We had a coach tour day today, starting with a 1 1/2 hour drive South to Masada, just South of the dead sea. Masada is a fortress built by Herod the Great on top of a 400m high outcrop of rock. After his death it wasn't used, until after the Roman's destroyed Jerusalem in 70 AD, then some Jewish Rebel's used it as their base of operations. Eventually, in 74 AD the rock was surrounded by 10,000 Roman soldiers. The Jews chose to take their own lives rather than submit to slavery.
Next we drove up to En Gedi, which is an
oasis and nature reserve in the desert mountains of the Dead Sea. We hiked for about 20 minutes into the mountains in order to find a waterfall. It was worth it to see the end result. You can only imagine what it would be like for someone seeking to survive in the desert to discover a place like En Gedi, particularly when they are on the run.
En Gedi is in the Bible as the place where David was able to sneek up on King Saul, who he was on the run from at the time. David cut off a corner from Saul's robe to prove that he could have killed the King but chose not to. He was then filled with guilt over the whole business (1 Sam 24)
After this we moved onto Qumran, the place where the Dead Sea Scrolls were discovered. The Dead Sea Scrolls are a collection of ancient Biblical texts found in a cave at Qumran in 1947. The reason they were there was because a Jewish sect of scribes lived at Qumran. They maticulously made copies of the scriptures, which were held in the highest esteem. So, when the Romans were approaching and ready to attack, they hid their scrolls in a cave. Nearly 2000 years later a shepherd found the scrolls, and all in one go Biblical scholars had texts dating back to 1000 years before anything else they had previously had to work with.
After lunch at Qumran we moved onto a spot on the Dead Sea where bathing is allowed. Bathing in the Dead Sea holds two big disinctions: Firstly, when you get in the water you are at the lowest point on earth (1360 feet below sea level); secondly, the water is so salty that you can lie back and float. At least, that's what is meant to happen. When I got in I had the distinction of slipping and going full-immersion, which is not only very humiliating, but also stings the eyes, nose and throat as the salt water gets into everywhere. I immediately had to get out and shower myself down, then sat on the shore for the next 30 minutes waiting for my sore eyes and painful sinuses to recover. As I sat there I reflected on the fact that I had probably found the story which would become, out of all my Israel stories, WCFs favourite. My only regret was that no one took a photo of my lowest moment!