DAY 7 – SUNDAY, APRIL 30:
This morning we departed just shy of 8 a.m. Leaving the hotel, we read from Psalm 18:1-2 which mentions God as our “fortress” (metzada in Hebrew). The air here at the Dead Sea is dry. Temps would be warm the whole day, with highs around 95 (typical for this region this time of year).
Our first site was Masada. This was built originally as a “palace-fortress” of King Herod. Taking the cable car up to the top (about a 1,000 foot ascent), we saw the palaces, the casemate walls, the Roman ramp (on the west side), the synagogue, cisterns, storage rooms, and the bathhouses. The story of Masada is remarkable (967 Jews holding out against the Romans for about three years). At the end of the tour, some took the cable car back down to the bottom while others hiked the Snake Path (1.1 miles). Nine hiked down.
Driving north along the western coastline of the Dead Sea, we came to Engedi. This served as an oasis for many over the course of 1,000s of years. We hiked back to the last water falls here. We read from 2 Chronicles 20, Song of Songs 1, and the primary story from 1 Samuel 24. It was here where David hid from Saul. It was amazing to see so much water here in such a “dry and weary land” (Psalm 63).
Continuing north we arrived at Qumran. During the lunch hour some hiked to Cave 1 (of a total of 12 now – up from 11 – with the most recent announcement of a new cave) where the first Dead Sea Scrolls were found in 1947. The discoveries of these scrolls were the most significant in all of Israel! Following lunch we visited the site itself, seeing mikveh (ritual baths), cisterns, and a scriptorium. In front of Cave 4 we rejoiced in the remarkable preservation of God’s Word and read from “Psalm 151” and Psalm 19.
Driving north towards Jericho, we turned west to ascend to the Hill Country of Judah and Jerusalem. About half way there, we made a brief stop overlooking the Wadi Qelt (part of the Judean Desert). Here we heard the words of the prophet Isaiah (Is. 40) and Psalm 23. The view was spectacular of this unique and dry region of the Bible.
Arriving in Jerusalem at our hotel, we checked in. After getting freshened up, we enjoyed dinner. A little more than half of the group then bussed to Shlomo’s home community for a special Memorial Service (in Hebrew, “Yom Hazikaron“). It was indeed very moving and a unique experience as Israel remembered all of their 23,544 fallen soldiers since 1948. One of Shlomo’s sons sang in the service. We also enjoyed a time of desert at Shlomo and Rachel’s home. We drove back and retired for the evening.
We are looking forward to our first full day in Jerusalem tomorrow!
DAY 8 – MONDAY, MAY 1: OLD CITY, WAILING WALL, WESTERN WALL TUNNEL, JEWISH QUARTER, ISRAEL MUSEUM, YAD VASHEM