Israel Study Tour - Joshua Wilderness Institute

Apr 10-22, 2015

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Highs and Lows of the Dead Sea

Shalom, friends and family, and welcome to your day-by-day report on our trek throughout the Holy Land. Today is one of our greatest days of achievement, being that now we have the bragging rights of saying we have climbed Masada.

We began our day with a simple twenty minute bus ride from our hotel, and forty-five minutes of grueling hiking later we crested the summit of the fortress built by Herod the Great. We were struck by the emphasis of the story behind the fortress and its significance to the patriotism of Israel. The heroism shown there by the remaining forces of the uprising has been an inspiration to the country of Israel as a whole as well as those who have heard of it. I, Sam, will take away from these stories just a hint of the love that God has for his people and the Church. I am sure that both Neiman and I will see these places in the Bible not just as stories, but real places and can now use them as an example which we can put into our view of the Bible as we grow more and more in the faith. The hike up the snake path on the western side was not as bad as we anticipated and the walk down the eastern side was certainly easier than the hike up. We were able to walk down the siege ramp that the Roman legion had built when they laid siege to the fortress after those who had partaken in the revolution against the rule of the Romans had taken refuge on top of the mountain. This stronghold-turned-monument has remained a symbol to Israel of the steadfastness of those who would not become subject to the rule of another power after having tasted the freedom that comes through sacrifice.


The summit of Masada sits 190 feet (59 m) above sea level and about 1,500 feet (470 m) above the level of the Dead Sea. The mountain itself is 1950 feet (610 m) long, 650 feet (200 m) wide, 4,250 feet (1330 m) in circumference, and encompasses 23 acres. The “Snake Path” climbs 900 feet (280 m) in elevation. From the west, the difference in height is 225 feet (70 m).

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After our descent from Masada we returned to our buses and rode a short distance to an oasis in the in the middle of the Negev. This was a small Bedouin camp that was called the “village of the shepherds.” Now there weren’t a whole lot of sheep but they had camels in abundance. Considering that camels are known as the sheep of the desert one can agree that the name of the camp was fitting. We had the privilege of taking a short trip on said camels, two people per beast of burden. Our small caravan proceeded to take a walk in the surrounding plains with some help from guides. The other half of our group learned about hospitality and how that was such an important factor in everyday life as well as sampling the native beverages: coffee and tea. The roles were then reversed and the second group took a spin on the hump-backed quadrupeds. It was a bouncy yet rhythmic way of learning about the life of a nomad.

Lastly for the day, after spending about an hour walking through the Wadi of Zahor, we took a dip in the Dead Sea. The wadi itself is a very large washed out ravine that led us down a winding and rocky descent to the Dead Sea. Promptly after exiting the mouth of the wadi and returning to our hotel, we donned swim gear and hopped in the sea of salt. The water has such a high concentration of salt that that the buoyancy level is increased and one can float on the surface of the lake. As one may find out the hard way, experiencing this water in the eyes or mouth can be extremely painful and traumatic. I, Neiman McDuff, as well as my co-writer Sam Dixon can verify the legitimacy of this statement through personal experience. It was not pleasant.

As for the highs and lows of the day, the low point was being in the sea due to the fact that it is the lowest point on earth, while climbing Masada set the bar at an extremely high position. Being on the back of a camel was a lifting experience as well and we can and will rest easy tonight in our beds with the memories of today. We eagerly look forward to the adventures of the coming days and will relish the experiences that are waiting for us.

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