Dead Sea Sights - Qumran, Masada, & Ein Gedi

Trip Start Jul 06, 2010
Trip End Jul 24, 2010

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Monday, July 19, 2010

We're back in Jerusalem after a couple of days exploring along the Dead Sea as far south as Masada. Temperatures yesterday in this deepest point on earth reached as high as 42 centigrade – about 107 F – and we look forward to experiencing these walks and sites again in the cool of the Israeli spring next year!!

As we’ve investigated walks and sites of interests, as well as hotels and kibbutzim for the past 2 weeks, the days have been long and exciting, and I have not been able to blog as often as I would like. I hope to post additional blogs to fill in the gaps between Galilee and the Dead Sea – we’ve experienced a lot I have not had time to write about – stay tuned…

Our first stop yesterday was at Qumran, where the Dead Sea Scrolls were found. Not a lot to see today – a few caves where the scrolls were discovered in 1947 by a Bedouin shepherd boy, and a lot of parched desert and forbidding looking rocky cliffs. Yet the importance of what was discovered here is immense – larger than the vast desert that rolls south and east from over the Negev to the Sinai Peninsula!

Scrolls written here by a reclusive sect of scribes in the 1st century AD contain all books of the Old Testament of the Bible except two. For both Jews and Christians, the authenticity of their holy scriptures was given an enormous boost by this find. The gap between the events recorded and the earliest manuscripts was closed by more than a1000 years – the previous oldest manuscripts were written more than 1000 years later.

From Qumran we drove south along the Dead Sea at about 1400 feet below sea level. The air was hot and heavy. The water of the Dead Sea is even heavier! Almost one-third of the liquid is suspended solids – minerals like magnesium, bromine, and iodine! After a stop to feel the oven-like heat and check out the salt encrusted shoreline, our destination was a Bedouin camp inland from the Dead Sea and Masada, our southernmost point of interest.

We arrived in the evening, and after dinner under one of the tents, rubbed shoulders with over 600 Jewish high school kids, mostly Americans, visiting Israel under a program called Birthright. The consensus among our planning team was that the Bedouin experience was a bit contrived – a bit like Bedouin Disneyland for tourists and mass market tourism in the desert. We’ll not be stopping there with our group.

This morning we left the camp before sunrise for the short drive to Masada. The plan was to walk up the Roman siege ramp from the west side before it got hot; tour the sites on top, including Herod’s palace and remnants from the Jewish Zealots who holed up here during the First Revolt; then hike down the Snake Path on the east side. To get back to our car, we would then take the cable car back to the top and walk down the Roman ramp where it was parked.

The plan worked well, but even before 8 am we were still sweating buckets and walking on wobbly knees after descending over 1000 feet to the cable car station.

From Masada, we drove north to Ein Gedi, a national park site known for its natural bathing pools and lovely waterfalls gushing forth from the desert, even in July. Historically, it is also know as the place where a young David hid from King Saul. When the bad tempered King came hunting him, David happened to be hiding in the same cave in which Saul chose to relieve himself. When the stealthy David cut a piece of cloth from the busy king’s garment, and later showed it to him as proof of his loyalty and good faith from a safe distance, a temporarily repentant Saul called off the hunt.

Terry, Russ, and I hike up the gorge to the David Waterfall, then up higher in search of an old synagogue and caves. High temperatures required frequent water stops and dousing our shirts and hats in the water. Ultimately, we took a dip in one of the many tiny pools holding the cooling liquid of life as it moves from waterfall to waterfall.

We’re still working on plans to connect these multi-faceted walks. The variety of events and venues is stunning: cascading through millennia of historic and Biblical context, confounding with a wide array of surprising natural beauty, confronting with present day Middle Eastern conflicts we’ve heard about all our lives, and connecting us with spiritual applications we could not appreciate without physically being where our so much of our heritage is based.
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Diane Hildebrand on

Hey Dan - WOW! You do such a great job of writing about your travels - and the pix are amazing. Thanks! Safe travels.

friesendm on

Thanks Diane - just a couple more days to get lost and found again in the warrens of Jerusalem before we fly home, which is always welcome. Will try to capture a piece of this amazing place, but it defies description.

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