The diversity of Israel is astounding! Five different climate zones are found in this tiny country the size of New Jersey. Unbelievable!
Lush, fertile soil found along the upper Jordan River Valley gives way to arid, barren desert south of Jericho. The Dead Sea comes into view, causing one to think nothing grows in the harsh wilderness stretching from Jericho beyond the southern tip of that sea.
As many do, we began this part of our journey at Masada, the mighty fortress upon which Herod built another magnificent palace. Situated right next to the Dead Sea (lowest place on earth at 1400′ below sea level), Masada’s cliffs rise almost 1500′, to just above sea level. It is an imposing sight in the otherwise barren wilderness.
It was to Masada that Jews fled from Jerusalem in 70 AD and made their last stand. Fairly well secured within the confines of the fortress, the Jews held off Roman troops for about 3 years. However, the Romans eventually built a siege ramp, stormed the fortress, and found the Jewish population dead, having chosen to commit suicide rather than be taken captive and brutalized by the Romans.
Today, the IDF conducts graduation ceremonies within sight of Masada, where their soldiers vow, “Never again!” As a result, Israelis are fierce and fearless in defense of their nation.
While at Masada, several adventurous souls chose to hike up the mountain cliff rather than take the tram! We made it in about 30-40 minutes, and with a great sense of accomplishment!
From Masada we traveled a bit north, up the west side of the Dead Sea, to Ein Gedi. Home to a kibbutz, Ein Gedi is a peaceful oasis graced with date palm groves, wildlife, beautiful springs and waterfalls. A short hike back into the hills of Ein Gedi puts you right in the middle of a tropical-looking place one would swear was anywhere other than in an arid desert! Some of us trekked back into the waterfalls. (See the photo at the top of this post.)
En Gedi is the likely setting where, as David was pursued by Saul, they both ended up in a nearby cave. David had the opportunity to kill Saul, but chose only to cut off the hem of his garment rather than lay a hand on the Lord’s anointed.
A trip to Qumran for lunch, and to see the caves where the Dead Sea Scrolls were found was next. In 1947 a Bedouin shepherd boy tossed a rock into a cave, likely to scare out one of his sheep, or to scare out a predator. Instead, the rock broke a pottery jar which contained portions of a scroll. Those scrolls had been hidden for safekeeping when the Romans invaded in 70 AD. God preserved His Word! Here is a picture of the main cave that contained several parchments:
We ended that day with a dip in the Dead Sea. Water flows in from the Jordan River, but has no outlet. Thus, the mineral content is very high, making it impossible to sink! Also, mineral-rich mud from the Dead Sea is used in beauty products worldwide. If you’re at the Dead Sea, though, treatments are free…just rub it on!
Continue following. We go to Jerusalem tomorrow! Shalom!