DAY 13 – FRIDAY, JUNE 22: MASADA, EIN GEDI, QUMRAN, BETH SHEMESH/SOREK VALLEY, QEIYAFA/ELAH VALLEY
Today was our last full day in Israel. It was a hot and dry one, with high temps about 105 at the Dead Sea area and 90s later in the afternoon.
Leaving the hotel just before 8 a.m. (greeted by a wonderful sunrise), we drove just a short 15 minutes to Masada. On the way we read from Psalm 18:1-2 about God being our metzada (“fortress”). The site of Masada may also have been David’s stronghold as mentioned in the last part of 1 Samuel 24.
We took the cable car to the top. From both Eli and Shlomo, we heard the remarkable story of 967 Jews who found refuge from the Romans on this “palace-fortress” from 70-73 AD (originally built by Herod the Great about 100 years prior). All but 5 of them took their own lives, convinced that this was a better way to die than to fall to the swords of the Romans.
On top we saw one of Herod’s palaces (he also had a three-tier northern palace), the case-mate wall, the Roman ramp (on the west side), the bathhouse, and the synagogue. Because of the heat, the Snake Path was closed, preventing us from walking down. So we all descended on the cable car.
About 15 minutes north is Engedi. Walking up into the canyon (Wadi David), we read from Songs of Songs 1 (“henna blossoms of Ein Gedi…”), 2 Chronicles 20, and 1 Samuel 24. This last story involves David hiding from Saul in one of the many caves here. We also walked back to the 2nd water falls, with some enjoying getting wet under some of the water falls. This must have also been an oasis of water back in biblical days! It is also the home of many ibex and coneys (Psalm 104). We saw many ibex!
The last site here in the Judean Desert along the Dead Sea was Qumran. During the lunch hour, some braved the extreme heat and hiked to Cave 1. This was where the first Dead Sea Scrolls were found. Biblical scholarship changed with this discovery in 1947!
After the lunch hour, we visited the small archaeological site of Qumran. We saw any miqvot (ritual baths), the scriptorium, and the aqueduct. In front of Cave 4 (one of 12 caves now where scrolls were found), we read from “Psalm 151” (one of a few extra psalms found here at Qumran, written by David), 2 Timothy 3:16, and Psalm 19. Praise God for the preservation of His Word!
From here we drove north and then west to Jerusalem. Ascending up and over Israel’s capital, we descended down on the western side to the Shephelah (lowlands) of Judah. The first site (of two in this region) was Beth Shemesh. Climbing the southern end of the site, we viewed the Sorek Valley, Zorah & Eshtaol (where Samson was from, Judges 13), Timnah (where Delilah was from….it is located down the valley just a few miles to the west). We read from 1 Samuel 6 about how the Ark of the Covenant was returned here by the Philistines.
Our last site of the day (and the tour) is a relatively new archaeological site called Kh. Qeiyafa. It is located along the Elah Valley. It may have been the ancient city ofShaaraim. We read from 1 Samuel 17 and could see David defeating the Goliath, the Philistine giant, in the narrow part of the valley to the east. We rejoiced together that God offers His help in all of our own battles of life!
Leaving the site, we drove west to our hotel in Tel Aviv. We enjoyed dinner together, followed by a free evening. We pack up and leave on three different flights in the morning.
DAY 14 – SATURDAY, JUNE 23: ARRIVAL BACK IN THE U.S.A.
This morning we will fly home. Praise be to God for everyone He brought together!