You need to read both sides of the book, saavy? Look at the map above. See how the Jordan River runs through the middle of the geography? The Jordan is like the spine of the book. The spine of the book, long before it became the border of a man-made nation-state.
So what are you saying, Frank?
I’m saying that if you are going to read the 5th gospel in its entirety, sticking just to travel in the modern state of Israel isn’t going to cut the mustard.
Sure, you can probably get away with missing the sites in Lebanon, Egypt, or Syria. But to skip the sites in the Hashemite Kingdom of Jordan would be a colossal mistake.
Click on the map above and zoom in. Recognize all the place names that lie east of the Jordan river? See the names of the lost tribes that used to inhabit the area that now comprises modern day Jordan?
Here’s a brief list of the sites that you will miss seeing if you pretend the Holy Land only means Israel:
1. Bethany Beyond the Jordan – site where Jesus was baptized by John the Baptist; site where Elijah ascended to heaven in a chariot of fire; site where John the Baptist lived in a cave in Elijah’s Hill; and possible site where the Israelites crossed the Jordan when heading into the promised land.
Note: That’s just all the stuff you’d miss if you pretended that nobody knows where Jesus was actually baptized, and you just stayed in Israel.
2. Mt. Nebo, where Moses was allowed to see the Promised Land from the peak, and where he died. Pope St. John Paul II visited the mountain, so maybe you should too.
3. Tall Mar Elias, near the ancient town of Tishbe, in Gilead, is the place where the prophet Elijah was born.
4. Pella, where Jacob wrestled with the Angel of the LORD, and also possible area where early Christians fled when the Romans sacked Jerusalem.
5. M’Kuwir, known as Machaerus back when Herod Antipas was married to his sister-in-law, is the site where John the Baptist was beheaded.
Have a look at this brief interview of a few of my companions on why going to Jordan is one of the smartest moves they ever made,
So, yes, you may be thinking of going on a pilgrimage and you are offered something called the Jordan Extension. What I’m saying is that an optional “extension” is a wrong-headed idea. Because not going into Jordan isn’t an option if you really want to experience a true pilgrimage to the Holy Land. Besides, Jordan is safe, and the people are friendly, and the land overflows with hospitality.
By staying on the western side of the river, you miss half of the story. Read the whole fifth gospel, not just half of it.
Deacon Greg Kandra, Journey to Jordan: the wrapup.
Diana von Glahn: HOLY JORDAN, this place is AMAZING!
Max Lindenman, Coda: Jordan, An Unpretentious Little Palace.
Marge Fenelon, Five things that fascinate me about Jordan.
Denise Bossert, Become a St. Helena or St. Francis & go to Jordan.