Saturday, June 22, 2013

Day Ten: Dead Sea Field Study

Heading out of the Negev toward the Dead Sea
Today has been amazing! (Other than a little car-sickness from the curvy roads entering the southern hill country). Today we hit four major sites plus a bonus fifth site. We started the day by departing Arad heading towards Masada on the Dead Sea. We arrived on the west side (the less popular entrance) and hiked up the Roman Seige ramp to fortress. Masada was fortified by the Hasmoneans and later built up by Herod the Great. In AD 66, a group of Jewish Zealots took the fortress. As Rome worked their way back through the region, they squelched the rebellion. Jerusalem fell in AD 70; Masada was sieged three years later. Herod had well stocked the fort. Its cisterns contained 40,000 cubic meters (1.4 million cubic feet) of water as well as great stores of food. Thus it took the Romans roughly a year to take the fortress. When building the siege ramp, the Romans used Jewish slaves to put the Jews at Masada in a predicament. Do they kill their own people or let them build the ramp? Although Josephus states that Jews here preferred to die at their own hands rather than by the hands of the Romans, archeological evidence seems to indicate that there was some fighting that took place atop Masada. Either way, this was the last stand for Jewish independence. Later a Byzantine Church was built on the site, but other than that, the place had been largely left untouched. Rather than taking hiking the snake trail down from Masada, I chose to take the cable car in order to give me as much time atop the site as possible. Even then, I did not realize it was so large! I headed down the southern end, taking my time and by the time I started making it to the northern end, I only had fifteen minutes left – and there was far more on the northern side than the southern! I quickly made my way to the northern palace for a few photos and then off to the cable car for departure.

Our next stop was just a bit north at En Gedi. Here David had spent some time hiding from Saul. The waterfall in the back of the park is called "David's Waterfall." The area was beautiful. This is a good source for fresh water. This is where the Romans came to acquire fresh water for the troops camped at Masada. We ate lunch just across the highway and took some time to "bob" in the Dead Sea. We were warned to be very, very careful not to get the water in our eyes or lungs. There would be no splashing, no swimming on your stomach, etc. The water could potentially blind or even kill you. With that bit of encouragement, most of us headed into the water … and yes, you really do float without even trying.

Next on our list was Qumran. We slipped though quickly, just long enough to have a short lecture and see a couple of the caves where the Dead Sea Scrolls were discovered. … As we had made decent time for the day, we would have time for a surprise fifth stop ... the Jordan River!! This was quite the surprise as the Jordan River is the border between Jordan and Israel. It is normally off limits except for a few days a year. It appears that this particular site has been recently reopened to the public. It would have been in this general vicinity that the Israelites crossed the Jordan into the Promised Land, where Elijah crossed over and ascended into heaven, and where John the Baptist baptized Jesus. When we arrived at the river, there was a small group just leaving who had just been baptized. Had I known we were stopping here, I probably would have left my swimsuit on to be "baptized" in the Jordan. Oh well, just standing in it was treat enough. Following a lecture at the riverfront, a white dove flew down amongst us and took off again as quickly as it had arrived. A sweet reminder of when the Holy Spirit descended in bodily form like a dove upon Christ. 
Camel Crossing ... no literally!

Heading toward Masada

First Glimpse of the Masada and the Dead Sea

Roman Equipment for Siege of Masada

Hiking up the Siege Ramp to Masada
Hiking up the Siege Ramp

The American Romans meet the Israeli Jews. ... I think they are a bit more
equipped than we are ;)

Israeli Soldiers at Masada

Getting Closer .... 

Standing in the Byzantine Gate

Overlooking the top of Masada

Lecture Time atop Masada

Looking toward the Dead Sea

The buildings at Masada are of the "cheap" rock from the local quarry.
Herod, however, had everything plastered to look like the elegant cenomanian

Note the black reconstruction line.

Getting ready for another lecture in the synagogue at Masada

Again, note that the pillars are made out of the "cheap"
stuff again, but covered to look authentic. 

Got the ticket for the ride down, but I've got an hour worth of
exploring to do first!!

Looking down from Masada toward the visitor center. 

Remains atop Masada

At one of the overlooks of the Dead Sea atop Masada

Public bath / pool - a fresh water pool in the middle of desert! 

Remains of mosaic floors in Herod's Northern Palace

More Mosaics from Herod's Northern Palace

Along the Northern Palace Wall

Don't remember what this building was ... but note the plaster on the stone.

Looking down into the tannery

Overlooking the north side of Masada

Overlooking the Byzantine Gate

Byzantine Chapel atop Masada

The grand cistern at Masada

Walking to the Northern Palace

Top Portion of the Northern Palace

Bottom Portion of the Northern Palace

Yep, I'm really here ;) Notice the frescos along the bottom of the pillars

Decorated Columns

Captain's Home

Heading down to the visitor center.

Visitor Center at EnGedi

See all the caves! Somewhere along here is where David would be
hiding from King Saul

First waterfall - they'll be getting bigger

Hiking up to King David's Waterfall

Standing by David's Waterfall

David's Waterfall

Looking back toward the Dead Sea

Some Jewish men enjoying the waterfalls

Across from En Gedi, we stopped along the Dead Sea for lunch

Walking down toward the shore

Yep, they are bopping away down there ... the lowest point on earth!
I'm told years ago the water level used to come up to the first fence.
Today the water level is significantly lower. We were also reminded that
when Herod 

Shore of the Dead Sea

Date Palm Farm

Remains of Qumran Community

Lecture with Vern at Qumran

Cave 4 of the 11 Dead Sea Scroll Caves

Think if I toss a rock I could find another one?

Ruins at Qumran

I think this was a ritual bath - only had about 10 minutes to look around

Overlooking Qumran Community

And where are we going to stop? ... The Jordan River?! Chapel on the Way.
At least I assume it's a chapel

Lecture down by the Jordan River

And there's a dove flying off

It would have been in this general area that Jesus would have been baptized,
the Elijah would have crossed over, and the Israelites crossed on dry ground.

Standing in the Jordan River ... Had I known we were
coming here, I would have worn something I could have
baptized myself in ;)

Baptism on the Jordanian side

Just across the river is Jordan. Soldiers are patrolling both sides. 

Church on the other side

Not too impressive this time of year, but i'm told that it may get much
higher in the winter/spring time. 

"Roll Jordan roll, roll Jordan roll, I want to go to heaven when I die to hear
Jordan roll ..."

Uh Oh! I've been drafted into the Israeli army ;)

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