DAY 7 – SATURDAY, NOVEMBER 9: MASADA, EIN GEDI, QUMRAN, WILDERNESS OF JUDAH, JERUSALEM
We spent all of today in the Judean Desert along the Dead Sea. Each site was unique and interesting. Each site also connected us to the Bible. The sun was bright, with our warmest day of the trip so far (highs in the 90s).
While some enjoy floating in the Dead Sea last night, others ventured out for a “sunrise float” this morning before breakfast. It’s a wild sensation to be able to float effortlessly in this water that is 33% salt and minerals. Ezekiel 47 and Zechariah 14 tell us that one day water will flow from Jerusalem and make this salty water fresh!
Following breakfast, we loaded the bus and drove to Masada. We read from Psalm 18:1-2 on the way, celebrating God as our “meztada” – our fortress! We arrived at this palace-fortress build by Herod the Great at about 8 a.m. We immediately took the cable car to the top, some 1,000 feet above. We saw cisterns, palaces, the Roman ramp (on the west side), casemate walls, and the synagogue. Masada is best known for being the site where 967 Jews found refuge for almost three years (70—73 AD) from the Romans. All by five freely took their own lives before the Romans infiltrated the fortress. At the end of out visit, some in the group hiked down the Snake Path whiles others returned to the bottom by way of cable car.
“We spent the day in the Judean Desert today! It truly is a desert, but with a few oasis of water like at Engedi. I was shocked to see so much water here. I really liked hearing Isaiah the prophet share about God’s comfort in the Wadi Qelt at the end of the day.” -Tour Member-
From here we drove about 20 minutes northward along the western coastline of the Dead Sea. Engedi is an oasis in the middle of this part of the Judean Desert. Water flows from springs all year around here. We walked together into the canyon (“Wadi David”) where we read from Songs of Songs 1, 2 Chronicles 20, and 1 Samuel 24. This last story places David hiding in cave from the the pursuit of Saul. We walked up to some of the water falls before returning back to the visitor center.
Continuing northward, Qumran was our next site to visit. After lunch here (although some hiked to the cliff area during lunch), we visited this most important site in all of Israel. The Dead Sea Scrolls were found here in 1947. Excavations were done between 1952-56 with about 900 fragments of texts found here in 11 caves. Just recently, a 12th cave was found. We walked through the ruins together. Overlooking Cave 4, we read from “Psalm 151” (written by David) as well as Psalm 19 and 2 Timothy 3:16. We praised God for the perseverance of God’s Word here.
En route to Jerusalem, we ended the day with a brief stop at Wadi Qelt. Here we hear the words of Isaiah 40 and Psalm 23 in the context of the Judean Desert. We then drove the rest of the way to Jerusalem. Each bus checked into their own hotels here. Following dinner many in the group enjoyed an optional walk to the Western Wall. We are looking forward to spending the rest of the Israel portion of the tour here in Jerusalem!
DAY 8 – SUNDAY, NOVEMBER 10: MT. OF OLIVES, GARDEN OF GETHSEMANE, POOL OF BETHESDA, HOLY SEPULCHER CHURH, ISRAEL MUSEUM