DAY 8 – TUESDAY, JUNE 28
Today was expectantly warmer than today since we spent the entire day in the Judean Desert/Dead Sea area. Leaving again shortly after 7:30, we drove east of Jerusalem, down to the Jericho area, then turned south. Driving along the Dead Sea, we arrived at our first site of the day, Masada!
Masada was another palace-fortress built by Herod the Great. Taking the cable car up to the top of this “stand-alone” mountain (about 1,000 feet up), we heard the story of Masada (the resilience of 967 Jews again the Romans who ended up taking their own lives in 73 AD) and saw a few of the ruins (cistern, palace, casemate wall, synagogue, bathhouse). We were reminded of Psalm 18:1-2 that God is our “metzada” – our fortress when we trust in him! Unfortunately because of the heat, the Snake Path was closed which prevented us from hiking down. So we all took the cable car down.
Driving back north along the shoreline of the Dead Sea, Engedi was our next stop. We read from Songs of Songs 1 (henna blossoms from Engedi), 2 Chronicles 20 (Jehosophat & Ascent of Ziz), and 1 Samuel 24 (David & Saul in a cave). We hiked back to the water falls, some going all the way to the high falls.
Continuing north to Qumran (located at the northern end of the Dead Sea and where the Dead Sea Scrolls written by the Essenes were found in 1947), we ate lunch and saw the ancient site. During lunch, a number in the group hiked up to the famous Cave 1 (where the scrolls were found initially, including the Isaiah Scroll among others). We read from “Psalm 151” (an extra psalm found here among), 2 Timothy 3, and Psalm 19.
Our last experience of the day was the Dead Sea. Here almost everyone experienced the “floating” sensation of this body of water that is 33% minerals and salt. It was an enjoyable encounter even though the temps reach in the low –mid 40s C (110 F). Many enjoyed coating themselves with mud.
From here we drove back to our hotel in Jerusalem. We enjoyed dinner and a free night.
DAY 9 – WEDNESDAY, JUNE 29: OLD CITY, WAILING WALL, WESTERN WALL TUNNEL, TEMPLE MOUNT SIFTING PROJECT, ISRAEL MUSEUM, YAD VASHEM