February 2018 Israel Tour Summary/Update – Day 5


Today we left the Sea of Galilee area and drove south. Our final destination today on a day that started with steady rain through the first part of the morning was the Dead Sea. The weather improved as by late morning, with sun and clouds and highs in the 70s.

Mt. of Beatitudes

Mt. of Beatitudes

The Mt. of Beatitudes on a rainy morning

Leaving our hotel shortly after 7:30 again, we first drove to the Mt. Of Beatitudes. This was one location where Jesus delivered His sermon on the kingdom principles (this sermon would be His “go-to” message, and He shared it in other places too, see Luke 6:17-49). Overlooking a natural amphitheater and huddling together under umbrellas, we heard part of Matthew 5 in Hebrew and then in English. We enjoyed a time of reflection, song, and prayer. The words of Jesus came alive here in this place!

Kinneret Cemetery

Rachel Bluwstein

The grave of Rachel Bluwstein at the Kinneret Cemetery

Driving south to the end of the Sea of Galilee, we made a brief “extra” stop at the Kinneret Cemetery. Here Shlomo shared with us about kibbutz life in Israel. We also heard of the story of a Russian/Ukrainian Jew named Rachel Bluwstein. She was an early Jewish pioneer in the land. She is famous for her poems. She died in 1931. Her face is now on the new Israeli 20 shekel bill!

Beth Shean

Beth Shean

The Roman city of Beth Shean

Continuing south through the Jordan Valley, we arrived at Beth Shean. By the time we started our tour of this site, the rain stopped and the sun came out! Beth Shean was one of Israel’s most extensive archaeological site. It was on the ancient walls of the Old Testament city where King Saul’ body was hung after his death on Mt Gilboa (1 Samuel 31). Beth Shean was also a very large Roman city as well, peaking from the 2nd-5th century AD. We walked on the colonnaded stone pavements/streets, saw Roman bathhouses and many mosaics as well as the agora (market place), public latrenes, and the massive theater. Some in the group climbed to the top of the OT tel for a great view of the Roman city below. Following seeing the site, we had lunch near by.


Jericho walls

The Late Bronze retaining walls of Jericho

From here we drove a little over an hour south down the Jordan Valley. At the northern end of the Dead Sea is the city of Jericho. This was our last stop of the day. Jericho was the first city taken in Joshua’s Conquest (Joshua 6). We saw the retaining/revetment walls of the city on top of which was a mud-brick wall. It was the later that came tumblin’ down when the shofars (trumpets) were blown (David actually blew a small shofar when we read the story! Just a couple of miles to the south was New Testament Jericho. It served as Herod’s winter palace. It was here where Zacheaus (Luke 19) and Bartemaeus lived (Mark 10). It was also here where Herod the Great died in 4 BC.

Dead Sea

Dead Sea and Moab

The Dead Sea and mountains of Moab (in Jordan)

Driving south along the Dead Sea, we enjoyed spectacular visibility. The mountains of Moab (in Jordan) and clouds in the sky were so colorful as the sun began to set. After we arrived at our hotel in Zin Bokek, we changed into our swim suits for a unique float in the Dead Sea. Again the backdrop of the Jordanian mountains was amazing! Following a good hot shower, we enjoyed dinner together and a free evening.


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Day 5 Trip Summary – January 2018 14 Day Israel Tour


This morning we checked out of our “Bedouin tent” quarters. It was an interesting night with all of us sleeping under one big “tent” (although a few slept out under the stars). Following a nice sunrise, we drove to our first site of the day, we read from Psalm 18:1-2 – “God is our fortress/metzada!” The weather was sunny, with temps around 65-70.



The hike down Masada

We arrived at Masada around 7:50 a.m. This site is one of the most significant sites for Jews because of what took place here in 70-73 AD. Most in the group hiked to the top by ascending the Roman ramp. A few drove around to the eastern side and took the cable car to the top. The view of the Dead Sea to the east is spectacular from on top! We saw a few of the ruins excavated here – the southern and northern palace, storerooms, the casemate wall, the synagogue, and the bathhouse. Shlomo shared with us the story of 967 Jews who found refuge here against the Romans for nearly 3 years. It is a story of courage and determination. Fifteen in the group hiked down the Snake Path (1.2 miles with a descent of 1,000 feet), while others took the cable car down.


