Welcome to the desert!
Welcome to the desert! On day 2 we journeyed from the Shephelah, which was busy and full of all kinds of life, to the deserts of Maktesh Ramon. The sight of the desert can only be described as breathtaking. It is both beautiful and terrifying all at the same time. We marveled at the deserts cavernous beauty while also being reminded of the grandeur of God.
The first lesson that we learned about the desert was identifying the different types of deserts. The first type of desert is referred to as “mid-bar”. This is the kind of desert that can be survived in alone. The second is “jeshimon”. This is the kind of desert that can be survived in, but only with help. This was great reminder of our need for each other, not only in this journey, but in life. The final kind of desert is “tsah”. This is the kind of desert that cannot be survived, and this is where we found ourselves for the beginning of day 2.
It was a surreal feeling to walk the very land that the Israelites walked. The very land in which God said their feet would not swell (some of our feet may have swollen), nor would the souls of their sandals wear out. Being in the desert brings the accounts that are being given in the Scriptures into living color. It is awfully difficult to walk the desert and not be reminded of the sustaining, kind, loving, shepherd like nature of God.
Machtesh Ramon is the most spectacular geological sight in the country. It is a window into the geological formation of the earth. The crater is 24 miles (40 km) long, 5 miles (8 km) wide, and 1600 feet (500 m) deep. The term machtesh is a geological term which means “mortar” as in mortar and pestle. Machtesh Qatan (Small) and Gadol (Large) look like mortar bowls in which grains are pounded with a pestle. This look is true of the big and little craters but not necessarily of Machtesh Ramon which is stretched out and narrow at one end.
After a quick lunch break we enjoyed a special experience of a Bedouin camp. While sitting in a tent in the dessert we learned, and experienced, the lost biblical value of hospitality. From the time we walked in we were being served tea, coffee, bread, and cheese. This experience forced our western minds to stretch an think, do we, people who claim to follow the one true God, show hospitality as God desires us to show hospitality, or at all for that matter.
Next, we took on the longest hike to date, Masada. While this is not technically a biblical sight, it does serve as an aid in the historical accounts. We journeyed up this monstrous rock and took in all of the history that came with it. It is an incredible thought as an American to hear about 2000+ year old history while our country is but a few hundred years old. The best thing about this history is that it only further solidifies what the Scriptures say. It is the very words of God.
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).
Finally, we ended our day with a dip into the Salt Sea. We experienced the lowest place on earth at 1,200 feet below sea level! Floating in the Salt Sea was a great way to relax after a long day of trekking through the desert. We cannot wait to see what the Lord has in store for tomorrow as we walk the path together.
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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