“Then Moses climbed Mount Nebo from the plains of Moab to the top of Pisgah, across from Jericho.” — Deuteronomy 34:1
MOUNT NEBO, Jordan — Rising from the Jordanian desert is a hulking plateau, 4,000 feet high. It’s not the highest point in the area, but it does offer the best view of the Holy Land.
Mount Nebo is the site where Moses is believed to have died. From its summit, with a refreshing breeze, one sees most of the region in a sweep — where Joshua led the Israelites across the Jordan, where John the Baptist preached and baptized, where Jesus walked, taught, died and was raised.
On the mountain is a large statue of a serpent on a stick, described in Numbers 21:8-9. It brought God’s healing to the Israelites and would be compared to Jesus’ crucifixion and later become a sign of the medical profession.
Mount Nebo is not touristy, but it is friendly. An Irish priest is in charge here and he likes to keep not only a grumpy security dog, but turtles.
“After Moses died, God remained faithful to the Chosen People,” says Franciscan Father Fergus Clarke. “What’s important to remember is that God is faithful to you and me today. You don’t really come here to see history, but how things are now.”
That said, Mount Nebo has a fascinating history. It’s the site of a 4th century church and a 5th century monastery, probably built by Egyptian Christians. The mount has a stunning mosaic that was long buried and has now been recovered. Once the Franciscans’ new church opens atop the mountain in the years ahead, visitors will be able to see the large floor mosaic that looks much like it did when monks or craftsmen made it in about 530.
In the year 2000, St. John Paul II commemorated the beginning of the new millennium with a pilgrimage to the Holy Land, starting his visit with prayers at Mount Nebo.