Engedi water falls

Engedi water falls

Just 20 minutes north along the Dead Sea coastline is Engedi. Upon arriving, we walked back into the canyon and to the water falls of this natural oasis and source of water in the Judean Desert. A bunch got wet here under the water falls! It was here where David hid from Saul. We read this story from 1 Samuel 24. We also read from Song of Songs 1 (the “henna blossoms of Engedi…”) as well as 2 Chronicles 20 (about the “ascent of Ziz”).



Qumran and the Dead Sea

Continuing north along the Dead Sea (see Ezekiel 47 and Zechariah 14) about 35 minutes we arrived at Qumran. During the lunch hour, about twenty in the group hiked to Cave 1 where the first Dead Sea Scrolls were found in 1947 (this included the famous Isaiah Scroll). Following this hike/lunch, we visited the small archaeological ruins of Qumran. It was here where the Essenes wrote the scrolls. We saw ritual baths (Miqveh), the scriptorium, and a close-up view of Cave 4 where the majority of the scrolls were found in 1952. Slightly the south from Cave 4, we saw the new excavations of “Cave 12.” We read from Psalm 19 and “Psalm 151” (an extra psalm discovered here in Cave 11). We celebrated the remarkable preservation and specialness of God’s Word!

Dead Sea

Next, we drove to the northern edge of the Dead Sea close by. What an amazing experience it was to float in this salty body of water (33% salt and minerals). While it was rather windy (causing waves) and a bit difficult to even stand up, it was lots of fun! We felt like corks out there!


Jericho walls

The retaining walls of Jericho

Our last stop of the day was Jericho. We climbed the site and first looked eastward across the Jordan Valley. We saw Mt. Nebo (Dt. 34) where Moses died. Elijah and Elisha also had part of their ministry on that side (2 Kings 2). Jesus was baptized at a place called Bethany Beyond the Jordan (John 1). We also recalled the story of Joshua’s conquest of this city (Joshua 6). We saw the double retaining walls of this well fortified city, walls that supported a mud-brick wall on top. It was that wall that came tumblin’ down. The city was conquered in the 15th century BC (1,410 BC).

Driving to a “kibbutz hotel” (Al Mog) near by, we made a brief stop at a “Hebron glass” store. Arricing at the hotel, we checked in, enjoyed dinner together, followed by a free evening. What a great day this was in the Judean Desert!


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Oct-Nov 2017 Egypt-Jordan-Israel Tour Update – Day 8


Today we traveled north all the way from the Dead Sea to the Sea of Galilee. On the way however, we enjoyed a number of sites that once again connected us to the Bible. The day would be another sunny one, with temps around 80.


Masada Israel

Masada, the amazing fortress-palace in the 1st century!

Leaving at 8 a.m. following a hearty breakfast, we first drove to Masada. We read Psalm 18:1-2 on the way, celebrating God as our “fortress” (e.g. in Hebrew, metzada). Upon arriving at this palace-fortress of Herod built in the early 30s BC at the beginning of his reign (37-4 BC), we rode the cable car to the top. The peak of Masada stands about 1,000 feet higher than the valley below. On top we saw a number of things, including Herod’s southern palace, the Roman ramp, cisterns, catapult stones, the synagogue, the northern palace, and the Roman bath. Shlomo unfolded the story of Masada with passion, reflecting how the site is still significant to Israelis today! It was in 73 AD (after about 3 years of being seized by Silva and the Romans) that Masada fell. 967 Jews committed suicide here, with only a few women and children surviving. To end our tour of the site, most rode the cable car back down while about 15 in the group hiked down the Snake Path.


waterfall Engedi

Engedi waterfall

Continuing north along the coastline of the Dead Sea, Engedi was our next stop. Here we hiked back into Wadi David (a canyon). Gathering together, we read from Song of Songs 1, 2 Chronicles 20, and 1 Samuel 24. It was here where the David and Saul “cave encounter” took place. We also hiked back to see some of the water falls of in this desert oasis.


Cave 1 Qumran

Inside Cave 1 at Qumran. This is where the first Dead Sea scrolls were discovered!

