Day 7 – Saturday, August 12: Early Morning Optional Hike – Masada, Dead Sea, Judean Desert, Mt. of Olives, Western Wall
Pre-dawn Hike up Masada
This morning started early again today, with a 4:45 departure from the hotel. Twelve in the group walked up the Snake Path for an incredible sunrise over the Moab mountains in Jordan today. It is about a 1.2 mile hike, with an elevation gain of 1,100 feet. After the sun peaked, we walked back down back to the hotel for breakfast.
Following breakfast, we packed up the bus and drove up to the Visitor Center. We all took the cable car up to the top. Mickey guided us around this significant site of Masada (metzada, in Hebrew, Psalm 18:1-2). This was built in the 30s BC as a palace-fortress by Herod the Great. We saw huge cisterns, the western and northern palace (Mary went down to see this!), the Roman Ramp, the synagogue, and the bathhouse. In 70 AD, this was the location where 967 Jews found refuge from the Romans following the destruction of the Temple. The holdout lasted about three years until all by five of these Jews (a few women and children) took their own lives. It is a story of bravery and courage! We all took the cable car back down.
We drove about 20 minutes north of Masada to get to Ein Gedi, one of only a few oasis here in the edge of the Judean Desert. We read from Song of Songs 1, 2 Chronicles 20 (the “Ascent of Ziz”) and 1 Samuel 24 (David hid from Saul here). A number in the group hiked back to the water falls at the end of the canyon. On the way many in the group enjoyed getting wet under one of the smaller water falls. It was amazing to see so much water here in the desert! The water brought refreshment to this very hot day (temps at this point were about 105).
“It was a hot one today in the Judean Desert, although the morning was comfortable at Masada. Now we are in Jerusalem, Israel’s capital city! We saw the Temple Mount and there Old City this afternoon. We are excited to be here in Jerusalem for three full days.”
En route to Jerusalem (where it was about 10 degrees cooler), we made a brief stop overlooking the Wadi Qelt. We enjoyed a wonderful view over this “dry and desolate” unique region (Psalm 63). This is the heart of the Judean Desert! We heard “Isaiah, the prophet” proclaim the words, “Prepare the way for the Lord…” (Isaiah 40). Also, Psalm 23 was shared as we looked out to the context of this familiar psalm of David. The view was breathtaking!
Mt. Of Olives / Gethsemane
We continued ascending up the road that led to the Mt. of Olives. Cresting this range, we had our wonderful view of the Old City and the Temple Mount. Walking down to Domius Flavet, a small chapel, we read from Luke 19 and Zechariah 14 about the kingship of Jesus. On the Temple Mount today stands the Dome of the Rock. It is where both the First and Second Temples stood.
Garden of Gethsemane
Walking down the western slope of the Mt. of Olives we arrived at a private olive tree garden where we considered the passion of Jesus. The Garden of Gethsemane could have been located anywhere on this western slope of the hill. We read from Luke 22 where we heard, “Not my will but yours be done.”
We then boarded the bus and drove to our hotel. Following check-in, we enjoyed dinner at 6:30 followed by an optional walk to the Western Wall at 7:30. We are looking forward to the next three full days here in Jerusalem.