DAY 4 – THURSDAY, JANUARY 17: BEERSHEBA, SDE BOKER, WILDERNESS OF ZIN, MASADA, JUDEAN DESERT
While it rained all night, we woke to partly sunny day here in Beersheba. The sun broke out early in the day, providing temps eventually around 60. Today was our second full day here in Israel.
Leaving our hotel after breakfast and loading at 7:30, we drove to Tel Beersheba close by. We read Psalm 126 on the way, a passage that speaks about the water courses/streams of the Negev. At the site, we walked to the water well that reminded us of Abraham who made a treaty here (“well of the oath or seven,” Gen. 21). We also read from Psalm 23 and reflected upon God “keeping our cup to overflowing”. Isaac was also here (Gen. 26). So was Jacob (Gen. 46) and Elijah (1 Kings 19) at various times. The ruins we saw (Solomonic gate, “four-room houses,” and a quite impressive water cistern system) all date to the time of the 10th – 6th century BC.
“Today I was again blown away by the very fact that I am here right in the heart of where the Bible happened! Just to think that these stories of the Bible took place here in front of me is amazing! It’s a dream come true” – Tour Participant –
From here we drove south to See Boker. Overlooking the beautiful Zin Desert, this is where David Ben Gurion and his wife Paula were buried. He was the first Prime Minister of Israel in 1948. He loved this region of the Negev. We also saw a few ibex here as well.
Driving down into the canyon and hiking to the water falls also gave us a spectacular feel of the uniqueness of this Zin Desert. The 12 spies (Num. 13) came up through here. Moses also struck the rock here to obtain water (Num. 20) somewhere in the Zin. Many in the group enjoyed an optional hike to the far rim of the canyon.
Because of some maintenance being done on the cable car on the east side of Masada (and causing it to be closed), we changed our program today by visiting this ancient palace-fortress of Herod the Great today! This meant climbing up and down the Roman ramp on the west side. Everyone made it to the top just fine! While on top, Shlomo shared with us the story of Masada as described by Josephus. 967 Jews found refuge here against the Romans in 70 AD after the fall of Jerusalem. All but five perished in 73 AD. We saw the casemate walls, the western palace and the synagogue.
Upon walking back down this ancient ramp, we boarded back on the bus and drove back west to Hanokdim, our “Bedouin Tent” facility for the night. First, we enjoyed camel rides in the Judean Desert. No one fell off! We also enjoyed hearing about Beduion life from a real Bedouin who lives in the desert. Dinner was wonderful too, served family style. To end the evening, we enjoyed marshmallows around the camp fire.