SECTION 2

The Jordan Valley


The geological depression (Ghor in Arabic) that separates the mountain of Palestine from the transjordanian plateau is characterised in the Map by the meandering course of the Jordan River and the Dead Sea basin. (more)

The geological depression (Ghor in Arabic) that separates the mountain of Palestine from the transjordanian plateau is characterised in the Map by the meandering course of the Jordan River and the Dead Sea basin.
This region, with its tropical climate, is defined by various topographic symbols: palm trees at the oases of Jericho, Betagla Archelais and at the spas at Calliroe and Zoara; bushes by the banks of the river, to define their inaccessibility due to the thick vegetation (kikkar hayarden in the hebrew biblical text zor or ghowier in arabic); the pulley driven ferries to indicate the fording spots on the river. The inhospitable desertic nature of great part of the Ghor is depicted by a lion (disfigured by iconoclasts) chasing a gazelle. Fish are represented in the rivers thus depicting the life supporting waters of the river as opposed to the lifeless brackish waters of the Dead Sea. Look-out towers with ladders to access them are also common.
In the Steppes of Moab, on the eastern bank of the river, opposite Jericho, the pilgrims celebrated the last stop of the Biblical Exodus. It is certain that the two vignettes, with no caption, that can be seen right at the edge of what remains of the mosaic refer to Bet Iesimoth (modern-day Suweimeh) and to Bet Ramtha-Livias (er-Ram) which, with Bet Nimra (today's Shuneh-Nimrin) are the only localities mentioned in the text. From Livias the pilgrims took the road that lead them to Mount Nebo. Here the monks showed them the memorial tomb of Moses in the basilica, erected in honour of the Prophet. The presence of churches and monasteries christianised the memorial places in a continuity of faith between the Old and New Testament.
In a valley not far away from the river, a monastery erected near to the spring at Ainon which is today Sapsafas, is a remembrance of the place where John the Baptist met Jesus.
On the west bank of the river a church celebrated the passage of the Jews (Alon Atat which is today Betagla), as well as the spot where John baptized (Betabara (the place of) the baptism of John).
The erection of the first altar in the Promised Land, using stones from the river bed which had miraculously gone dry is remembered in the church of Galgala or (shrine) of the Twelve Stones.
One could read the story of the miracle performed by Elisah who made wholesome the salty water of the spring, in the Church of Saint Elisah erected close to the spring at the oasis of Jericho, (2Kings 2, 19-22).
To the north-east of the oasis, two facing hills renamed Ebal and Garizim, reminded pilgrims of the episode where the people renewed their Covenant with God. This event was commemorated by the Samaritans on these two hills, placed in the heart of Samaria. A position which is historically correct.
Further to the north are represented the oases of Archelais and Fasaelis, the village of Koreus, the spring at Ainon today's Salem and Salumias and Ammathous.
(Michele Piccirillo)





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Created Sunday, December 17, 2000 at 18:46:48
by Eugenio Alliata ofm in collaboration with Stefano de Luca ofm
Webmaster: John Abela ofm - Space by courtesy of Christus Rex
copyright - Studium Biblicum Franciscanum - Jerusalem 2000