DAY 6 – SATURDAY, JANUARY 19: ENGEDI, QUMRAN, JERICHO, BETH SHAN, SEA OF GALILEE
Today we spent the morning on the western side of the Dead Sea. Full sun greeted us as we started out at 7:20 following breakfast. The temps were cool on this Shabbat morning, but warmed up to a pleasant 65.
Because of our change of itinerary yesterday, we drove about 40 minutes south to Engedi. This is one of only a few locations on the edge of the Judean Desert where water springs can be found. Walking into the canyon (Wadi David), we stopped briefly to read from Song of Songs 1 (3 couples married over 45 years shared romantic language together… “the henna blossoms of Engedi…”), 2 Chronicles 20 (and the Ascent of Ziz), and 1 Samuel 24. It was here where David hid from Saul. We then hiked back to some of the water falls. It is a beautiful area! We also saw a few ibex (Psalm 104).
Returning north now, our next stop was Qumran. This is the most significant site in all of Israel because of the Dead Sea Scrolls found here. 21 in the group hiked up to Cave 1 (where the first scrolls were found in 1947). Others in the group toured the archaeological site where miqvot (ritual baths), cisterns, and the scriptorium could be seen. Cave 4 (where the majority of the scrolls were found) can clearly be seen. The Cave 1 experience was uniquely special. This group then walked over to the site as well. While both groups re-boarded the bus, we read from Psalm 151, an extra Psalm found in 1956 in Cave 11.
“Today was another special day here in the Holyland. We saw more sites. We even walked to Cave 1 at Qumran where the first Dead Sea Scrolls were found. Then to end the day seeing the Sea of Galilee for the first time was amazing! When Pastor John told us that the ‘best was yet to come,’ I don’t know how it can get any better!” – Tour member –
Near by on the NW corner of the Dead Sea is Jericho. We entered the modern city (about 20,000 residents) where we walked to the top of the ancient OT site of Jericho. We first looked eastward towards Mt. Nebo (Dt. 34), the Plains of Moab (where Elijah ascended to heaven, 2 Kings 2), the Jordan River (where Jesus was baptized, John 1). While looking west to the cliffs of the desert, this is where Jesus was tempted (Mt. 4). We also saw the oldest tower as well as the stone reventment/retaining walls on the southern side that supported a mud-brick wall. It was the mud-brick wall that tumbling down in the Joshua 6 story! After seeing the site, we enjoyed a falafel here.
Driving north through the Jordan Valley, our last stop was Beth Shean. This was first an OT site (where Saul and his three sons’ bodies were hung on its walls, 1 Samuel 31). Later it became a huge Roman city. We saw the bathhouses, the agora, many mosaics, the colonnaded street, the public latrenes, and the impressive theater. Many in the group hiked to the top of the OT tel for a great view of the Roman city below, Mt. Gilboa & Hill of Moreh to the west, and the Jordan Valley to the east.
Sea of Galilee
From here we drove to the southern end of the Sea of Galilee. Our first view of this lake mentioned in the Bible was impressive! We even could see the snow-capped Mt. Hermon about 40 miles to the north! We continued to the NW corner of the lake where we checked into our hotel. We enjoyed dinner and a brief gathering on the water’s edge. With the moon being a day away from being full, it was spectacular! Our next three days were here in the north!