DAY 9 – SATURDAY, OCTOBER 20: MASADA, EIN GEDI, QUMRAN, DEAD SEA, JERUSALEM
Today was our last full day as a group, and it was filled with fun, adventure, and a few last biblical connections. It was the hottest day of the trip too, with temps in the low 90s. We spent the entire day in the area of the Dead Sea.
Leaving the hotel at 7:30, we started the day with Psalm 18:1-2 which mentions the Hebrew word metzada. This is the Hebrew for “fortress.” This is precisely what Masada was. Driving east to the Jericho area and then due south along the western shoreline of the Dead Sea, we arrived at this “palace-fortress” built by Herod at about 8:45. We ascended the site via a cable car. Once on top, Shlomo passionately shared the history of the site. Between 70-73, Masada was used by 967 Jews. All by five committed suicide prior to the Romans breaking through the walls. We saw the palace area, the Roman ramp (you can still see the acacia wood used in this ramp), the casemate walls, the synagogue, and the roman bathhouse. About half the group walked down the Snake Path (about 1,000 descent) while the other half took the cable car. On the way down we actually witness a rescue team helping a man who dehydrated.
Driving north about 15 minutes, we arrived at the main oasis of this part of the Judean Desert. Engedi is a beautiful place that still flows with abundant spring water! Hiking up the trail that leads into the canyon (Wadi David), we stopped briefly to read Song of Songs 1, 2 Chronicles 20 (the Ascent of Ziz), and 1 Samuel 24. David was here hiding in a cave from Saul. Hiking further, we enjoyed getting wet in the water!
“This last day in Israel was amazing. We drove to the Judean Desert. Incredible beauty among an area yet so dry and desolate. It was fun to do all the hikes today too. Floating in the Sea Sea was a wild experience too!”
Continuing 30 minutes north, we visited Qumran, no doubt the most significant archaeological discovery in Israel. In 1947, the first Dead Sea Scrolls were found here! About 11 in the group hiked to Cave 1 where the first scrolls were discovered. After lunch, we visited the ruins. Here we saw the aqueduct, cisterns, and many miqvot (plural for ritual baths. We even saw one that shows evidence of the earthquake in 31 BC). In front of Cave 4, we read from “Psalm 151” and Psalm 19.
We ended the day with floating in the Dead Sea. With water 33% minerals/salt, it is impossible to sink. We had a blast in the water together. We also remembered that one day this salt water will be made fresh (Ezekiel 47).
We returned to our hotel for our farewell dinner. We enjoyed this time of sharing about the trip. We we so blessed to have Shlomo guide us and David drive for us. They truly became new friends!
As a note, the majority in the group leave the hotel at 3:20 a.m. for the Ben Gurion Airport, while others fly out tomorrow morning. The rest in the group remain in Jerusalem until the tomorrow night’s flight (due to a delay).