About 30 minutes north is Qumran, the home of where the Dead Sea Scrolls were found between 1947-1956. During the lunch hour, about 15 in the group hiked to Cave 1 where the first scrolls were accidentally discovered. After lunch we gathered together to see a video as well as the archaeological site itself. We saw many mikvot (plural for “ritual baths”), cisterns, and “Cave 4” – of the 12 caves where scroll texts were found. We read from psalm written by David (“Psalm 151”), from 2 Timothy 3, 2 Peter 1, and Psalms 19 and 119.


We ended the day at Tel es Sultan or Jericho. Climbing the “tel” (ancient mound), we first look east across the Jordan River and remembered the stories of Dt. 34, Joshua 1-2, 2 Judges 3, and 2 Kings 2, all about Jericho. We also looked about 2 miles south to “New Testament” Jericho where Zachaeus and Bartimaeus lived. This was also where King Herod died.

Ancient Jericho walls

The retaining walls of ancient Jericho

Finally, we remembered the story of Joshua 6 and the conquering of the city. Indeed the archaeological ruins of Jericho confirm the historicity of the Bible! We saw not only an old stone tower (that predates even Abraham by more than 1,000 years), but at the southern end we saw what still stands today as the two stone “retaining” walls of the city Joshua conquered. It was the mud brick walls on top of this stone wall that came tumblin’ down! Praise God for the truth of His Word!

Sea of Galilee

From here we drove nearly two hours north to our the Sea of Galilee area. Passing through Tiberias, we arrived at Nof Ginnosar about 7 p.m. After checking in, we enjoyed dinner together before retiring for the evening.

We will spend three nights here on the NW shoreline of the Sea of Galilee, the area of Jesus’ Galilean ministry!


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Oct-Nov 2017 Egypt-Jordan-Israel Tour Update – Day 7


Today we would enter our third country, Israel. After a very unique and special night sleeping in tents, we woke at dawn. Greeted by the sun once again rising in the east, the day would be a sunny yet warmer day.

The Jordan-Israel Border Crossing

Wadi Rum Captains

Our “camp in Wadi Rum, Jordan

Following breakfast, about half the group rode a camel about 2 miles to the visitor center (where the bus was all night), while others took a ride in the jeeps. After packing up the bus, we drove to Aqaba, the southern most city of Jordan. We read Deuteronomy 6 on the way. After picking up some more lost luggage in Aqaba, we drove to the Rabin Border into Israel where we said goodbye to Sammy our “wild and crazy” guide. It was a delight to have him with us the last 2 days.

The Red Sea

Red Sea

Red Sea in Elat, Israel

Crossing the border into Israel all went fine (and quite quickly actually … 40 minutes!). David (our driver) and Shlomo (our guide) greeted us after we finished with the crossing procedures. We then went to Coral Beach where we met up with the 16 others in our group who began their tour in Israel only a couple of days ago. It was wonderful to be all together! We all enjoyed the beach here, with a number in the group swimming in the water of the Red Sea. The water was very clear, with colorful fish and coral.

Timnah & the Tabernacle

Timnah Tabernacle

The Tabernacle Model at Timnah

Leaving from here, we drove north in the Aravah Valley to Timnah. Back in the 13-12th century BC, this was the location of an ancient Egypt copper mine. The highlight here was seeing a full-size replica of the Tabernacle. The size was 150 x 75 feet. We saw the sacrificial altar the bronze laven, the Holy Chamber that included the Menorah, the Table of Showbread, and the Incense Altar. We then entered the Holy of Holies where we saw the replica of the Ark of the Covenant. We paused to celebrate God’s redemptive plan fulfilled by Jesus, our High Priest and Savior. We read from Hebrews 9 about Christ fulfilling the sacrifice “once and for all.”

Ostrich Hai Bar

An ostrich at the Hai Bar Nature Preserve

From here we continued to drive north in the Aravah. Since we had a late check-in at our hotel, we made an extra stop at the Hai-Bar Yotvata Nature Reserve Safari. It is an Israel national park. It was fun to see man ostriches, the white oryx, the addax, and the Solami wild donkey. The ostriches came right up to the bus window.

Dead Sea

After a brief stop at Yovata (a dairy-kibbutz known for its ice cream), we drove about an hour and a half to our hotel in Ein Bokek along the Dead Sea. While we waited for our rooms to get ready, many went down and floated in the Dead Sea. It was a remarkable and unique experience!
Following dinner, we retired for the evening.


