A Visit to Jordan and Jerusalem

The Wailing Wall
  |  Gorp.com

Surviving the challenge of a metal detector, I approached the 400-foot segment of the Western Wall (sometimes referred to as the Wailing Wall), the remaining western wall of the Second Temple of the Jews. Here, too, religious fervor was visible and audible.

On that sunny afternoon I found it hard to identify with the violence that has taken place in the courtyard of the Wailing Wall. Still, just on the other side of the wall rises the golden Dome of the Rock, said to mark the place where Mohammed ascended into heaven. Its proximity is a powerful reminder that virtually every square meter of this area is holy to more than one set of believers. Great powers, not including Solomon, have struggled and continue to struggle to divide an indivisible Jerusalem.

Moses, Jesus, and Mohammed preached tolerance and brotherhood. Yet even in the heart of Jerusalem, at least six religious denominations still, after all these years, contend fiercely with one another.

The Dead Sea

It is only a short trip from Jerusalem back across the Jordan River then south to the Dead Sea. More than 1,300 feet below sea level, it is the lowest point on the surface of the earth. During my visit, the water was the color of molten pewter, lightly corrugated by rows of two-inch ripples.

On the Israeli shore, spa advertisements claim that the water is therapeutic. However, my motivation to swim was purely the lure of the experience. Backstroking and dog-paddling is okay but don't make my mistake of tasting the water. Over 30 percent salt (seawater is 4 percent salt) and very high in mineral content, it tasted bitter, almost caustic. Soon after climbing out, the salt drying on my skin left me feeling as if I'd been shrink-wrapped.

From the gravelly shore of the Dead Sea, Jerusalem began to glow in the setting sun. For several moments, reflection of the sun's rays created a crimson bar that seemed to join Israel and Jordan across the briny water. Then it was dark.

Published: 30 Apr 2002 | Last Updated: 15 Sep 2010
Details mentioned in this article were accurate at the time of publication


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