DAY 6 – SATURDAY, APRIL 29:
Today we checked out of our hotel and left the Sea of Galilee region. The sun was once again bright, with afternoon temps still comfortable although reaching the 90s.
After breakfast and loading the bus, we drove south to the southern end of the Sea of Galilee. We made a brief stop at the Kinneret Cemetery. Many Jewish pioneers are buried here, including the famous “Rachel” (Rachel Bluwstein). She was a Ukranian Jew who died in 1931 at the age of 40. Her poems are still read today! She will soon appear on the 20 shekel bill.
Driving south about 20 miles through the Jordan River Valley, we arrived at the huge archaeological site of Beth Shean. This was not only an Old Testament site but also a massive Roman city. It was the only Decapolis city on the west side of the Jordan. We spent about 1.5 hours here, seeing many ruins. This included the Roman bathhouse, agora, street, many pillars, a shrine, public latrines, and the theater. Some in the group climb to the top of the OT tel, providing a great view of the region as well as the Roman city below. We read from 1 Samuel 31 (death of Saul, with his body being hung on the walls of this city), and 1 Corinthians 15 (“standing firm” on the foundation of Christ).
Close by was the 6th century AD synagogue of Beit Alpha. Here the impressive mosaic floor of this synagogue is preserved. The fictional story about the making of the mosaic was entertaining.
From here we drove on a road leading us through the Samaritan Hill Country. We saw many shepherds along the way of this barren landscape. We drove nearby Shechem /Sychar (Deut. 34, Joshua 24, John 4), Shiloh (1 Samuel 3-4, Jer. 7), Bethel (Genesis 15, 28), and Ai (Joshua 7-8). Driving towards the Judean Desert we past by Michmash (1 Samuel 13-14). On the way to the specific desert of Pareth (Jeremiah 13), we saw a number of gazelles.
Meeting up with the main east-west road leading to Jerusalem, we descended east and arrived at Jericho. Following lunch we climbed the ancient tel of OT Jericho. We first looked east across the Jordan River towards Mt. Nebo (Deut. 34). Elijah & Elisha also had their ministry in this area. It was also in the Jordan River here (John 1) where Jesus was baptized by John. NT Jericho was about 1.5 miles to the south (where we remembered guys like Zacheaus, Bartimeaus. Looking west we remembered Jesus’ temptation. But besides seeing the oldest standing structure in Israel (the round tower), we walked to the south end of the tel where the two stone retaining walls can still be seen. These walls date to the time of Joshua. It was the mud-brick wall on top of these stone walls that came “tumblin’ down.” Yes, the Bible is historically accurate in every respect!
Driving south along the western shoreline of the Dead Sea, the reflection of the afternoon sun against the slopes of Moab on the Jordanian side as brilliant. Arriving at our hotel in Ein Bokek, we also enjoyed floating in the Dead Sea (33% minerals & salt) as well as dinner.
DAY 7 – SUNDAY, APRIL 30: MASADA, EIN GEDI, QUMRAN, WILDERNESS OF JUDAH, JERUSALEM, MEMORIAL DAY SERVICE