DAY 9 – MONDAY, MAY 4
We departed the hotel again at around 7:30 a.m. The day was sunny and about 90 (predictably warmer because of this 1,300 feet below sea level region). We drove around the Old City and headed east towards Jericho (literally descending 4,000 feet in elevation). At Jericho we turned south and drove along the western shoreline of the Dead Sea to Masada. Located on the southern end of the sea, this fortress was built by Herod on a “stand-alone” mountain 1,000 feet above the valley. We took a cable car up to the top. We visited the southern cistern and palace, the ramp, a few dwelling places, the synagogue, and the bathhouse. Shlomo passionately shared with us the story of the brave Jewish community who withstood the Romans for almost 3 years before committing suicide. 6 in the group hiked down the Snake Path. While Masada is not specifically mentioned in the Bible, we recalled the words from Psalm 18:1-2 (my “fortress” / metzada-masada).
Driving north about 15 minutes was our second stop of the day, Engedi. Here we read portions of Song of Songs 1 (“henna blossoms from Engedi…”), 2 Chronicles 20 (the Ascent/Pas of Ziz, the story of Jehosophat), and 1 Samuel 24 (David and Saul’s “cave” encounter). We hiked back a little to see some of the waterfalls that are abundant here because of the natural springs.
Continuing north, Qumran was our next stop. After eating lunch here, we toured the small site and heard the story of the Essene community writing the “Dead Sea Scrolls” here. We read from “Psalm 151” (the extra psalm found here), 2 Timothy 3:16, and Psalm 19. We celebrated the marvelous preservation of God’s Word here and the joy of the Scriptures. (Pastor John also hiked to Cave 1, where the Isaiah scroll and others were found in 1947 by the shepherd boy. A few pictures are of Cave 1 as well as looking out of cave 1 to the Dead Sea).
Nearby is the Dead Sea. We floated in this unique body of water (33% salt/mineral). The sensation of not being able to sink is remarkable! After about an hour here, we drove back to the hotel in Jerusalem for dinner. The optional walk tonight was to Ben Yehuda Street, to taste a little modern Israeli life. On the way, we poked our head into the King David hotel and looked at all the famous signatures on the floor. In the alleyway of the hotel we also saw Herod’s family tomb, complete with a rolling stone.
DAY 10 – TUESDAY, MAY 5
We plan to visit the Western Wall/Tunnel, Jewish Quarter, Temple Institute, Israel Museum, and Yad Vashem (Holocaust Museum).