DAY 5 – FRIDAY, JUNE 21
This is a day that we drove north, with our final destination the Sea of Galilee. Our first top of the day was Engedi. Here, we enjoyed hiking back to the water falls. It was a time also to get wet in the morning heat, with some enjoying wading into the waterfalls. We read from 1 Samuel 24 about how David hid in a cave to escape the pursuit of Saul. We saw some ibex and coney or “rock-badgers” here as well (Psalm 104:18). Continuing north along the Dead Sea we arrived at Qumran and the settlement of the first century sect known as the Essenes, the authors of the Dead Sea Scrolls. We talked about the importance of these scrolls and appreciated the miraculous preservation of God’s Word here in the context of what Scripture does for us (Psalm 19, 2 Timothy 3:16). Some of us hiked up to the cliff area and crawled through part of the aqueduct carved into the rock. Leaving the Dead Sea area but located along the Jordan Valley was our next site, Jericho. We ascend the oldest site in all of Israel to see where “the walls came tumblin’ down.” We read from Joshua 6, but also could see from here other biblical stories come alive (e.g. Joshua’s crossing of the Jordan, the ministry of Elijah and Elisha, Jesus’ baptism and temptation). We ate lunch in Jericho.
From here we drove north through the Jordan Valley to Bethshean where King Saul’s body was hung on its walls (1 Samuel 31). This is a most-impressive Roman city, one of the Decapolis as mentioned in the Gospels. We walked along the Cardo of this massive city and saw numerous ruins of significance: mosaics, bath-house, theater, to name a few. A few of us hiked to the top of the OT tel as well. What a great view from here!
About 30 minutes north of Bethshean we arrived at our home for the next three nights, Maagan, a wonderful “retreat-center” type of place situated right along the southern shores of the Sea of Galilee (the Kinneret). We enjoyed some relaxing time prior to dinner. Some of us went swimming in the Sea of Galilee and/or pool. We also enjoyed dinner as well as a gathering on the shoreline for reflection and worship. We look forward to spending the next two full days in the Galilee.