On the summit of Mount Nebo, a Franciscan church overlooks arid slopes that lead down to the edge of the Dead Sea, ringed by spas and resorts. It is dry in October, but by spring the land is green. This is the tip of the Fertile Crescent, the curve of land stretching from the Nile to the Euphrates River that cradled early civilizations.

Nebo is where the Bible says the prophet Moses — a pivotal figure in Judaism, Christianity and Islam — first set eyes on the land promised to him by God. Not far away, among the reeds of the Jordan River, is the site believed by Christians to be where John the Baptist baptized Jesus.

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