Today most in the group are realizing that touring the Holy Land is tiring. Nontheless all hands were on deck for breakfast at 6:30 and on the bus by 8. We drove for about an hour south of Jerusalem and along the way to our destination passed by the famous excavations of Qumran, the site of the discovery of the Dead Sea Scrolls. The discovery of the Dead Sea Scrolls is one of the most significant archeological finds pertaining to scripture to date.
We made our way to the remains of Masada, the fortress built by Herod the Great.It was quite a massive building project. It was the site of the Jewish revolt which ended in mass suicide when the Romans broke through approximately 73 AD.
The surrounding arid and dry land is a striking contrast to the verdant green we experienced just a few short days ago.
Our next stop was a real treat as we entered into one of the world’s oldest cities – Jericho. First, as we did when entering Bethlehem, we had to change buses, since Jericho is controlled by Palestinians. It is more like a small town than a city, with a population of about 20,000. The roads, houses, and people are quite poor by our standards, yet the markets were busy. We had a good lunch of traditionally fare and at the top of the restuarant there was a great view of the Mount of Temptation, the traditional location of Jesus’ 40 days in the wilderness as he was tempted by Satan.
Beneath the shadows of the Mount of Temptation several found the opportunity to take camel rides. I was not one of them!
By the time many of you receive this week’s Interpreter in the mail our group should have made it home from our Holy Land Wanderings. At the time of this writing we have one more day left before flying the friendly skies home. Our trip has been one filled with beautiful, inspiring and at times downright funny memories.
Today was a day for funny memories as many of us went frolicking in the Dead Sea. Travelling by bus, we made our way to the Dead Sea by descending from nearly 3000 feet above sea level to the lowest point on earth. The Dead Sea is 1300 feet below sea level. The Sea has no natural outlet and, therefore, has become the world’s most saline body of water with averages of around 30%. It is called “dead” because due to its high salinity no significant aquatic life exists. Additionally, the starkest, most desolate scenery the world has to offer surrounds the Dead Sea.
You could not tell things were dead for several of us who decided to take a swim. We waded out into the water with the slick and slimy mud squishing between our toes and floated on top – literally on top – of the water. I am not sure who was having more fun: those frolicking in the water or those along the shore taking pictures.
The irony is that today this “dead” body of water is a source of both life and health: the pot ash contained in its bitter waters is an invaluable fertilizer; while, the lake and the springs that feed it are said to have cured everything from arthritis to psoriasis since ancient times; and for a handful of Baptists and friends it was a place of immense laughter and fun.
Christ has come, so the gospel of John reminds us, that we may have life and have it in abundance. (John 10:10). Even when our life is sometimes bounded by death, may the joy of the Lord infuse each of us with light, and life, and even a few giggles. The empty tomb reminds us that death does not win.
Our evening concluded by observing an anniversary of sorts. Fifteen years ago Shirley Badke was injured with third degree burns over 86% of her body. She shared her story, her faith, her hope and her encouragement to all of us. In a land of miracles Shirley is a testimony of God’s hand continuing to shape her wonderful life.
In just over 24 hours we will receive our wake-up call (one in the morning to be exact) and we will be heading home. There is so much I have left out but I want to leave you with a few more pictures highlighting our time together walking where Jesus walked and playing like God desires.
Catfish – and I mean BIG catfish – swimming in the Jordan just up from where we were having a baptism.
Market scenes in Old Jerusalem
Walking along in the city.
Young soldiers are everywhere in Jerusalem. Many are just 18 to 19.
The shrine within the Church of the Holy Sepulcher. Within the shrine is the slab thought to be where the body of Christ was placed. This is a dark and mysterious church, filled with complexity and at times filled with hostile division.
Street musicians outside of the Old City.
One night we just had to have gelato.
Jill Davis showing off her new shofar while her Judy Huff wonders if it is in tune.
The eastern Wall with the Dome of the Rock in the background.
The Garden Tomb outside Gordon’s Calvary.
Worship Service at the Garden Tomb.
Getting myself beautiful for my wife!