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June 2017 Israel Tour – Day 5 Summary


Today was a day in the Judea Desert and in the region of the Dead Sea. It was hot today, with temps in the low 100s.


Masada Roman Ramp

We left our “Bedouin” hotel in the desert at 7:30. Driving just about 15 minutes and reading from Psalm 18:12 (that mentions metzada – “fortress”), we arrived at Masada, one of six of Herod the Great’s “palace-fortresses.” This one is a stand-alone mountain about 1,000 foot high. Our group had the unique experience of hiking up the Roman ramp on the western side. Others in the group bussed around and ascended to the top in the cable car. Once on top, we saw cisterns, the case-mate wall, the western and northern palaces, the bathhouse, and storerooms. The story of Masada is a gripping one, with 967 Jews withstanding Roman siege of the fortress for three years (70-73 AD) until all but five of them taking their own lives and dying in freedom. Because it was too hot, they closed the Snake Path, preventing us from hiking down.

Just 10-15 minutes north is Engedi. Here we read the story about David hiding in a cave from Saul (1 Samuel 24). The story of 2 Chronicles 20 also took place in this area. Song of Songs 1 also mentions the henna blossoms of Engedi. We also hiked into the canyon to see the many waterfalls. A number in the group enjoyed getting wet in the hour we spent here.


Getting wet at Engedi

Continuing north along the Dead Sea, Qumran was our next site. During the lunch hour, 15 in the group joined Pastor John for a trek to Cave 1 where the first Dead Sea Scrolls were found in 1947. At the archaeological site of Qumran, we saw a few of the ruins here that date back to the time of the 1st century BC to the 1st century AD. The Essenes who lived here were the ones who scribed the Dead Sea Scrolls. In front of Cave 4 (where the majority of the texts were found), we read from “Psalm 151” (an “extra” psalm found here) and rejoiced in God’s amazing preservation of God’s Word!

Driving to the Dead Sea close by, we ended the day with floating in this amazing body of water. It is 33% salt and minerals. It was a wild experience!

Dead Sea

Floating in the Dead Sea

Driving north in the Jordan Valley and then heading west in and through the Hill Country of Ephraim/Samaria, we arrived our our hotel in Netanya for late dinner and a free evening. The sunset over the Med Sea was spectacular!


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Israel & The Dead Sea Area

Israel is an amazing country!

Dead Sea

Reflections upon the Dead Sea

Each region of the country is unique. Some areas are flat plains, while others are mountain ranges. The Dead Sea region is especially unique. At close to 1,400 feet below sea level, it is the lowest point on earth. The Dead Sea itself, about 35 miles long, is about 33% salt and minerals. This area receives only a few rain events all year, making it a very dry arid area.

Below is an amazing aerial video of the region of the Dead Sea.

The Dead Sea-Israel by Amir Aloni from Amir Aloni on Vimeo.

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April-May 2017 Israel-Egypt Tour Update: Day 6


Today we checked out of our hotel and left the Sea of Galilee region. The sun was once again bright, with afternoon temps still comfortable although reaching the 90s.

Beth Shean

The Roman city of Beth Shean (located along the Jordan River Valley)

After breakfast and loading the bus, we drove south to the southern end of the Sea of Galilee. We made a brief stop at the Kinneret Cemetery. Many Jewish pioneers are buried here, including the famous “Rachel” (Rachel Bluwstein). She was a Ukranian Jew who died in 1931 at the age of 40. Her poems are still read today! She will soon appear on the 20 shekel bill.

Driving south about 20 miles through the Jordan River Valley, we arrived at the huge archaeological site of Beth Shean. This was not only an Old Testament site but also a massive Roman city. It was the only Decapolis city on the west side of the Jordan. We spent about 1.5 hours here, seeing many ruins. This included the Roman bathhouse, agora, street, many pillars, a shrine, public latrines, and the theater. Some in the group climb to the top of the OT tel, providing a great view of the region as well as the Roman city below. We read from 1 Samuel 31 (death of Saul, with his body being hung on the walls of this city), and 1 Corinthians 15 (“standing firm” on the foundation of Christ).

