April 3, 2009

April 1, 2009 - Baptism site, Madaba and Peace Murals

The trip so far has been sensational and beyond imagination. The magnificent sights of natural and cultural wonders, the wonderful talents in each of the individuals and the close friendship amongst us are only a few examples of what I have experienced over the course of the past six days. These experiences have been inspiring and touching, but none more than what we did this morning.

Setting off from the luxurious Kempinski Hotel in the Dead Sea, we headed north to visit one of the most important sites in humanity, The Baptism Site of Jesus, located in Bethany. The site, located on the Jordan River was where Christianity started, and is a holy site for all religions, Christianity, Judaism and Islam alike. Walking on the grounds that were once walked by Jesus Christ himself and thousands of pilgrims, I felt that I was being part of history.

The Baptism Site, set along the Jordan River was a very small and subtle site. Beside it were the ruins of five churches, all constructed at different periods in history, but all destroyed due to reasons such as earthquakes and floods. This showed the importance throughout history and in 2000, the site was visited by the late Pope John Paul II. Interesting enough, we visited the site exactly 40 days before the scheduled visit of Pope Benedict XVI.

Religion has long been a major part of people’s lives and this particularly true in this part of the world. It was thus interesting to see a Christian site being so well preserved in an Islamic country. Many of the churches were in fact built during the period when the place was ruled by Muslims, which was a sign of the coexistence between different religions in the same region. Moreover, history is repeating itself with different churches all building a church in the area, just as people had in the ancient times. It is amazing to see how the world can be united by religion yet also fighting because of religion.

As a Christian, I was deeply touched and shocked by this experience. Being able to walk on the ground that Jesus was baptized and receiving a blessing by Father Haddad with the Holy Water by the Jordan River was a dream come true. Peace Camp has been amazing in so many ways. It would beunimaginable for most, and each day impacted me in so many different ways. Peace Camp forever!

Adrian Lo – Hong Kong


I have never seen anyone glow as much as they did today. After applying sea mud from the Dead Sea, our skin was amazingly transformed from being ordinary to extraordinary. We gathered in the lobby at about 6:45 P.M. and had a beautiful walk to the nearby hotel to have our dinner. Actually, the exact restaurant where we had the “American cuisine,” particularly chicken or beef burgers, had a mid-80’s setting. The music was old yet familiar and television sets were countless, all showing a sports activity.

I sat with Liam, Brandon and Karapet because during this trip I have wanted to participate in a male conversation. Fortunately, it was extremely interesting and we had lots of fun, danced to Jordanian tunes and basically freely expressed our emotions.

Our session was immediately after dinner and it was based on individual understanding of culture and its influences on today’s generation. Then we were put to task to paint a peace mural that portrays our understanding of peace in the world today.

It is eight days since the Peace Camp started and I can confidently say that these have been and will always be the best eight days of my life.

Shirley Ochan – Uganda


In the courtyard of the restaurant, Temwanani, a slight girl from Malawi, fooled us into believing she was a martial arts master. I laughed as we walked through the bright, narrow streets. Talking to Eric, I discovered that he's a musician. There's so much beauty within others. The bus wound through Madaba, the city of mosaics - red, black, yellow white stones of the mountain. As we leave town,w e see a dome, a minaret and a church spire on the skyline. Churches and mosques are located next to each other in Jordan. There's enough room.

At Mount Nebo, we climb up a paved walkway lined with trees into the hazy sky. Out of the silver shadows, to the cream stone monument to Moses. The mountain falls away, steep caramel slopes. I remember Martin Luther King, Jr.'s voice - raw, powerful, eloquent words torn frmo a weary throat - the night before his murder Despite years of struggle, he never witnessed the changes he sought. He preached and prophesied, "I've been to the mountaintop. And I've seen the Promised Land. I may not get there with you. But I tell you tonight, we as a people will get there." Moses and MLK - liberators. Is failure falling short of your goals, or not reaching high enough? I think the latter, but it seems so painful. Brave, though.

Joshua led the twelve tribes of Israel across the Jordan Valley into Jericho. The vista - I try to imagine Moses' people during the last leg of their journey, from Mount Nebo to Jerusalem. We see Jericho, the oldest continuously inhabited city. The Dead Sea gleams, a dove wing blues and grays in watercolor. Here's what I was hoping: the sky blazing cerulean cold openness clear to the horizon, and the Holy City in the distance. Instead, the bowl of mountains was brimming with steam. As a leader, sometimes the way forward is uncertain...That's a corny interpretation, but Katarina advised me to frame situations in a positive light. Maybe everything happens for a reason.

On the bus, the sepia-toned window, the twisting precipitous road. Stones and red rocks comb the contours of the mountains, a scruffy moonscape. Herds of goats with shampoo-commercial hair move slowly, like the 48 Peace Campers, a couple always drifting ahead and behind. I bet it was the same with the Israelites - a headache for Moses. Look-camels, a long Bedouin tent. Stone house crumbling, olive trees arranged like dancers, cucumbers, a garden.

My ears pop, and I'm sleepy from a long day. Many of them, wonderful ones. David tells a joke: "What's brown and purple and has wheels? A grape. I lied about the wheels."

Our hotel in the Jordan Valley - holy ground. Time to swim! I navigate through our hotel, a warm honey-rock city, the sound of fountains in my ears. From every staircase and terrace, the expanse of pearlescent blue. Is it periwinkle? A cheesy name, but I think that's the closest description of an impossibly tranquil color. At last sand! I glimpse what looks like seal heads - Peace Campers shining in the expanse of water.

I race to the sea (no waves, emerald, the rocky beach massages my feet) and step in. Chilly. Can't splash or dive...some people already have. Ouch. At first, I don't notice that I'm floating. I think I must just be holding my breath and closing my eyes, as my parents taught me many years ago. I'm supported and suspended. Run? Dog paddle? Frog stroke? Backstroke is the most successful. Swimming out, lapping waters, scoops of sunlight. I look down, see my feet in aquamarine. No fish. No seafloor. No waves. Prickling skin. In the sun everyone's faces glow from within.

We see Tyler from the sea. Why is he dressed in a surfer suit? He looks like Batman in swim trunks...no, he's covered in black mud! Let's go. It's once in a lifetime. Our whole group gets in line for the Dead Sea mud treatment. Because of the long line, some of us play beach volleyball, making many mistakes. It's all good. Tyler runs to get the ball every time it an amateur hit sends it bouncing down to the sea. I get mud - it tingles, then stings. As it dries, my face tightens in a mask. We take pictures as a band of burglars/monsters. Wash in the dead sea. I feel like a squid, inking clouds in the water around me.

Shower to get the last lumps and streaks of mud off. We check each other and help everyone get clean. After drying and lathering myself in the Dead Sea lotion in our hotel room, I feel fresh, new, open. Molted - a new beginning?

Camellia Lee - USA

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