Madaba (Joshua 13:9)
Christine Moore, one of our JTB hosts, couldn’t wait for us to have lunch that day. When we entered Haret Jdoudna in Madaba, I understood why.
The restaurant, set in an ancient marketplace, was filled with locals and travelers. Light streamed through open windows and doors, and the entire meal seemed like a celebration. Another JTB host, Omar Banihani, recognized friends at a nearby table and went over to say hello. The food was good, but the grilled lamb kabobs were outstanding. It was easily our most gregarious meal of the week.
Madaba is a center for Christianity in Jordan. About 40 percent of its 100,000 residents are Christian, most Catholic or Greek Orthodox. St. George’s Church houses perhaps the most revered Byzantine mosaic in Jordan. It is a map of the Holy Land laid into the floor of the sanctuary sometime in the sixth century.
“What a special day for me,” said Nieland. “We visited Bethany Beyond the Jordan, Mount Nebo and Madaba. To see where Jesus was baptized, then to enjoy that view over the Promised Land, topped off by the mosaics in Madaba — I’ll never forget it.”
Karak (II Kings 3:4-27)
Late the following day we traveled high above the plains into the city of Karak to visit its crusader castle. This vantage point served as a military outpost for centuries and was the site of an epic battle recorded in the Old Testament. The castle that remains dates to the 12th century and would seem impenetrable due to its position high above threats from the valley below.
“In 2 Kings, chapter 3, we read about how the king of Karak rebelled against the king of Israel,” said Wooten. “We read how the king of Israel was joined by the king of Judah to take that castle. To see how fortified that fortress was and to read about its conquest is remarkable.”
At week’s end, after visiting so many places we recognized from Scriptures and hymns, our group agreed: A Christian’s pilgrimage to the Holy Land should include this hospitable country. As prophets knew and Mkhjian would attest, there is much to contemplate “east of the Jordan, opposite Jericho.”