The Jordan Valley from Belvoir
Belvoir is located on the western side of the Jordan Valley. It is in a group of hills knows as the Issachar Plateau just north of Beth Shean. This photograph is of the Jordan Valley looking northeast. Down in the valley, the channel where the Jordan River flows can be seen just beyond the ponds. In the background are the Gilead Mountains (Elijah came from there) and part of the region of the Decapolis. The Sea of Galilee is barely 20 miles to the north, also in the valley.The Jordan Valley is very fertile. The road from Galilee to Jerusalem, the one Jesus followed on his way to Jerusalem and death, passes through the valley. The fortress was built on this high hill part to control the road below and partly to “protect” the Crusaders from the local population. Obviously, this position isolated the knights and soldiers so that, even if they had wanted to, they were unable to exert any daily influence on the people in the valley below.
Given the Crusaders’ brutal conduct towards Jews in Europe and the Middle East and towards the Muslims they fought, it is clear that they did not follow Jesus’ teaching to “love your enemies” (Matthew 5:38-48) or to the “salt of the earth” (Matthew 5:13). The Crusaders were a “city on a hill,” though certainly not in the way Jesus intended (Matthew 5:14).
Did Jesus, who often passed this hill on the road below, look up and know the fortress would be there one day? Did he grieve for the European Christians who would so misunderstand his message? The lesson of Belvoir and the Crusades must lead us always to follow Jesus in the ways he taught. Only if we live in our culture will we be able to influence it for Jesus.
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