DAY 5 – FRIDAY, JANUARY 17: MASADA, EIN GEDI, QUMRAN, DEAD SEA
Following an unique experience here in the Judean Desert, we spent all day seeing sites located along the western shoreline of the Dead Sea. The morning weather provided sun but it was overcast in the afternoon, with high temps about 65. We read Psalm 18:1-2 (metzada = fortress) as we departed after breakfast.
Our first site was Masada. While this stand-alone mountain probably served as the stronghold for David (1 Samuel 24), it was Herod the Great (37-4 BC) who built this incredible palace-fortress in the 30s BC. We arrived at the western entrance to the site where 23 in the group climbed the Roman Ramp to the top. Others bussed around to the eastern side and ascended to the top via cable car. The site is filled with ruins from the 1st century, with palaces, casemate walls, cisterns, and a synagogue. In 70 AD, 967 Jews made Masada their protective fortress against the Romans. The story of Masada involves all but five of the Jews taking their own lives. Josephus records this history. Leaving the site, most took the cable car down while about 10 hiked down the Snake Path.
“It was another eye-opening day. Engedi was my favorite site today. The hike back to the last waterfalls was incredible. I am so glad I did this and that Dr. John’s trips offer the time to encounter these kinds of ‘extra’ experiences.” -Tour Member-
We drove north from here about 15 minutes to Engedi. On the way, we red from Ezekiel 47 about the Dead Sea becoming fresh. Arriving at Engedi, we walked back into Wadi David, the canyon that flows with water all-year around! We read from Song of Songs 1, 2 Chronicles 20, and 1 Samuel 24. In this last text we find David trying to find refuge from King Saul. David spares his life and returns back to the stronghold (Masada). Many in the group walked back to see the water falls. It is a beautiful place. We saw a bunch of coneys (Psalm 104) along the way.
Our last archaeological site to see today was Qumran. Located on the northern end of the Dead Sea, this site is Israel’s most significant site namely because of the Dead Sea Scrolls found here in 1947. Located in 12 caves, over 900 fragments of Scriptural and sectarian texts were found. These scrolls were written by the Essenes. Following lunch here we walked through the ruins. In front of Cave 4, we read from “Psalm 151” (an extra psalm found in 1956) and Psalm 19. We celebrated the perseverance of God’s Word here and the joy, direction, and hope it offers us!
We ended the day at the Dead Sea. This unique body of water (the north end is 35 miles long and about 900 feet deep) consists of 33% salt and minerals. Many enjoyed floating effortlessly. Coating ourselves with mud was also fun!
With drove a short distance from here to our kibbutz-hotel (Almog). We enjoyed an early Shabbat dinner followed by a free evening. So far the weather has been great, but we are expecting some rain the next two days.
DAY 6 – SATURDAY, JANUARY 18: JERICHO, BETH SHEAN, NAZARETH, MEGIDDO, GALILEE