Column: Visiting Israel and the Palestinian Territories

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With the worst of Indiana winter approaching, today we begin a road trip through Israel and the Palestinian Territories, making a short visit to western Jordan. We will be on this trip for the next few months. Before starting, it is important to understand something about the geography of the land we will be visiting.

The land occupied by Israel and the Palestinian Territories (Israel/Palestine), lying along the eastern end of the Mediterranean Sea, is surprisingly small in light of its enormous significance to hundreds of millions of Jews, Christians and Muslims around the world. The entire area is about one-fourth the size of Indiana, with the distance from north to south about 290 miles, and from east to west about 85 miles at the widest spot. The geography and climate are very diverse, ranging from verdant forests in the north to hostile deserts in the south, with the fertile hill country in between. The shore of the Dead Sea, at almost 1,500 feet below sea level, is the lowest land elevation on earth. Because Indiana and Israel/Palestine are about the same distance from north to south, you can think of Israel/Palestine locations in terms of the eastern quarter of Indiana. The Sea of Galilee would be near Ft. Wayne, Jerusalem would be near New Castle, the Dead Sea would be near Richmond and everything south of Shelbyville would be largely uninhabitable desert. The Palestinian Territories, in the West Bank and the Gaza Strip, occupy about the same area as Delaware, Henry, Jay, Randolph and Wayne counties. The total population of Israel/Palestine is about 14.8 million, about twice that of Indiana.

As we travel, we will go from north to south, stopping along the way at important locations. For each place we visit, we will explore both its history and its religious and spiritual significance.

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