to take her home with me, but I suppose that is the woman instinct to want to protect children like that from the hardships of life.
Tips for Visiting the Treasury
Just a piece of information for my readers, when you see the Treasury poking through the cracks of the Canyon…..the whole journey becomes worth it. Learning that it isn’t actually a building, but a tomb, that has been blocked off in a way that you aren’t allowed to go into it any longer to preserve it. You can trek up to other tombs and look inside them. Honestly, we only had about 6 hours here, its hot, but there is a store at the bottom with water and snacks and they sell a lot of souvenirs of course. Lots of calendars and photos.
Be careful of the camera man by the treasury. If you are American they will literally lure you into an area by the treasury that is slightly secluded and when asked how much will expect a kiss…… NOT saying that I actually did, just warning you…..The Jordanian men are not exactly versed in kissing, and the Bedoin men have very prominent musty smells and I question that their hygiene is regularly practiced.
Riding My Camel
After my extremely brief and uncomfortable interlude with the camera man, I ended up paying for a camel, make sure to bargain this price & try walking away before you agree completely on something…..they always end up coming down on the price. Well I got on my camel and it felt pretty stable and secure while it was on the ground, but when it was prompted to stand up, I felt like I was back on the mechanical bull in Las Vegas again trying to stay on.
TIP: LEAN BACK WHEN IT STANDS UP & PUT YOUR LEGS ON ITS NECK BEFORE IT DOES TO HELP STABILIZE YOU.
Camels don’t taste that great, and be sure the Bedoin men are watching your every move. If he asks if you want to jog with the camel…..don’t……this will get you comments such as, “hey you wanna ride me like you ride that camel?” Which made me blush about 14 shades of Red, and wished I was fending off the policeman with the 1,000 camels instead.
I ended my camel ride, and explored a little bit walking the ruins and such. It was hot and humid, and noticed our tourist guard over in the snack tent and decided to go and chat for a bit. He couldn’t stop smiling every time I came near him. I showed him pictures of Las Vegas and couldn’t believe how similar it was. I could tell when I walked up and after talking to him, he was a bit smitten with me….he ended up taking a picture of me, and just kept sighing saying how beautiful I was in my scarf. After being embarrassed by this, I told him I wanted to go explore some more. After exploring a bit more, the group met up again, and started the long walk back up to the gates.
May I make a suggestion…..hire a donkey to go back up…..walking through sand uphill for what seemed like 3 hours in hot, humid, body baking weather is not as fun as it seems when you still have to stay upright for the rest of the day. I’m not a super athlete, but could fend for myself in a soccer match, and let me tell you it was not just rough, but RUFF. I also really envied the other ladies I saw riding up the canyon in their chariots, especially with the beautiful Bedoin man with piercing green eyes, dark skin, lightly curly black hair with his whip……alright, less I digress…..bottom line……take the chariot, its worth the cost.
The People of Jordan – And Their Men
Last but not least, was the travel along the King’s Road and my departure. My Arab crush Mohammad, told me that he had gotten me a gift, and asked if it was ok if he gave it to me….OF COURSE! He walked down the bus (my claimed seat was in the back) and pulled out a green checkered scarf with tassels.
He gave it to me and was so embarrassed, when the other members of our group oooohhh, cawed and awwweeed at him singling me out. He then gained some courage and asked if he could wrap it around my head. I consented, and then he wrapped it around my head with his fingers shaking and I think if his smile got any bigger it would have cracked his face wide open.
I was so embarrassed by all the cat calling echoing in the bus that I didn’t even thank him properly & for the first time in my life was tongue tied. Well the bus started up, and we headed to the crossing into Israel…..a very precarious area that we were warned MULTIPLE times to not make ANY jokes, don’t make eye contact, and don’t speak when the guard entered the bus.
This was also a point I was grateful to be in a group, and it forced me to sober up & start to regret not saying anything to Mohammad about how grateful I was for the gift, because I felt like I would never see him again, and it made me sad. Well, as we approached the border, I sneaked some shots of it, and the guard on our bus before he got to the back to interrogate us.
An Issue At The Border
I kept my eyes down until he asked for my papers, and he looked at me, and without looking at my papers said, “where did you get that” pointing to my scarf Mohammad had just wrapped around my head. I’m glad I was sitting down at the time, because I probably would have fainted. I told him it was a gift, and he asked from whom, I told him, “Mohammad” which doesn’t exactly narrow it down in that country. He asked what he did, I told him he was our Policeman that had been with us during the trip. The couple across the isle tried to defend me, but he didn’t seem to have it. He handed my papers back to me, and headed down the isle. He said, just a moment to me, and came back on the bus, everyone tense and waiting……with a colleague….the original policeman was talking rapidly in Arabic, and his friend asked the same questions.
They both turned, and after waiting for 20 minutes, and our guide got back on the bus, fuming mad, and said that the bus had to turn back around and go back to the transfer station (where we had left Mohammad). I felt bad because I thought it was my fault with my stupid twitterpation and scarf. We took the long winding road back to the transfer station, and it ended up being that the papers didn’t have exactly the correct stamps or whatever on them, so that’s why we were turned around.
Phew…..well now that I felt less guilty, here was my chance, I went into the Police holding area at the transfer station, and asked for Mohammad the Tourist Policeman. Went back to the bus and there was our guide (the local Arab one) and he was standing next to…..drumroll…..Mohammad. And what do you know, our guide handed me a piece of paper with Mohammad’s email and facebook address on it. I gave our guide and Mohammad a tip, and felt my magical moment was completed. But after a quick trip to the bathroom (where they charge you for toilet paper, so make sure you bring change) other guards and bus drivers noticed my scarf.
One of them complimented me on it, and said, “Are you staying in Jordan?” which I responded no, and why….. and he said, “well you know what that means don’t you?” …”no”…..”it means he has claimed you as his, and wants to marry you”. I was shocked, and embarrassed and quickly went to the bus.
Leaving Jordan to Israel
In the end, we ended up getting into Israel, and across the barbed wire, multi-walled border full of tensions. Having my sentimental gold ring stolen by one of the Israeli soldiers there, being singled out because of the scarf on my head, patted down in a makeshift changing room, held in the Jordanian side until the supervisor gave the go ahead for me to cross….we made it. In a post script thought, I later learned that the scarf really had no meaning attached to it, other than a nice gift.
After becoming friends with Mohammad, and my interactions with other Jordanian men since then…..one thing I know now…..Jordanian Arabs like to talk shit, scare foreigners and love the American ladies (mostly because they come with passports and green cards. And dancing in a Jordanian wedding will involve the Debka (a dance aimed to kill you from how crazy the dancing gets– see Youtube videos) and shooting hundreds of guns into the air which has since become illegal after some people were inadvertently killed.
My Final Opinion on the People of Jordan
All in all I love Jordanian people, their passion for life, their unfailing resiliency, their romance (even if it is only in words alone), and the rich history their country possess. I hope I will get to go back and meet old friends, and explore Petra again. I wouldn’t suggest doing this trip completely alone, as the men are pretty aggressive, but traveling in a tour group was by far the best experience I could have had.