Elvis, our bus driver, a tall dark handsome friendly young man, gives us great confidence in his driving as he snakes his huge bus up and down through narrow village streets and along the main thoroughfares. The windows are very ample with essentially a double seat for each of us as the bus holds 40 and we are but 20. Monte, our teacher, has a microphone which he uses almost all the time we are driving, tellng stories and identifying land marks, as well as quizzing us about whether we know what happens at certain sites.
We have seen the expected olive orchards, wheat fields which are just coming up, fish ponds for raising fish, acres of net-covered trees which we believe may be banana trees. We haven't focused on questions about farming because we are still dealing with the newness of being there Biblical history was made. We drove through a huge flat valley with Mt Carmel - actually a range of mountains, certainly more than hilss but certanly not the Cascades - on the west side and a hill with Nazareth on it and Mt Horeb on the east. There are numerous other landmarks which after I have time to study the maps I will name (hopefully - it's my dream and intent).
We see some birds like starlngs here and there, and flocks of pelicans, often hanging out around the fish ponds but no cattle, goats or sheep yet. There were sheep walking amid the Bet She'an ruins followed by a shepherd. Typcailly the landscape is green. There was rain some places yesterday; fortunately not on us. Often we drive through rolling hills with cuts ro the roads to smoothly slip through. The exposed banks are layers of white sediment type rock. I will have to ask our resident geologists for more details.
Yesterday and last evening as we came east around the south side of Nazareth toward the Jordan River, we could see the hills of Gilead on the far side which is now Jordan. After Saul and his three sons were killed in a battle with the Philistines, men loyal to Saul spent all night retrieving their bodies and placing them in Gilead. At one point, only one point during the drive north along the Jordan River did we actually see the water of the river. It is not a river amid a barren dessert but an quiet small stream overgown on both sides. At least that's what we saw in the moment we saw it.
The hills on our left as we drove north to Tiberias with the Jordan River on the right, had no animals or crops, although I could envision both vineyards and orchards. Perhaps there's someting about the soil or climate or economy that's makes this not suitable. There were no farm houses or barns, only villages of white houses and appartments, typically on hillsides.