Where is your stronghold?
Today, our first site was Masada, which means "stronghold." Thankfully, we didn't have to walk to the top! Instead we took a tram. Once we reached the top we were able to see the palace that King Herod built and lived in. It was massive and very well-constructed, an ability that the people of Israel could not achieve until the 20th century. Basically, Herod was a very smart man! We learned from our Israeli guide that the events that occurred at Masada and during the Holocaust, affect and define the Israelis still today.
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).
Next, not too far from Masada, we went on a camel ride, a first and great experience for many of us! The kind people that led the camels were Bedouins. In their community, we sat and drank tea they made for us in a tent, while learning about their culture. We easily recognized the hospitality of the people there. After tea we had lunch, then left for Arad. At this place we saw the gates of Tel Arad. When people speak of a "city on a hill," this is what they are referring to.
From the teaching, we learned that the people of Tel Arad did not make the temple as God instructed them because they thought they had a better way. This story was used to teach us about God's mercy, and forgiveness. Those people messed up, and we do the same. Yet, he still loves us! He demonstrated this by sending his son to die for us. We no longer need to built these temples to gain forgiveness and ask the Lord to dwell among us there. We can be thankful that Jesus is our tabernacle, dwelling in each and every one of us.
After we went to the last site, we went back to hotel, changed into our suits, and swam in the Dead Sea. We quickly learned that it is hard to place your legs back under you once afloat, and salt water is deadly if you get it in your eyes. Overall, today was a great day of warm weather and laughter.
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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