Today may have been the hottest day of the year thus far and in the desert of the Negev, we felt the full brunt!
We jetted out of Jerusalem with another car in tow (actually I rode with Frank Houtz and Wade to get to know them and another delegate), and our navigator did not notice the GPS had shut down but did stop John before we accidentally crossed into the Palestinian territory.. Ah, the adventure…
Once oriented and headed in the right direction, the road turned sharply downhill almost immediately outside of Jerusalem. It was a steady downgrade until we hit the Dead Sea. No wonder all of Scripture speaks of going ‘up to Jerusalem.’
First stop was Qumran and the heat was already rolling off the Dead Sea to our left as we rolled down route 90. The whole day we just marveled at the stark beauty of the desert and the inhospitable heat and lack of water. Reminded me of the time I spent in Saudi and Iraq some years ago! HOT!!!
First stop was Qumran where the Dead Sea Scrolls were found in the late 1940’s. The site was a place the Essenes lived removing themselves from Jerusalem and the unrighteous tolerance the Pharisees and Saducees had for the Romans to live lives of purity while waiting the Mashiach (Messiah). Their focus was ritual purity and it showed in their well preserved writings as well as the archeological finds including mikvahs (baptismal/washing pools) much like the reconstructed one pictured below.
After a rapid tour of Qumran, we headed further south to Massada. On the way, with the Dead Sea to our left, we tried to estimate how high the massive cliffs were on our right. 500′, 700′? More? Very very high!
Massada is a legendary fortress situated on an ‘island’ cliff surrounded by deep ravines. It was an impenetrable fortress built by Herod just before the birth of Yeshua. Words cannot describe the magnitude or suffering that went on there as 900+/- Jews lived in the early 70 CE period. Here is a a picture of a terrain model to understand the ‘island’ term.
Atop the island, a fortress of immense proportions was built. The Roman seige lasted about three years while they built an earthen ramp. While building the ramp they used Jewish women and children as human shields…
Even today, the heroism of the men and women of Massada is remembered when military officers are sworn in on the site. Ultimately, the fighters still had a great deal of food, but chose suicide over defeat/enslavement/rape, etc at the hands of the Roman armies. Here are Kelly and I on top of the lookout tower at the highest point. You can see for miles!!
In the synagogue on the mountain we considered the difficult decision of suicide and were introduced to the Torah storage room that was off to the side. As we turned the corner into the room we found an interesting sight:
There was an active rabbi meticulously copying text from one sheet to another. Beautiful script! He stopped and spoke with us for a few minutes. Very interesting.
While at Qumran, I noticed a few little birds and took some pictures. Up on Massada I saw more and wondered how they survive on 20mm of rain per year!
Mercifully, we escaped the top of that blistering mountain, but I could have spent days examining every detail. It is a site will love to return to for more study on a cooler day some other trip.
We headed back north with a final stop of the day at En Gedi, the assumed place of David and Saul’s meeting. It serves as a small nature park that has numerous ibex and hyrax wandering about…. unless it is extremely hot. We saw few and the vegetation was sparse.
However, there was an amazing surprise:
In the midst of the surrounding desert, there was this cut in the terrain with a massive creek of fast flowing cool water. Ted Pearce, singing Isaiah 44 kept running through my head. Some of those verses proclaim Yehovah’s everlasting promise to Jacob and his sons.
44 “But now listen, O Jacob, My servant,
And Israel, whom I have chosen:
2 Thus says the Lord who made you
And formed you from the womb, who will help you,
‘Do not fear, O Jacob My servant;
And you Jeshurun whom I have chosen.
3 ‘For I will pour out water on [a]the thirsty land
And streams on the dry ground;
I will pour out My Spirit on your offspring
And My blessing on your descendants;
4 And they will spring up [b]among the grass
Like poplars by streams of water.’
5 “This one will say, ‘I am the Lord’s’;
And that one [c]will call on the name of Jacob;
And another will write [d]on his hand, ‘Belonging to the Lord,’
And will name Israel’s name with honor.
…verses that are unfulfilled, but happening in our day! Mayim Chayim, living water, in the midst of the desert and the lush growth it brings. As we visit, we have been fervently praying for the outpouring of the Ruach on the sons of Jacob as the ancient prophecy promises.
So much more to write and post, but I need some sleep. Had an awesome dinner this evening that lasted as couple hours resting and fellowshipping. Have to post some pics later as I have time.
Shalom and blessings!