Thursday, May 23, 2013

holy land tour, day six : masada, qumran, and the dead sea


Today was hot. It’s kind of a blessing that the thermometer in our bus only reads in Celsius, because if I had to look up and read 105 degrees instead of 45 degrees all the time, I think I’d be complaining a lot more. It’s almost better not to know until well after the fact.

But the sites we got to see today were really cool. We spent the morning at Masada, which was my favorite—a huge fortification at the top of a mountain in the middle of the desert overlooking the Dead Sea. There, we got to go down inside one of twelve massive cisterns that would have been used to store water, since the nearest freshwater source was En Gedi, a full day’s walk. This was the place where a group of Jews went to escape the Romans who were coming to conquer them, and the place where, according to Josephus, Elazar ben Yair called on the Jewish rebels to kill one another and themselves just before the Romans sieged Masada, so that they and their families could avoid lives of enslavement.

This was a pretty impressive mountain—we took the cable car to the top, but had quite a hike down. I probably sweated a couple of gallons and came away with a splitting headache! However, the view was quite worth it.


I also really enjoyed the history of Qumran, the location of the discovery of the Dead Sea Scrolls. There’s a possible connection between the Yahadas (a group of hermit-like men who were copyists of ancient texts and responsible for the Dead Sea Scrolls) and John the Baptist, who had characteristics of one adopted into the Yahada group and began his ministry not far from their community, where the Jordan connects to the Dead Sea.


Finally, the Dead Seathat was an interesting experience. You walk out into the water and your feet squish through thick gray sludge, while you feel like your body is being immersed in a strange baby oil-like substance. You accidentally get some near your mouth and suddenly your lips are on fire with so much salt, and it kind of makes you wonder why on earth you wanted to do this. But then you sit down and just let the water hold you up effortlessly, smear some mud onto your skin for the full exfoliation experience, and enjoy it. :)

Masada12Israel Day Six--Desert 186

We are now settled into our hotel in Jerusalem, where we’ll be for the remaining 5 nights of our trip. It’s going by so fast.

1 comment:

  1. Yikes! It *looks* really hot there. Was the Dead Sea really warm or was it kind of cool?



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