Friday, October 8, 2010

Happy Birthday...Jericho!

This Sunday, October 10, is going to be a special time of celebration in the Jordan Valley. The Palestinian Authority is launching a year-long campaign to celebrate the founding of Jericho...10,000 years ago!

Okay, so the exact day...or year...or century...or millennium of Jericho's founding isn't really known. But the city has had an amazing, though checkered, history. It was destroyed by Joshua...who placed a curse on the man who would eventually rebuild it (Josh. 6:26; 1 Kings 16:34). The city was home to Rahab, who is highlighted in the Hebrews 11 "hall of faith" and one of only five women singled out by name in Matthew's genealogy of Jesus (Matt. 1:5).

Jericho is the "City of Palms" where Ehud, the left-handed judge, delivered Israel from Eglon of Moab (Judg. 3). And when Jerusalem fell to Babylon, Judah's last king was captured "in the plains of Jericho" after fleeing from Jerusalem (Jer. 39:5). After the Babylonian captivity 345 men from Jericho returned home (Ezra 2:34) and helped rebuild the walls of Jerusalem (Neh. 3:2). In the New Testament, Jericho was the city where Jesus healed blind Bartimaeus (Mark 10:46-52) and where the "wee little man" Zacchaeus climbed into a sycamore-fig tree to catch a glimpse of Jesus (Luke 19:1-10).

Personally, I love visiting Jericho. The Old Testament ruins might not be that impressive, but it's a wonderful spot to open God's Word and read about the events that took place here. Little details in each story--details we have overlooked before--jump off the page and help bring the events to life.

I also enjoy visiting friends I've made in Jericho over the years. I watched Waleed--who works at the Mount of Temptation restaurant--grow up, and now I get to see Waleed's son following in his father's footsteps. And if you have ever eaten the kanafeh served at that restaurant, you know why it's my favorite desert in all the Middle East. I'm drooling right now just thinking about it!

So happy birthday Jericho! Your date of birth--and exact age--are open to debate. But I'm not about to quibble over such minor details. I hope you have a wonderful start to your celebration on October 10...and I hope to stop by for a visit before your year-long party comes to an end!

But if someone tries to light all the candles and sing "Happy Birthday," don't stand too near the cake!

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