DAY 9 – MONDAY, MARCH 19: MASADA, EIN GEDI, QUMRAN, JERICHO, WILDERNESS OF JUDAH, JERUSALEM
We spent the entire day in the Judean Desert along the west side of the Dead Sea. The sun would be bright with warm but bearable temps in the high 80s.
Following breakfast and check-out, we left the hotel a little after 7:45. Driving just 15 minutes north along the Dead Sea and reading Psalm 18:1-2 as we started the day (God is my rock, my fortress – “metzada” in Hebrew), our first stop was Masada. Taking the cable-car to the top of this 1,000 foot high “stand alone” fortress originally built by Herod the Great, we saw the ruins (southern palace, Roman ramp, casemate wall, synagogue, northern palace, and bathhouse). We also heard the story of Masada shared passionately by Shlomo. After the destruction of Jerusalem in 70 AD, Masada was used as a place of refuge for 967 Jews. Leaving the site, we took the cable car back down. Nine in the group hiked down the Snake Path.
Continuing to drive north, we arrived at Engedi, the oasis in the Judean Desert. Walking back into the canyon, we read from Song of Songs 1 (about the henna blossoms of Engedi), 2 Chronicles 20 (the “Ascent of Ziz”) and 1 Samuel 24. This is where David encountered King Saul in a cave. We walked back to the water falls further up in the canyon. Some enjoyed getting very wet!
Only about 30 minutes further north is Qumran. This was the most important archaeological site in all of Israel, for this is where the Dead Sea Scrolls were found in 1947. During the lunch hour, 15 in the group hiked to Cave 1 where the first scrolls were found (including the famous Isaiah Scrolls). Following lunch we visited the site itself, seeing the ruins of the scribes of the texts, the Essene community. Standing in front of Cave 4 (and where #5 was), we read from “Psalm 151” (an extra psalm found in Cave 11) as well as Psalm 19 and 2 Timothy 3:16. Praise God for the amazing preservation of God’s Word!
From here we visit Old Testament Jericho. This city is located just north of the Dead Sea. Climbing the “tel,” we first looked east across the Jordan Valley to see Mt. Nebo (Dt. 34). It was in the Jordan River across from where Jesus was baptized (John 1). We also talked about how the archaeology here matches well (“confirms”) the biblical story of Joshua 6. Standing on the southern end, we saw the double retaining stone walls of the city. It was on top of these stone walls that the mud brick wall was placed. It was this mud brick wall that came tumblin’ down when the shofars sounded! Praise God for the reliability of Scripture!
Wadi Qelt & on to Jerusalem
On our drive west to Jerusalem (18 miles), we made a brief stop overlooking the Wadi Qelt. This is part of the Judean Desert. As the sun was setting, we heard the words of Isaiah 40 shared with us as well as Psalm 23. The desert here serves as the context for these passages!
Arriving in Jerusalem, we checked into our hotel. Upon finishing dinner, we enjoyed an orientation walk to the Western Wall! We walked through the Jewish Quarter of the Old City to there and back. It is exciting to be in Jerusalem, Israel’s capital!
DAY 10 – TUESDAY, MARCH 20: MT. OF OLIVES, GETHSEMANE, POOL OF BETHESDA, VIA DOLOROSA, HERODIUM, BETHLEHEM