Retaining walls of Jericho

The retaining walls of Jericho

Close by was the 6th century AD synagogue of Beit Alpha. Here the impressive mosaic floor of this synagogue is preserved. The fictional story about the making of the mosaic was entertaining.

From here we drove on a road leading us through the Samaritan Hill Country. We saw many shepherds along the way of this barren landscape. We drove nearby Shechem /Sychar (Deut. 34, Joshua 24, John 4), Shiloh (1 Samuel 3-4, Jer. 7), Bethel (Genesis 15, 28), and Ai (Joshua 7-8). Driving towards the Judean Desert we past by Michmash (1 Samuel 13-14). On the way to the specific desert of Pareth (Jeremiah 13), we saw a number of gazelles.

Dead Sea

Reflections upon the Dead Sea

Meeting up with the main east-west road leading to Jerusalem, we descended east and arrived at Jericho. Following lunch we climbed the ancient tel of OT Jericho. We first looked east across the Jordan River towards Mt. Nebo (Deut. 34). Elijah & Elisha also had their ministry in this area. It was also in the Jordan River here (John 1) where Jesus was baptized by John. NT Jericho was about 1.5 miles to the south (where we remembered guys like Zacheaus, Bartimeaus. Looking west we remembered Jesus’ temptation. But besides seeing the oldest standing structure in Israel (the round tower), we walked to the south end of the tel where the two stone retaining walls can still be seen. These walls date to the time of Joshua. It was the mud-brick wall on top of these stone walls that came “tumblin’ down.” Yes, the Bible is historically accurate in every respect!

Floating in the Dead Sea

Floating in the Dead Sea

Driving south along the western shoreline of the Dead Sea, the reflection of the afternoon sun against the slopes of Moab on the Jordanian side as brilliant. Arriving at our hotel in Ein Bokek, we also enjoyed floating in the Dead Sea (33% minerals & salt) as well as dinner.


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Biblical Israel & Jordan Tour, March 2017 – Day 8 Summary


Wadi Rum

The desert of Wadi Rum, Jordan

This morning we left Wadi Rum. We were greeted by bright sun yet cool morning temps. The afternoon high would recover to about 70.

After loading the busses, we drove to the Rabin Border crossing back into Israel. With patient spirits, we proceeded through the usual security checks and passport control. Being greeted by David and Itzaq, our Israeli drivers, we loaded our buses and drove to the southern end of Elat. Here we entered the coral reef national park where we enjoyed the beach and the crystal-clear water of the beautiful Red Sea. A number of people went swimming among the colorful fish and coral.

The Red Sea

The Red Sea – Elat, Israel

About noon we drove north to Timnah. This was an ancient Egyptian copper mine in the 14th century BC. However, our focus was to visit the full-size model of the Tabernacle. We were guided by Allison, a Messianic believer. She made numerous connections with the OT Tabernacle (the altar, the laver, the Holy Chamber consisting of the Table of Showbread, the Menorah, and the Incense Altar, and the Holy of Holies containing the Ark of the Covenant) with how Christ fulfilled all the sacrificial requirements through His death. We read from Hebrews 9. It was an eye-opening lesson.

Traveling further north, we made a brief stop at Yotvata, a dairy kibbutz located hee in the Aravah/Rift Valley. Many enjoyed the ice cream!

Tabernacle Model Timnah

The Tabernacle Model at Timnah

Driving about 2 hours further north, we arrived at our hotel at Ein Bokek. Many experienced the uniqueness of floating in the salty waters (33% salt and minerals) of the Dead Sea. A wonderful dinner followed.


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January 2017 Pastors Israel Tour – Day 5


Beth Shean

The Roman ruins of Bethshean (from the Old Testament site of the city)

Today we left the Sea of Galilee area. On this day with a mix of sun, clouds, and rain, it was an amazing day of rainbows! We saw at least 4 or 5 different rainbows throughout the day.

Driving south down the Jordan River Valley about 20 miles from the southern end of the Sea of Galilee, our first stop was the massive city of Beth Shean. We approached this OT & NT city from the north. The path took us from the farthest city gate to the top of the OT tel. The view of the Roman city below was breath-taking! Before seeing this incredible Roman city, we first read 1 Samuel 31. It was on the walls of Beth Shean that Saul’s body as hung (he died close on Mt. Gilboa). As we descended down to the Roman city, we saw may things, including Roman streets, pillars a bathhouse, a theater, and even a public latrine. It was probably a pagan Gentile city like this one where the Prodical Son went too before running back to his compassionate father.


