Photos by Steve Hamburg
Day 6 for the Holy Apostles’ pilgrims started with an early 7:00 a.m. departure from the Olive Tree Hotel in Jerusalem. The objective was to reach Masada before the multitudes of other visitors. We succeeded.
The bus, driven by the skilled Palestinian driver Sharif, took us on a 90 minute downhill trek. We went from Jerusalem’s 2,500 feet to the lowest point on earth at -1,400 feet. As the bus descended we saw the features of the land gradually change. The “wilderness” mentioned in the Bible is truly a difficult and dry land.
Masada means “fortress” and that it is. We also learned that it was also the southernmost palace of King Herod. He had swimming pools, a hot room, and beautiful finishes. The engineers designed it to collect rainfall from its massive footprint and store the water in massive cisterns. Other spaces held food and supplies.
What is so amazing is that the fortress is located in the southern part of the Dead Sea valley. This is the most desolate land I have seen. The land is hilly, parched, cracked, tan in color, and virtually lifeless. The water of the Dead Sea is pretty from a distance but totally dead because of the salt content.
The dry and lifeless land near Masada is in contrast with the vibrant land around the Sea of Galilee and Jordan River. Contrasts are a part of this pilgrimage trip. We see contrasts not only in the geography but also among the religious groups: Jewish, Muslim, and Christian.
Next on the schedule was Qumran, the location of the Dead Sea scrolls’s discovery in 1947. While the scrolls are now located in museums, this site shows the ruins of a town where a Jewish sect lived until the second half of the first century. We also saw from a distance Qumran cave 4.
Next was the site identified with the place where the Israelites crossed the Jordan River after 40 years of wondering in the desert. Many believe this is where Jesus was baptized by John the Baptist.
At the end of this hot day we drove to Jericho. We did not go around the town but one time. We saw the Monastery of Temptation, where tradition says Christ was tempted by Satan.
The Old and New Testaments continued to come alive today. We are blessed to be in the holy land of the prophets and our Savior. Pray for travel safety and a reunion at church next Sunday.