Our first stop of the day was a bit of a drive from Jerusalem so Gilad kept us entertained by helping us understand more of the complicated political history and current issues of Israel. There doesn’t seem to be any end to them. Seeing as it was Israeli Independence Day, we also got a history of the country. Gilad’s version was a whole lot different from what I learned in school. It was interesting hearing it directly from a native though.
Our first stop was Qumran–the place where the Dead Sea Scrolls were found. We had to talk Gilad into letting us stop there and were so glad we did. What a fascinating place to help connect the dots for these incredible copies of Scripture so well preserved for a thousand years. I don’t really have time to tell the whole story in this blog, but it’s worth reading. In fact, I’m inspired to study up on it further myself.
We saw ibex beside the road on the way from there to the Dead Sea. I tried to get a good shot of the ibex and failed dismally. They are sort of a cross between a deer and a goat. Very graceful looking and believed to be the inspiration behind Psalm 42:1.
Masada was our next stop…one of Herod’s palaces–built as a fortress on top of a relatively flat mountain overlooking the Dead Sea. It looks like the top of a mountain next to the Dead Sea anyway. It is actually not much of a mountain…about 60 feet above sea level.
Masada had two lives. The first under Herod, the second as the refuge for Jewish resistance to the Roman rule just before the destruction of the temple in AD 70. Masada was the last place taken by the Romans, and given the unique military advantages of the fortified mountain and the provisions left by Herod one hundred years earlier, it took a huge Roman army months to conquer the tiny Colony. There’s an Alamo-like ending to the story which our guide has his own variation of. Whether the last stand ended by committing suicide, surrendering, fighting to the death or escaping is now a bit of a mystery. Hollywood tells the story of a suicide pact, so…there you have it: a reason to doubt that version.
One the most amazing achievement for the architects of this historic site is their means of capturing and storing water. The state of California could probably benefit from some of Herod’s engineers. It is truly amazing how an arid place with no natural water source and two inches of rain a year can survive, but that was true of Masada and Qumran.
The Dead Sea had a lot of attributes of any other beach…lots of people, not so much clothes, and loud music. There were a bunch on nuns in the changing room though. That was a little different.
Stephen and I got in the water and everyone else stood on the side and laughed at us and took pictures.
The Dead Sea is basically everything you’ve heard it described as. Salty.
Perhaps the best diversion of the day came after that when Curtis decided he and Stephen would ride camels. That turned out to be 100 shekels very well spent. Ask Anita for the proof. If ever there were priceless photos, she has them. That’s all I’m gonna tell you.
Just driving back to Jerusalem was interesting. It put a backdrop to so many passages of Scripture. From David as a shepherd to him hiding in caves…to the Psalms about a dry a weary land. There are still huge open spaces doted with sheep, goats, and wandering shepherds. In the thousands of years since his life, much has changed. Some things have gotten very complicated. But much has not.
I suspect the road from the Dead Sea to Jerusalem largely has not.