DAY 9 – TUESDAY, SEPTEMBER 27
Today would the warmest day yet, with highs close to 100. This is quite normal for this region along the Dead Sea. Following a later breakfast, we drove about 15 minutes to Masada. Along the way, we read from Psalm 18:1-2 which mentioned God as our fortress (e.g. “metzada”). Masada was one of Herod’s palaces, and the earliest one built of all six of them. We ascended to the top in the cable car. Shlomo then shared with us the history of Masada. It was a place of Jewish refuge against the Romans in 70 AD after the Temple was destroyed. On top we saw the southern cistern, one of the palaces, the Roman ramp, a synagogue, and the bathhouse. Most took the cable car down, while six in the group hiked down the Snake Path.
Continuing north along the western coastline of the Dead Sea, our next stop was Engedi. Here we read from 1 Samuel 24 (and Song of Songs 1:14, and 2 Chronicles 20) within the canyon. It was here that David hid in a cave to escape Saul’s pursuit. Many walked back to the water falls here. It’s amazing to see so much water in such a “dry and weary land where there is no water…” (Psalm 63).
Qumran was a 35 minute drive northward. It was here in 1947 that the first Dead Sea Scrolls were found. About 900 texts (most fragmented) were found here in a total of 11 caves. This included every OT book except Esther. 8 in the group hiked up to the famous Cave 1 where the Isaiah Scrolls (actually two) were found. Next to the Temple Scroll (26 feet long), the one Isaiah Scroll is the second longest. We also saw the ruins of Qumran, inhabited by the Essense community, as well as Cave 4 where the majority of the caves were discovered.
Jericho was our next stop. We climbed the tel (Tel es Sultan) and first looked east towards the Jordan River. We remembered the death of Moses on Mt. Nebo which we could see (Dt. 34) and the crossing of the river by Joshua (Joshua 3). It was also here where Jesus was baptized (John 1, at a place called Bethany Beyond the Jordan). We also saw where NT Jericho was located, about two miles south (Mark 10, Luke 10, 19). We saw the oldest tower in Israel (pre-Canaanite even) as well as the very retaining walls seen by Joshua when he conquered the city (Joshua 6). It was the mud-brick wall on top of this double retaining wall that “came tumblin’ down.” We celebrated the historicity of the Bible.
On our way to Jerusalem, we made a brief stop overlooking the Judean Desert. Here at Wadi Qelt we heard the words of Isaiah (Is. 40) in the context of this vast chalk-limestone desert. Shlomo also sang Psalm 23 in Hebrew.
Arriving at our hotel in Jerusalem (our home for the next three nights), we checked in and enjoyed dinner. Following dinner, some walked to the Western Wall.
We are thrilled to be here in the Holy City and eternal capital of Israel!
DAY 10 – WEDNESDAY, SEPTEMBER 28: MT. OF OLIVES, POOL OF BETHESDA, VIA DOLOROSA, HERODIUM, BETHLEHEM