DAY 6 – FRIDAY, JUNE 21: MASADA, EIN GEDI, QUMRAN, DEAD SEA, WILDERNESS OF JUDAH
Today was a day spent in the hot desert. Temps hovered around 100 most of the day until we got to Jerusalem this late afternoon. It was another day of a combination of hikes, archaeological sites, life-lessons, and unique experiences!
There were 9 in the group who got up at 4:30 and hiked to the top of Masada (metzada in Hebrew, “fortress” in Psalm 18:1-2). It took about 35-40 minutes to climb, making it just in time for sunrise over the mountains of Moab in Jordan. We then walked back down for breakfast. At 8 a.m. the entire group then took the cable car back up to the top. We saw the palaces, cisterns, the case-mate wall, the Roman ramp, the synagogue, and the bathhouse. Masada was built as a palace-fortress by King Herod the Great. Later, 967 Jews found refuge on top after 70 AD. Shlomo passionately shared this heroic story with us. We all took the cable car down.
Driving north along the Dead Sea we arrived at Engedi. Along the way, we read from Ezekiel 47 about the Dead Sea becoming fresh water one day. Engedi served as an oasis here in this dry area because of the unique springs of water present here all year around. Walking back into the canyon, we read from Song of Songs 1, 2 Chronicles 20, and 1 Samuel 24. This last story finds David and Saul here in a cave. Many in the group enjoyed getting wet in the water falls here. We also saw a few ibex and coneys (Psalm 104).
“Each day here in Israel becomes a richer experience. While it was hot today, the sites were fantastic. My favorite was getting wet at Engedi. It was amazing to see so much water here in the desert.” -Tour Member-
Continuing northward along the western shoreline of the Dead Sea, we arrived at Qumran. This is the most important archaeological site in all of Israel all because of what was discovered here. In 1947, the Dead Sea Scrolls were discovered here. Many texts of Scripture as well as sectarian texts describing the Essenes who lived here were discovered in the excavations between 1952-56. All total, 12 caves have now been found with fragments of texts. We visited the site following lunch here. We read from Psalm “151” here (written by David), 12 Timothy 3:16, and Psalm 19. Dr. Dan also shared his research about the fragment of the 2 Samuel text found in Cave 4. We rejoiced in how these texts were preserved so well.
Our final stop of the day was the Dead Sea. This unique body of water is over 30% salt and minerals. Despite the hot temperatures here, most in the group enjoyed floating. It was a wild sensation!
After showering up, we drove west and literally ascended about 4,000 feet to Jerusalem. We checked into our hotel and enjoyed a special Shabbat dinner. Many in the group then walked to the Western Wall. We all all looking forward to spending the next few days here in Israel’s capital.