DAY 5 – WEDNESDAY, MAY 9: MASADA, EIN GEDI, QUMRAN, QASR EL YAHUD/ JORDAN RIVER, DEAD SEA
(Theme of the Day: Claiming God as our fortress & thirsting for Him!)
The entire day today was spent in the Judean Desert on the western side of the Dead Sea. It would be a sunny and warmer day, with highs in the upper 80s.
Following a early rise from our “Bedouin tents” and breakfast, we drove just about 6 miles east to Masada. As we approached this famous Jewish site, we read from Psalm 18:1-2 where “metzada” is mentioned as the Hebrew word for “fortress.” Upon arriving, most in the group hiked the Roman ramp to the top, while a few others drove around to the eastern side and took the cable car to the top. Masada was one of Herod the Great’s “palace-fortresses” that was later used (after 70 AD) as a place of refuge for about three years for 967 Jews. On top we saw a few massive cisterns, the western palace, the casemate wall, the synagogue, and a glimpse of the northern palace. Since they were working on restoring the Snake Path from last weeks unusual flash floods here, no one could walk down. So we all had to take the cable car to the bottom.
Driving only about 15 minutes north, we arrived at Engedi. Most in the group walked up the canyon while others visited the Talmudic 3rd century AD synagogue. We read from Songs of Songs 1 (“henna blossoms of Engedi”), 2 Chronicles 20 (“Ascent of Ziz”), and 1 Samuel 24 (the David and Saul “cave encounter”). Hiking up to the water falls, some enjoyed getting wet in the natural springs that flow here all year long.
Continuing to drive north about 30 minutes, we came to Qumran. This is no doubt the most significant archeological site in Israel. A number (25?) in the group got dropped off for the hike to “Cave 1” (where the first Dead Sea Scrolls were found in 1947), while others ate lunch at the visitor center. We also visited the site of Qumran where we saw many mikvot (ritual baths), the scriptorium, and cisterns. In front of Cave 4 we paused to rejoice in the preservation of God’s Word. We also read from “Psalm 151” (humbly written by David). It was found in Cave 11 in 1956.
Changing our itinerary a little, we made a brief stop to see the Jordan River. The site located across from Jericho is called Qasr El-Yahud. According to John 1, Jesus was baptized near here. While the water is very muddy, many Catholics and Greek Orthodox come here for baptism.
We ended the day with a float in the remarkable Dead Sea. It contains 33% salt and minerals. Most in the group enjoyed the uniqueness of the float. Some even enjoyed the black mud! It was a wild experience!
Close by was our kibbutz-hotel called Al Mog. We enjoyed dinner together before retiring for the evening.
DAY 6 – THURSDAY, MAY 10: JERICHO, SHILOH, BETH SHEAN, SEA OF GALILEE, HIPPOS-SUSSITA
(Theme of the Day: Preparing and recommitting ourselves to trust God)