Day two in Israel could be summed up in one word, desert. Just as Israel’s identity is shaped by the desert, so is our very own. When we are led into a desert, we are reminded that our hearts are not inclined towards this uncomfortable thing called humility. Yesterday was the land of the farmer but today is the land of the shepherd. Rod said we were in “David’s playground” and what a wild, dry and beautiful playground it is. We began our day in Masada where we learned about Herod the Great. He was paranoid, ruthless and one of the richest men in the world. Herod builds a palace where there really shouldn’t be one and outfits it with gardens, baths and somehow figures out to get enough water and food there so that 1,000 men could live there for 10 years. This hike was a very steep incline, gaining 1600 feet of elevation in 1.6 miles. It challenged us but our new family encouraged one another all the way to the top. Once we all arrived, we were greeted with original plaster walls and mosaic tiled floors all preserved in the desert.
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).
We then made our way to Arad where Moses, Solomon, David and Hezekiah’s story unfolds. In Arad we stood in a temple and I (Laurie) was moved to tears as I thought of the promises God made to Abraham and to me today. God enters into covenant with Abraham and binds their hearts and lives together. And for the joy set before Him, Jesus endured the cross to bind me to him forever. As emotions were rising, so was God’s Ru-Akh – wind! The sacrifice of the lamb was replaced by the perfect lamb, Jesus. (An interesting note, the reason why this temple was preserved until today is because faithful Hezekiah buried it because he was following God’s will to have all the Jews worship him only in Jerusalem.)
Like many cities in the Holy Land, Arad was repeatedly settled because of its strategic geographical location. Though situated in an area with little rainfall, Arad was inhabited frequently in ancient times because of its position along the routes coming from the east and southeast.
We ended our day in the wilderness of Zin/Ein Avdat National Park. This is the place where Moses spent 40 years with God. We were reminded again and again that this is the land of Psalm 23. This land was not the green pastures that we envisioned but was what David saw. As we sat next to a murky stream, we thought about Psalm 40, “he lifted me out of the slimy pit, out of the mud and mire. He set my feet on a rock and gave me a firm place to stand.” We concluded our time there reading Deuteronomy 8 with our spouse and talking about the importance of looking back at our story and retelling our story. “Remember how the Lord your God led you all the way in the wilderness these forty years to humble and test you in order to know what was in your heart.” We are so grateful for this time to grow in our marriage and faith and to learn from such incredible teachers – Rod, Libby, Mark & Stephanie.
The Nahal Zin is 75 miles (120 km) long and drains 600 sq. miles (1550 sq. km). It is the largest wadi that begins in the Negev. The Nahal Zin was created by reverse erosion as the great height difference between the Negev Highlands and the Jordan Rift caused the underlayers to erode during the rainy season, resulting in the collapse of the harder strata of rock above. The landscape is mostly Eocene limestone, consisting of some brown-black layers of low-grade flint. The flint slows down the erosion of the limestone.
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