By Lawrence Lee
On the third day of the Chinese New Year of the Pig, my son, my wife and I boarded Royal Jordanian airlines on our 11-day trip to Jordan and Israel. This was our first, and perhaps only, trip to these two countries.
After a long flight, we landed in Amman, the capital city of Jordan. Immediately, we were transferred to a tour bus on our way to Petra.
If you have seen the movie Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade, you would have seen the temple in Petra. The temple facade is a breath-taking sight, although you get to see it only after walking along a long dirt road through a narrow passage between steep cliffs – a hike not very suitable for an elderly person.
The small valley opens up at the end of the passage and facing you will be the imposing temple carved right into the hillside. It had stood there for thousands of years, lost in history. Not forgotten any more nowadays, it is filled with tourists and peddlers who are trying to sell you postcards, a ride on donkeys, horse carts or something else.
Should you have the energy to explore the valleys, you will find ruins where people used to live. You may also come upon a Roman theatre. It could take a whole day to make these excursions; we had neither the time nor the energy to do so.
The next day, we explored Wadi Rum, a vast desert place where Bedouin people used to live. The site was used to film the movie Lawrence of Arabia and it also looked like a scene from Star Wars.
Before we left Jordan, we also visited Jarash, a well-preserved Roman ruin. It was a garrison city equipped with temples, a theatre, a race course for chariots and horses, etc.
It seems that no matter where you go around the Mediterranean as a tourist, you will see Greek or Roman ruins along with the natural beauty of the land. One starts to marvel at the ancient glory of Greece and Rome, and their long, lasting influence on Western cultures.
On the fourth day of our journey, we made our way to Tel Aviv, Israel, and visited the various places mentioned in the Bible. It felt like a revision class for Biblical Knowledge.
The journey started from Nazareth at the Basilica of the Annunciation where the angel Gabriel revealed to Mary that she would bear the Son of God.
We went on to Bethlehem where Jesus was born, to Lake Galilee where St. Peter was a fisherman and Jesus walked on water, River Jordan where Jesus was baptized, and finally to Jerusalem.
We visited the olive garden where Judas’ betrayal took place, saw from afar in the old Jerusalem city where Pontius Pilot washed his hands. We visited sites where Jesus was condemned and flogged.
And we walked along the path where Jesus carried his cross, ending up in the place where he was crucified, where his body was treated and finally buried.
I never realized those places and people that I read about in the Bible could appear in reality before my eyes. I also realized that a tremendous amount of effort has been made by Christians in restoring these historical sites. It dawned on me why so many people and for so many generations have been fighting over such a tiny place. Christians, Jews and Muslims all regard Jerusalem as their holy place.
For all of us who studied in a Catholic school, these places are a must-visit once in our lifetime. Although the living conditions are not modern and the food is not that delicious from a Chinese point of view, the sense of history will awe you.
I will admit, though, that when the trip was over, we returned home yearning for a delicious Chinese dinner.