When you enter the West Bank over the King Hussein Bridge from Jordan, Jericho is the first town you come to. This is the only way Palestinians may enter and leave the country, through Jordan - doing so through Israel is not permitted for most. For many exiles abroad, it's Jericho is their first sight of their homeland when they return - if they may return, that is.
It's a town of about 50,000 with a few distinctions to it. It's the world's oldest continually-inhabited city - it was founded as a village 10,000 years ago. It is located in the lowest place on Earth, in the Jordan Valley and near the Dead Sea. It's a significant biblical site. It was also on the old trading routes leading from Syria and Mesopotamia, down the Jordan Valley toward Egypt and Arabia. Pilgrims going to the hajj in Mecca, and pilgrims heading for Jerusalem, met here on their journeys for many centuries. Jericho has seen a lot of history walk past.
Looking over part of Jericho
over the Jordan valley
with the Dead Sea behind
Not only the oldest but also the lowest city
in the world, Jericho is based around
an ever-flowing ancient spring.
Looking south to the Judaean Desert.
That's the direction you head in
to get to Bethlehem and Jerusalem.
Jericho is the world's most ancient continually-inhabited city.
These remains go back 4,000 years, though
the city began as a village in 8000 BCE...
...long before your mother was born.
The site of the ancient city, Tell es-Sultan,
is in the foreground.
Here's the Mount of Temptation, a Jesus site,
as seen from Tell es-Sultan. With an Israeli observation post up on the left - how wonderful.
Early Christian hermits lived here long ago
- including Jesus during his forty days and nights.
In modern times, apart from Gaza, Jericho was the first place returned
to the Palestinians after
the 1993 Oslo Accords.
When Yasser Arafat and the PLO returned to the West Bank from exile
in Tunisia (and previously in Lebanon and Jordan), they came to Jericho.
Later, Ramallah became the administrative capital of the
Occupied Palestinian Territories
- a country which isn't a country.
Here's the centre of Jericho
- a roundabout with a fountain.
If you come here from Jordan
over the King Hussein Bridge,
Jericho is the first Palestinian town
that you come to.
There's an abundant perpetual spring in Jericho, which makes it a significant place for farming, famous for its dates. This spring was obviously one of the factors giving rise to ancient Jericho, 10,000 years ago - the site of which is called Tell es-Sultan, or the Mound of the King.
Above Jericho, on the escarpment forming the western wall of the rift valley, is the Mount of Temptation, a major Jesus site and early monastic site, where there is a Greek Orthodox monastery today, much visited by Greek and Russian pilgrims.
It's quite a cheerful place. In winter it is warmer than the rest of the West Bank, though in summer it can be hot and clammy. The air is denser here. I like visiting Jericho, but I'm not sure I'd want to live there because of its lowness, in a crack between two separating continental plates.