Day 6 – Friday, August 11: Sachne, Jericho, Qumran, Dead Sea
We checked out of our hotel in Tiberias today. It’s been a great two full days here in the north end of the country. Following breakfast, we loaded the bus at 7:20 and departed at about 7:30. We read other portions of Matthew 5-7 as we left. Our final destination for the day would be Masada, located on the western side of the Dead Sea in the Judean Desert. The weather was hot today, with highs in the low 100s by afternoon.
Our first site of the day was an “extra” site we added as we drove south. Sachne (Gan HaShlosha) is a wonderful natural swimming pool fed by the Harod Spring (remember the Gideon story, Judges 6-7). We enjoyed about an hour here swimming in the water. We got pounded under the water falls too! It felt good! Sachne is an Israeli national park located just west of Beth Shean. There is no other natural swimming hole like it in all of Israel!
From Sachne we drove south through the Jordan Valley. We arrived at Jericho at the southern end of the Jordan Valley. We then climbed the site of ancient Jericho. We first looked east across the Jordan to recall a few biblical connections (e.g. Moses, Mt. Nebo, Dt. 31; Joshua crossing the river (Joshua 3), Elijah & Elisha (2 Kings 2), and Jesus’ baptism (Matthew 3). We then saw an old stone tower that predates even Abraham and a small portion of the city wall on the southern end. Mud-bricks and a burn level could also be seen in a few places. We recalled the Joshua 6 story how the city was defeated (and burned) by the Israelites. Praise God for the historicity of the Bible as it happened just as recorded and confirmed by archaeology! (Note: included in the photos is a picture of a portion of the mud-brick wall on the north end).
“We had a hot day today. The day included the opportunity to get wet in the natural pool of Sachne and the unique Dead Sea. We also saw the ruins of Jericho and Qumran as well. It was another great day with many biblical connections.
Following lunch at Jericho, we drove south to the northwest corner of the Dead Sea where Qumran is located. It was here at Qumran where the Dead Sea Scrolls were found! The discovery began in 1947, while the excavation took place through 1956. First, we all walked to the cliff area above the archaeological site. Here we could see Cave 6. We then walked back down through the ruins where a small community of Essenes lived (or retreated to from Jerusalem, as a new theory suggests). To date, over 900 scrolls and fragments of texts scrolls have been discovered in 12 caves. The scrolls/texts date primarily from the 3rd century BC – 1st century AD. At the small archaeological site we saw cisterns, ritual baths (mikvot), and the scriptorium. In front of “Cave 4” (where the majority of texts were found), we read from “Psalm 151,” and Psalm 19. We celebrated the perseverance of God’s Word!
We ended the day with a visit to the Dead Sea. This is the lowest place on earth. Most in the group enjoyed a “float” in this unique body of water (33% salt and mineral). Though it reached above 100 here, it was a great experience. After a shower, we continued our drive south to the Guest House at Masada. Following check-in, we enjoyed dinner together and an early bedtime since we plan to get up for a very early pre-dawn/sunrise hike up the Snake Path tomorrow.