Israel Study Tour with The Friends of Israel

Oct 16-26, 2015

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Hot Days and Salty Water

After the sheer physical and emotional exhaustion from yesterday we did a more "relaxing" day. I say that lightly because we left at 8 am and headed to the Quamran Caves, where the Dead Sea Scrolls were discovered in 1947 by a young Bedouin shepherd. We left Jerusalem and headed just a little ways out and it was instant dessert. We passed camels, sheep and goats, shepherds, and even a guy texting on his phone riding a donkey!

Walking through the small settlement of ruins, where the people lived, you saw how resourceful they were with what they had and the region where they lived. They practiced immersion and some say John the Baptist lived with them for a short time but there is no proof of this. By the way, we learned that the Carob tree is also called a locust tree and some say that John the Baptist ate the carob beans (locust) not actual locust. But again, no one can be sure. (There's your bit of history for the day.)

Qumran

10 miles south of Jericho, Qumran was on a “dead-end street” and provided a perfect location for the isolationist sect of the Essenes to live.

The site was excavated by Catholic priest Roland deVaux from 1953-56. More recent excavations of the site have taken place under the direction of Hanan Eshel.

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After this we went high to Masada. Most of us took a cable car up but two of our brave younger guys ran/walked up the mountain. Masada really is fascinating. They pack you on these cable cars (around 80 people per car) and you go up, up, up. The ride is less than two minutes long. On top it is one thing : hot! Dessert region all around and the Dead Sea in the distance. King Herod built on top of this mountain plateau and during the revolt of Rome, almost 1,000 Jewish Zealots; men, women, and children took over the place. There was enough food and supplies to stay up there for years. The Zealots and the Romans fought hard with the Romans finally breaking the wall. And the next morning as they went to take the people, they found everyone dead except for two women and five children. The men killed their families and then themselves so they did not have to go into slavery and be humiliated. It's obviously a tragic story that shows the determination of the Jewish people.

Masada

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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Next we were off to take a dip in the Dead Sea. I wasn't sure what to expect. When we got to the location there were people from all nationalities there. The beach was roped off with a lifeguard. And off we went into the sea. The mud on the bottom can suck you in fast! One of our travelers even lost his swim shoe in the mud! Some covered their bodies in mud and others went out to float. It was a neat experience that I'm happy to never do again. We might come back looking much younger because of the healing qualities of the salt and minerals and it might be hard to recognize us.

Dead Sea

Known in the Bible as the “Salt Sea” or the “Sea of the Arabah,” this inland body of water is appropriately named because its high mineral content allows nothing to live in its waters. Other post-biblical names for the Dead Sea include the “Sea of Sodom,” the “Sea of Lot,” the “Sea of Asphalt” and the “Stinking Sea.” In the Crusader period, it was sometimes called the “Devil’s Sea.” All of these names reflect something of the nature of this lake.

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After a quick change we left for the Western Wall to welcome In the Sabbath. What a fun time it was. There were people dancing and singing and praying and laughing. We were not allowed to take photos or even look at our phones. Where I was standing watching the scene, there were two older Jewish ladies below making it their personal job to police the area for phone lookers and picture takers. They would yell at the tourist in hopes to humiliate them to stop. It was humorous! I loved watching the young soldiers and men dancing and putting children on their shoulders, singing beautiful songs together. And to think, this happens every Friday night!

Western Wall

The Western Wall is the most holy place accessible to the Jewish people because of Muslim control of the Temple Mount. Known in recent centuries as the “Wailing Wall,” this was built by Herod the Great as the retaining wall of the Temple Mount complex. The plaza was created as an area for prayer when Israel captured the Old City in 1967. At times tens of thousands of people gather here for prayer.

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After dinner we had a special guest, Daniel Kalisher, Pastor Meno Kalisher of Jerusalem Assembly's son. He and his wife came to talk to talk to us about Jerusalem Assembly and all that God is doing in that church. We will be visiting there tomorrow for their Sabbath service. I cannot wait!

Sorry for the lack of pictures today. Being in the water at the Dead Sea makes it hard to get pictures and we weren’t allowed any at the Western Wall.

So, our relaxing day was anything but relaxing! But it was fun. Tomorrow we'll head to old city Jerusalem and to Jerusalem Assembly.

-Sarah

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