Into the Desert, past Quruntal and Qumran

Trip Start Mar 31, 2010
Trip End Apr 10, 2010

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Flag of Palestinian Territory  , West Bank,
Sunday, April 4, 2010

From Nazareth we take the 2 1/2-hour bus trip south to Jerusalem, stopping for lunch along the way in the desert area of Qumran.  We travel following the Jordan river, so all along we can see the river and the Jordan mountains across the border between Israel and Jordan.  We also observe how the landscape begins to grow less green and more arid as we enter the desert region.  Still, the waters of the Jordan irrigate many date palm plantations in the area.  To our left we see the Jordan Valley; to our right, the Desert of Judea.

The drive really doesn't feel that long. We pray the Rosary along the way.  The kids "own" the back of the bus. They chill, sleep, listen to music.  Some of us adults doze off, some use the time to catch up on our journaling. We get there in no time.  Shortly before we get to Qumran, we pass the city of Jericho and the Mount of Temptation or Quruntal, the desert area where Jesus was believed to have been tempted by the devil.  These desert mountains are full of caves and sinkholes. We will not visit Jericho, because it is on the West Bank, and the guide and driver are not allowed into the Palestinian territories because they are Jewish. 

After lunch we go to a lookout point (my guess is by Alon, near Kfar Adumim) found up a side road from the main road, where we get off the bus and trek up a wind-swept dirt path dotted with Bedouins offering trinkets and camel rides. When we reach the top, the sight is unparalleled: facing north, we see the vast expanse of the Judean Desert, high over the old road from Jericho to Jerusalem down in the ravine, where the parable of the Good Samaritan (Lk 10:25-37) unfolds.  The panorama is too broad to fit in a camera.  There is a place to sit and listen to the guide; the Bedouin folk and the camel sit and listen in, too. We are then told to to go find a spot where we can sit alone and in silence to contemplate the desert. I dash off on the ridge, find a comfy rock, and pick some tiny desert wildflowers.Though I thought I had seen enough desert for the last 2 hours, this place just takes my breath away. It has enamored me.  The prophets, John the Baptist, Jesus, and countless holy men have been drawn into the desert and sought its solitude to find God.  Now I understand why. This is not a harsh and hostile place, but something open, immense, tranquil, ....and silent.  The silence...  It fills your ears.  It strikes you like the wind and overpowers you. You are unexpectedly thrust into an encounter with God, whether you are looking for it or not. I am reminded of Hosea 2:16 and 22:

    "So I will allure her; I will lead her into the desert and speak to her heart."
    "I will espouse you in fidelity, and you shall know the LORD."

There is Life in the desert.

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