A rainbow in the Samaritan Hill Country

Leaving Beth Shean, we continued south in the valley before taking a road to the west. We ascended into the Hill Country of Samaria/Ephraim. While driving we saw many shepherds on the hillsides with their goat and sheep (Mt. 25). We also recalled the stories of Abraham and Jacob at Shechem (Genesis 12, 34), Joshua at Mt. Gerazim and Mt Ebal (Josh. 8), and Jesus with the Samaritan woman at Sychar (John 4). The landscape was scenic, especially with the spectacular rainbows that appeared!

We arrived at Shiloh just before noon. We walked to the top of the tel and saw a movie presentation. It was here where the Tabernacle stood for 369 years. It was also here where Samuel heard the voice of God (1 Samuel 3). We walked down to the place where some suggest the Tabernacle once stood! We also remembered the words of warning by Jeremiah who mentions this place (Jer. 7).

jericho rainbow

Rainbow over Jericho

Driving south, we past by Bethel (Genesis 12, 28), and Michmash (1 Samuel 13-14) before descending down into the Desert of Pareth (Jeremiah 13). We saw many gazelles here on the hillsides.

We finally arrived at Jericho. After lunch here, we walked to the top of the tel. Looking east, we could see Mt. Nebo (Dt. 34), and the crossing of the Jordan (Josh. 2). Jesus was also baptized in the Jordan here (John 1). We also saw where NT Jericho was located (Mk. 10, Luke 19). We also saw the double Canaanite retaining walls that Joshua saw. The mud-brick wall on top of this wall was the one that “came tumbling down!” We also experienced a very unique but brief driving rain and wind storm here as well another rainbow!

Dead Sea

The Dead Sea at sunset

We ended the day by driving down to the southern end of the Dead Sea. Remarkably, it was even raining here. Some enjoyed floating in the Dead Sea pool at the hotel prior to dinner together.


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January 2017 Israel Tour – Day 8


qumran ruins

The ruins of Qumran

Today we were greeted to another sunny day, with temps in the 70s. It would be an entire day along the Dead Sea and within the Judean Desert. Leaving shortly after 7:30 we first visited Qumran. This was where the Dead Sea Scrolls were found in 1947. We began by driving to Cave 1 (where the famous Isaiah Scroll as found) and Cave 11 (where the Temple Scroll was found). A few went to Cave 1 while others saw Cave 11. Then we entered the archaeological site where we saw mikvot (ritual baths), cisterns, scriptorium, and Cave 4. We celebrated the preservation and holiness of the biblical text. We read from 2 Timothy 3:16-17, Psalm 19, and “Psalm 151” (one of the few “extra” psalms found here).

Next we enjoyed a float in the Dead Sea. It is remarkable that it is impossible to sink! Although the water was a bit cool, it was a great sensation to float effortlessly.


Engedi and the Wadi David

After showering up, we continued driving south along the western coastline of the Dead Sea. About half way down we stopped at Engedi. Here we walked back to a few of the water falls. We read from 1 Samuel 23 (about David hiding in a cave), 2 Chronicles 20 (Jehosaphat and the “Ascent of Ziz”) and Song of Solomon (the “henna blossoms of Engedi). We also saw a few ibex and coneys (Psalm 104).

Our last stop was Masada, the “fortress: (“metzada” in Hebrew). First built as a palace/fortress by Herod the Great, the site was later used by Jews following the destruction of Jerusalem in 70 AD. The site was used as an escape area of refuge against the Romans. After nearly three years, the Jewish community (967 of them) killed themselves (all except five). Taking the cable car to the top, we saw cisterns, palaces, the casemate wall, and storage rooms. The story of Masada is gripping! We walked down the Roman ramp where David picked us up on the western side.

Masada and Roman ramp

Masada and the Roman Ramp on the west side

From here we drove to Hanokdim, the “Bedouin Village” hotel for the night. Upon arriving, we enjoyed camel rides, followed by dinner. We also enjoyed a time of devotion and sharing out under the stars before sleeping in tents. What a unique experience!


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