DAY 5 – FRIDAY, JUNE 16:
Today was a day in the Judea Desert and in the region of the Dead Sea. It was hot today, with temps in the low 100s.
We left our “Bedouin” hotel in the desert at 7:30. Driving just about 15 minutes and reading from Psalm 18:12 (that mentions metzada – “fortress”), we arrived at Masada, one of six of Herod the Great’s “palace-fortresses.” This one is a stand-alone mountain about 1,000 foot high. Our group had the unique experience of hiking up the Roman ramp on the western side. Others in the group bussed around and ascended to the top in the cable car. Once on top, we saw cisterns, the case-mate wall, the western and northern palaces, the bathhouse, and storerooms. The story of Masada is a gripping one, with 967 Jews withstanding Roman siege of the fortress for three years (70-73 AD) until all but five of them taking their own lives and dying in freedom. Because it was too hot, they closed the Snake Path, preventing us from hiking down.
Just 10-15 minutes north is Engedi. Here we read the story about David hiding in a cave from Saul (1 Samuel 24). The story of 2 Chronicles 20 also took place in this area. Song of Songs 1 also mentions the henna blossoms of Engedi. We also hiked into the canyon to see the many waterfalls. A number in the group enjoyed getting wet in the hour we spent here.
Continuing north along the Dead Sea, Qumran was our next site. During the lunch hour, 15 in the group joined Pastor John for a trek to Cave 1 where the first Dead Sea Scrolls were found in 1947. At the archaeological site of Qumran, we saw a few of the ruins here that date back to the time of the 1st century BC to the 1st century AD. The Essenes who lived here were the ones who scribed the Dead Sea Scrolls. In front of Cave 4 (where the majority of the texts were found), we read from “Psalm 151” (an “extra” psalm found here) and rejoiced in God’s amazing preservation of God’s Word!
Driving to the Dead Sea close by, we ended the day with floating in this amazing body of water. It is 33% salt and minerals. It was a wild experience!
Driving north in the Jordan Valley and then heading west in and through the Hill Country of Ephraim/Samaria, we arrived our our hotel in Netanya for late dinner and a free evening. The sunset over the Med Sea was spectacular!
DAY 6 – SATURDAY, JUNE 17: CAESAREA, MT. CARMEL, MEGIDDO, NAZARETH PRECIPICE, SEPPORIS, SEA OF GALILEE