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The Jordan River Valley in Judaism, Christianity, and Islam
This journey explores the relationship between the landscape of the Jordan River Valley and the spiritual traditions of Judaism, Christianity, and Islam. We look at the ways in which these faiths mapped religious stories onto the landscape of the valley, and at how Christianity in particular created a spiritual tradition centered on the idea of retreat into the desert.
Beginning on the banks of the Jordan, we explore the origins of the idea that this river is a place of healing and renewal, and see how the Jewish mythology of purification was absorbed into the Christian tradition through the story of John the Baptist.
We learn about the creation of a Christian ‘holy land’ in the valley during the fourth and fifth centuries, and see how the birth of Christian pilgrimage was connected with the new idea of the monasteries. Monasticism is a tradition some 1,500 years old, but one which is still plainly visible in the monasteries of St. George in the Wadi Qelt, St. Gerasimos near the Baptism site, and Saint Sabas in the Kidron Valley.
From the desert monasteries we move south to look at the Islamic shrine of Nebi Musa, close to the Dead Sea. Here we investigate how the creation of an Islamic sacred geography in the valley was, on the one hand, an expression of Islam’s connection to the Judeo-Christian tradition, and on the other a political response to the crusades of the 11th and 12th centuries. For those who are interested, we can also incorporate the site of Qumran, just below the caves where the Dead Sea scrolls were found, into this journey.
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