Kings and things...
Today has been more than just another tour day for our group, as it is a special day for the people of Israel who have shown us such great hospitality. Today is known in Israel as Yom Ha’atzmaut. We would call it Independence Day. This celebration of 71 years has included Israeli Air Force flyovers, barbecue picnics, and festive music. We are honored to be on Israeli soil on such a special occasion.
As we recognized the resilience of the Israeli people in 2019, we understood some of the roots of that strength when we visited Masada. Masada, along with Dan’s (our guide) leading, taught us two important stories. One was about the architectural brilliance and influence of Herod the Great as he built an unequaled fortress on an isolated mountaintop overlooking the Dead Sea. But, we were struck by the beautiful, yet tragic, story of the siege of Masada when Jewish rebels stood strong against the overwhelming forces of the Roman army. Facing the worst possible outcomes, these rebels stood their ground in the fortress as they had to make difficult, but courageous choices.
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).
After visiting Masada, we made our way to Tel Arad, an archaeological site made up the ruins of a lower Canaanite settlement and an upper hill which holds the only ever discovered "House of Yahweh" in the land of Israel. Here we were reminded of King Josiah and his dedication to God’s law and purifying his kingdom of all things pagan and false.
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.
Finally, we visited Be’er Sheva (Beersheba). We learned about a farmer immigrant that you know as Father Abraham, and how he not only settled this area but turned this isolated part of Israel into what some call the “Capital of the Negev.” Be’er Sheva means “well of the oath,” which is fitting when one remembers that Abraham was a man who made a covenant with God… a covenant that changed the world.
Beer-Sheva (/bɪərˈʃiːbə/; Hebrew: בְּאֵר שֶׁבַע About this sound Be'er Sheva [beʔeʁˈʃeva]; Arabic: بئر السبع About this sound Bi'ir as-Sab [biːr esˈsabeʕ]) is the largest city in the Negev desert of southern Israel. Often referred to as the "Capital of the Negev", it is the center of the fourth most populous metropolitan area in Israel, the eighth most populous city in Israel with a population of 203,604, and the second largest city with a total of 117,500 dunams (after Jerusalem).
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