DAY 6- FRIDAY, JANUARY 22
Today began unique with a “float” on the Dead Sea prior to breakfast. It is quite the sensation to float like this. After showering up and breakfast, we left the hotel a bit late since our bus got parked in by cars. We ended up piling in two vans to take us to our first stop.
Masada, a “palace-fortress” built by Herod the Great, was our first stop on this partly sunny and pleasant day (around 70). The project that took 6 years (37-31 BC), Masada is a massive “stand-alone” rock fortress. We took the cable car up to the top. We saw cisterns, residential rooms and storage rooms, the Roman ramp, the synagogue, and the northern palace. We all took the cable car back down since time did not allow for hiking down the Snake Path. We read from Psalm 18:1-2 that mentions “metzada” in the context of God being our “fortress.”
Driving north along the western coastline of the Dead Sea, our next stop was Engedi. We read from Song of Songs 1, 2 Chr. 20, and 1 Samuel 24. This is where David hid in a cave to escape the pursuit of King Saul. We had the chance to hike back to some of the water falls and canyon itself. It’s a beautiful place! We also saw lots of coneys, but no ibex/wild goats (Psalm 104).
We continued north to Qumran. It is here where the Dead Sea Scrolls were found in 1947. We heard the remarkable story of their preservation over the last 2,000 years. We saw some of the ruins as well as explored one of the caves (Cave 11). Some even hiked to the famous Cave 1 where the Isaiah scrolls were found! We also had a late lunch here.
On our way to Jerusalem, we made a brief stop to overlook the Wadi Qelt and the Judean Desert. We listened to the moving words of Isaiah 40, words spoken by the prophet Isaiah in anticipation of God’s coming redemption. John the Baptist would also echo these words in preparation for the coming of the Messiah, Jesus Himself! The images of Psalm 23 also fit the context. Shlomo sang this psalm for us.
Ascending to Jerusalem, we checked into our hotel and enjoyed dinner together. This was followed by our first optional walk to the Western Wall. It was amazing to see this most revered and holy area for or Jewish friends!
DAY 7- SATURDAY, JANUARY 23: MT. OF OLIVES, POOL OF BETHESDA, VIA DOLOROSA, HERODIUM, BETHLEHEM
Very cold weather, even snow is forecast for Saturday and/or Sunday. It could make for some interesting experiences!