The guidebook clearly states that this site is best visited in the winter, or early in the morning, because of the extreme heat. But we Gormans scoff at the guidebooks! We do as we please! We go to one of the lowest, hottest places on earth at 2 o'clock in the afternoon on a summery day. We're smart like that.
The guidebook was correct. It was hot down there at 350 meters below sea level. 105 degrees worth of hot.
Also, there's the little matter of the flies.
We pulled up to the entrance gate and rolled down our window to ask directions. While the gentleman was telling us where to go, in careful Arabic of which we understood not a word, about 20 flies flew right in the open window and proceeded to get comfy in our air conditioned car.
"How 'bout those flies?" said Bart, as we continued down the road, shooing them away. He parked and went to buy tickets. I opened the doors so we wouldn't bake in the car and within seconds about 400 flies descended. They were everywhere, crawling on us, on the seats, on the windows. The kids were screaming. I was shooing. The flies were calling their friends to come join the party.
Those flies stayed with us throughout our day. And I think I now understand why our faith chose baptism by immersion in water. The only way to get away from the flies, and the heat, would be to jump in the river. Makes perfect sense now.
We walked the site with a guide and a few other tourists. The guide reminded us to stick together and not leave the path because "this is a military zone."
So, to recap: we took our kids to one of the lowest, hottest places on earth. In a military zone. With monster flies.
But we had to. I mean, this place is crawling with Biblical history. Jesus himself walked this ground, along with John the Baptist, obviously. We wanted our kids to see this for themselves - talk about a religious experience!
When we got to the actual baptism site, Aidan wanted to know what "baptism" means. I tried to explain about the sacraments of our church, the first of which is baptism. Aidan didn't remember watching his sisters getting baptized. I mentioned the second sacrament, First Communion, and asked if he remembered his brother's First Communion ceremony, about 3 years ago. Yes, he said, he remembered that: that's when Shay got the "Jesus trophy."
Ummm, excuse me?
"You know, mom," he explained. "The necklace with the guy on the cross. The Jesus Trophy."
Upon hearing that, I looked down at the nearby baptism site and said a silent apology to Jesus himself. We have GOT to get that kid into religious education classes somehow. I mean, I'm not the most catholic of Catholics, but even I know that ain't right.
Despite the heat, and the flies, and the fences, it was still an amazing place. I can't quite believe we got to see such an important place, with so much archeological, historical and religious significance, just 45 minutes down the road from our house.
Awww, so cute! But really, I was explaining to her that lugging her around in 105 degree heat was more unpleasant than she could possibly know.
The River Jordan, of Biblical times. Yes, it really is greenish in color. And it's not much of a river either - it's more of a stream these days.
Did I mention yet that it was 105 degrees? Here's Aidan, either contemplating his faith or worrying that he is going to spontaneously combust.
Yes, that is a long-sleeved shirt Ainsley is wearing. Oh, it's still 105 degrees. But this is what happens when you let your daughter dress herself. Fashion over comfort: it starts early.
And here it is, the probable site of the baptism of Jesus Christ. In case you're wondering, yes, the river flowed this way all those years ago.
The remains of one of three churches originally on the site.
All that is left of the original mosaic floor.
Lots of churches, everywhere you look...
Bart putting water from the new baptism site on the kids...
See that flag flying in the background? That's the Israeli flag - the West Bank is just on the other side of the river.
I imagine there must be water down there sometimes.
Heading home at last...