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Mt. Nebo

Mt. Nebo

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The scenic walk along the nicely landscaped pathway to the site where Moses is said to have viewed the Promised Land was shady and serene. We stopped and contemplated stone-carved monuments to Moses and the twelve tribes. When we reached the peak, some 820 meters high, clear skies provided an unobstructed view of the King’s Highway winding below us. This, we were told, was the road we would take on our ride down to the Dead Sea. A large tile map pointed out the locations of Hebron, Herodium, Bethlehem, the Mount of Olives, and Jericho, to name a few.

The panoramic site before me extended beyond the horizon, and I thought, “Wow, this is what Moses saw, and this is where he died.” I wondered how much the land had changed since Moses saw it. Centuries later, John the Baptist would be beheaded somewhere along the Highway in the distance. Surely, the jaw-dropping vista before me had undergone countless transformations that had gone undocumented. Nevertheless, I found it sobering to be standing in a place of so much history.

High above us, a bronze serpentine cross created by Italian artist Giovanni Fantoni overlooks the Promised Land. It symbolically combines the cross of Christ with the brazen serpent Moses was commanded to raise in the wilderness so that Israelites who were bitten by snakes could look at it and be healed. This sculpture stands on the terrace outside the Basilica of Moses.

The Basilica, or Memorial Church of Moses, is also known as the Maqam Nabi Musa. It is a historical church that was initially built around 4th-century foundations and has undergone major reconstruction. Some of the best mosaics in Jordan, dating as far back as 530, are housed there. During my visit, the church was not open to the public. However, we were able to step inside the tourism complex, where we found information on the religious history of the mountain and the surrounding area.

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