– Thursday, February 4, 2011 –
Day 7 took us to an entirely new region of Israel. Today we headed east into the West Bank and into the Judean Wilderness. So what does that really mean? Well, first things first, the Judean Wilderness is directly east of the Mount of Olives and in the West Bank, a region controlled by the Palestinian Authority.
Our first stop of the day was to Bethany, where Jesus raised Lazarus from the dead. We learned quit a bit about Judaism during Jesus’ time period at this site. While there, we went down a tomb that is called “Lazarus’ Tomb”, but it most like is not. What it is though, is a great representation of what a similar tomb Lazarus would have been in before Jesus raised him. One additional comment about Bethany, it was by far the dirtiest and poorest city I’ve ever seen. It honestly hurt to see that.
Next, we headed to Masada. Without the time to write the entire novel about what Masada is, I’ll give just a brief descriptions (I’ll be happy to share all the details in person though!). So, Masada was a Roman fortress on top of a desert plateau near the Dead Sea, built by Herod the Great. During the destruction of the Temple in Jerusalem, a group of rebellious Jews and their families fled to Masada after the small unit of remaining troops there were overtaken. Eventually, the Romans breached the walls of Masada after 2.5 yrs of encircling the fortress, only to find all the Jews dead (suicide is the assumed method of death, yet no bodies have been found as of date).
Following Masada, we headed back north up along the Dead Sea, to Qumran, where the Dead Sea Scrolls were found. I have my picture w/ one of the caves in the background, Cave 4b and 5a; the largest amount of scrolls in one location were found at these 2 caves. After Qumran, just a few miles up the road, we floated in the Dead Sea. Be sure to see pictures! Because of the high salt content, EVERYTHING floats. I was able to “stand” straight up and down, without touching the ground and just float. It was so goofy, but wasn’t too awkward, other than feeling like you had an imaginary raft under you.
Finally, we went up into Jericho, the world’s oldest city, but yet, also very poor like Bethany. Apparently, it used to be bustling with tourist activity until it went under strict Palestinian Control. I’m not real sure on any details about that though. We saw the tel of the old city and the traditional mountain known as the Mount of Temptation. After this, we headed back to the hotel for the night, but only after stopping along the road to see the ancient Roman road from Jerusalem to Jericho and an “inn” that resembles one that was discussed in the Parable of the Good Samaritan.
Overall, today was a very unique day, being literally out in the wilderness to see our sites. It was a great experience and for anybody that has a chance to go “floating” in the Dead Sea, I highly recommend it!
A drive-by cinema of the city of Jericho from my bus seat window.
The Judean Wilderness and the road from Jerusalem to Jericho (the road mentioned in the Parable of the Good Samaritan).